A while back I was introduced to an interesting board game called Pandemic. The premise was simple: up to four players would take on various roles and attempt to find cures for four diseases. Every turn the various diseases would spread and intensify and if a disease became too out of control, the players would lose. It can actually be pretty difficult and it requires a lot of planning and teamwork to win. When I received the opportunity to review Quarantine on Steam, my first impressions was that it was basically a PC version of Pandemic. While it’s not exactly the same there are a lot of similarities between the two. With that said, let’s take a look at Quarantine and see if we can cure some people.
When the game starts out you can choose from one of six different diseases and each one has three different difficulty levels. Each disease has their own special traits and stats such as taking longer to mutate or spreading more each turn. After choosing your disease you can then choose your starting role such as Medic or Scientist. Each role will start you off with a special skill already researched from one of four skill trees. Once all that is done the game begins with the virus infecting a city, then you’ll place an HQ building on a city that’s connected to the infected city. With all of that out of the way it’s time to start cleaning up the world…but it’s a lot easier said than done depending on the circumstances.
During a turn each of your operatives can take an action including moving to another nearby city, treating part of the disease in a city, quarantining the city to prevent the disease from spreading to or from that city for a couple of turns, collecting samples to find a cure, healing themselves from any damage taken from other actions, or building another HQ. You can have up to four HQs by default and each one will give you ten thousand dollars at the start of each round. That money can be used to purchase another HQ, hire more operatives, increase the effectiveness of skill research or disease research, or a couple of other actions that require spending a bit of money. Once there’s nothing left to do you can end your turn and see what the disease does.
Depending on the disease and difficulty, each turn the disease will spread a certain number of times as well as intensify in a city that has already been infected. The disease will also mutate a bit. Both of these things are obviously bad. There are two meters at the top of the screen you have to keep an eye on. The first is how much the infection has spread and will usually be something like ##/50 to start. If this maxes out, that means the infection has spread too far across the world and has completely taken over. The second meter is how far the disease has mutated. The ultimate goal is to gather enough samples to research a cure in the lab. You have to research one trait at a time and without any extra skills or researchers it takes several samples and about six to seven turns to research. If the mutation meter maxes out, it’ll reset but a new trait is added to the disease making it even more difficult to fully research. In other words, the longer the game takes the more difficult it becomes.
After each round there’s a chance of a scenario taking place where you have to choose from a couple different options, each with their own rewards and penalties for success and failure respectively. Each option shows the chance of success and also lists what happens if you succeed and fail which could including gaining or losing money, treating a disease, quarantining a city, or you could make things worse if you fail. Once you choose your option (unless you choose to just do nothing) it’s all up to chance as there’s nothing you can do to influence the outcome. After several rounds the virus itself also gets a bit stronger adding either more infections or possibly another intensify step.
Thankfully you’re not completely defenseless. As stated earlier each operative has a various skill that can help you out. You can have up to four operatives by default and between hiring various operatives and researching the correct skills, you can make the task a bit easier. For instance, one skill prevents a city from becoming infected if it’s been fully treated. However, getting that far down the skill tree is a bit of a challenge since it’ll take a few rounds per skill and it’s the final skill of its tree. That’s one of the interesting parts to the game; it’s hard to see whether your decisions will be good or bad until a couple of turns down the line when either you start to make a lot of headway or you realize that you’re now completely screwed.
On the whole the game sounds pretty good, especially if you’re a fan of games like Pandemic. However, it’s not without its flaws. For starters, once you start to get good at the game it can seem pretty short. Even when you’ve only had a few games under your belt the game starts to go faster once you understand how it works and what your decisions actually do. That said each of the six viruses have their own stats in terms of how they infect and intensify each round as well as how fast they’ll mutate. As stated earlier each virus has three difficulties. On Medium difficulty the viruses have increased intensify and infect rates while on Hard difficulty they’ll also mutate faster. Honestly I can kind of understand that. In a game like this there’s not a whole lot you can do to up the difficulty without completely overwhelming the player, but therein kind of lies my other issue with the game: after a while it can feel somewhat repetitive.
Each of the six scenarios play out the same way in the end; they just have different stats to change things up. Once you get to the point you can completely dominate the easy difficulty, the other two shouldn’t be too hard. It also doesn’t help that at times while playing even on normal difficulty I felt like once things started going into a bit of a nosedive, it was hard to pull it back up. That’s not to say it’s completely impossible, but after a while it all just kind of felt the same. The good news is that the game does support the Steam Workshop and you can create and upload your own scenarios. With the game recently coming out of Steam Greenlight there’s not much up yet but it’s interesting to see what you can do while creating your own scenarios. One that was uploaded is called Zombie Plague and it mentions recruiting a new Zombie operative as well as having custom skill trees. Hopefully if the game does really well we’ll see more custom scenarios uploaded.
My final complaint is a little perplexing and that’s the lack of any multiplayer. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware that not every game has to have multiplayer, but Quarantine just seems like a game that should be made for it. Going back to Pandemic, one of the best things about that game is that it’s up to four players working together to find the cures for the diseases. That would have been awesome for Quarantine to be able to team up with a couple of friends to take on the various viruses. Granted the overall difficulty would have to be upped a bit to compensate for more players, but at the same time you wouldn’t feel so bad about making an early bad decision that could later come back to haunt you. I’ll freely admit that I never completed a scenario on Hard difficulty and even on Normal I struggled a lot, though that could just be my natural inability to be good at strategy games, but I digress.
Overall, Quarantine is an interesting game, though a bit repetitive with its scenarios. While I’m not sure how you’d work it out, giving the game a couple of other game modes or changing things up with the various diseases outside of just upping a couple of stats would have made things a lot more interesting, plus the lack of multiplayer is a bit of a let-down. However, with the ability to create your own scenarios via the Steam Workshop it’ll be interesting to see what kind of scenarios players will come up with over time. If you like games like Pandemic or want a challenge that involves saving the entire world from a ravaging virus, Quarantine might just be the cure you’re looking for.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.