Quarantine: Early Access preview

  • Format: PC (Early Access Build:Feb 15 2017)
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: 505 Games
  • Developer: Sproing
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://playquarantine.com//
  • Game code provided by PR

Quarantine rhymes with Kolin…

Anyway, if you can’t guess what Quarantine is about, then perhaps you are unfit for the task at hand, much like I was on my first attempt. A global Pandemic has just started and you are in charge of leading the… um… charge against this new bacteria/virus/prion that’s on the rise, taking actions around the globe one turn at a time. While it’s not exactly the most elaborate of stories it’s a premise that works really well as a videogame – even more so when it’s a videogame that is at the very least heavily inspired by the board game Pandemic (which is by most accounts absolutely brilliant). I can’t attest to this as it’s still sat closed and unused inside a box in my room, even after about a year of owning it.

Starting a new game was a little daunting upon its release, as your opening gambit either makes or breaks your game. It’s a tug of war type situation, except that you start off weak but in control and have to watch as the infection spreads like wildfire. It’s like trying to plug holes in a sinking boat at first; your one team member can only do one action a turn, and the meagre cash you start with doesn’t really give you any options.

Doing anything other than building a new administration building first (the thing that gives you extra money per turn) means you’ll likely have to watch everything ramp up in difficulty almost immediately. I did this on my first attempt. I thought quarantining a city over the other side of the globe would help. It did but, with my lack of funds for the next few turns, the bacteria rampaged over the other side of the world. It was just a matter of watching the infection escalate over a few short turns. Then I lost.

The next couple of games I played, I ended up winning. Mostly through dedication to the Medic’s overpowered tech tree, which entailed thoroughly neutering the infection at every turn. It felt like the only proper way to play it. Which made the games feel very similar despite the subtle differences in the three infection variations.  Then they addressed this with a rebalance to almost the entire tech tree, sticking things in different places to spread the power.

It’s almost a completely different strategy mid-game because of these changes. Where I used to rush down one tree, I’m now finding it much more appropriate to spread it about a little. It’s good that it does this but also shows how deeply rooted in board game logic it all is. Balance of these tech trees changes how the game feels drastically.

It’s in Early Access so there are a few things that still feel slightly underwhelming. First of all is getting to the point where you’re in control and reaching the point where it’s only a matter of time before you defeat the infection. It ends up being a task of cleaning up the same old messes, over and over with little skill or tension. Second, and leading on from the first, is the generation of funds. Tech and scientific research aren’t based on cold hard cash, unless you want to bolster the size of the teams working on them, and after a certain point in the game you’re often sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars that do very little if you aren’t constantly quarantining everything. It feels like there’s no reason to earn this much money when there’s nothing left to spend it on in the late game – which happens fairly often.

Lastly, is what should be the most interesting part of the game – events. Outside of the usual housekeeping, there are events. Situations that are only fixable by either having the right team member or the right research. It’s normally a risky operation that is offered as a free action that may or may not increase the infection substantially. Sometimes doing nothing is better, to avoid worsening the situation as much as a failed attempt. It’s potentially interesting but if the outcome is that nothing happens, then it doesn’t feel interesting if you’re winning. Nothing bad happening is great when I’m on the back foot but when I’m in the lead, it doesn’t feel like a reward, just a failed attempt to stir excitement.

I haven’t yet managed to beat it on hard but I’ve sussed out the medium difficulty fairly well. There’s not a huge amount to do yet other than replay the three scenarios on differing difficulties but even replaying them gives an interesting time with different starting characters and locations. Considering it’s in Early Access with the promise of making it good for the players, it’ll hopefully find a way of making it worth coming back to again and again.For the moment though replayability and a it being a fun game are its key strengths.

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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