EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
Turning into a Pandemic
Sometimes a game wears its influences on its sleeve so much you canít help but remark on it. Quarantine, a game from developer Sproing and published by 505 Games has spread to Steamís Early Access and, if youíve played the board game Pandemic, youíll feel right at home.
Of course, being compared to Pandemic is by no means a bad thing, especially when you consider it also shares a few mechanics with the superior Pandemic: Legacy, one of the greatest board games of all time. In Quarantine, you take the role of a team of scientists as you attempt to stop the spread of a deadly global pandemic. To do so, youíll be travelling around the world, treating patients, attempting to prevent outbreaks and discovering the cure as fast as possible. So far, so familiar.
Youíll start out by choosing your starting character, all of which have their own specialities. The scientist makes collecting disease samples to develop a cure easier. The security specialist can implement quarantines better than other characters. Medics can treat more people in the same amount of time. Diplomats make setting up remote offices cheaper. Eventually youíll build up a team consisting of some or all of these types of character and itís up to you to mix and match to best fit your strategy.
Keeping people alive
The main difference between Quarantine and Pandemic is that your turns arenít revolving mostly about how youíre going to get places. In Pandemic, you often know exactly what youíre going to do. The only problem is getting there. In Quarantine, it doesnít matter where you ended your last turn, you can get halfway across the world in the same time it takes to move to the next city over. Instead, your puzzle is in performing your actions in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Quarantining cities costs money and, to get more money, you need to invest some of your cash in a new office, which will grant you more dollars for the next round. Youíll also need to spend on new recruits for your team, which will cost more money in the short term, but your action economy for later turns will be much greater.
Itís a good system of balance. However, itís one you figure out pretty early and never really need to deviate from. On the easier settings, as long as you can keep the spread of the disease under control for long enough, you should be able to set up enough offices to make money a trivial matter. Then you can spend your vast wealth on quarantines to make sure the disease doesnít spread anymore. Itís then only a matter of time before your scientists can gather samples and create a cure, under no threat of further outbreaks. On the other hand, the harder difficulties seem to overwhelm you early, and a single mistake can cost you dearly.
There are random events which will occasionally be thrown at you, and will usually consist of a yes or no decision. These are also often determined by choices youíve made already. If you donít have any security personnel, you wonít be able to take care of that riot and the disease count in that city will increase further. These random events add a bit of flavour to proceedings, but it never really adds any excitement or tension.
The tension is also lessened by the fact that the diseases will only spread through land borders. In Pandemic, a bad epidemic step might see a disease spread to an entirely different part of the world. In Quarantine, you know thereís only a finite number of places it can go, and you can often take measures to avoid that happening. It just lacks the edge of knowing something could go wrong anywhere and you never know exactly when itís going to happen.
Some tweaking of the difficulty settings is much needed, but even more so, it just needs something extra. For a game about treating dangerous diseases, right now it feels sterile and lifeless. Especially since itís a single player game, compared to the co-operative magic of a board game. Of course, Quarantine is still in Early Access, so Iím not going to write it off just yet. Keep an eye on it, because if it can mutate into something that can give Pandemic a good run for its money, it might be worth catching.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.