The fate of the world is on the line, yet Quarantine manages to transition from frustrating to boring with little satisfaction in between.
I want to begin by telling you all that you should be damn grateful that my parents encouraged me to “follow my dreams”, study the liberal arts, and go on to be a web content creator because I suck as an epidemiologist. Seriously, just complete worldwide devastation time after time. OK, I got the hang of it after a few rounds, but at that point, Quarantine was no longer a turned based strategy. It was a game of whack a mole as I bought time for my lab to find a solution.
Quarantine is a turn-based strategy game that pits you against a quickly moving epidemic. There are five classes of disease to fight each with multiple scenarios. You begin by choosing an epidemic and a team leader. The team leaders provide initial buffs and a head-start in particular branches of research. You can add teammates as you progress, for a price, and they will help you contain the epidemic each with their own perks. Medics are able to treat more infected, scientists can collect more samples per turn, diplomats can purchase new headquarters for half the price, and security… is cheap.
Every turn, you can make each of your team members perform an action. You can also initial tech research or lab work if possible during the turn. Any unit can perform any action, so long as you have the cash, but each unit has its own strengths. They are also limited by how much funds you have available and their range of motion. This is where the strategy comes in, positioning your team and spending your funds wisely before the epidemic spreads too far.
Along the way, you must juggle the risk of losing team members and random events. This introduces some degree of luck into the equation, but ultimately did little to affect my decisions. Hitting them felt more like road bumps than deep game mechanics. That lack of depth echoes throughout as different types of epidemic don’t appear to have significantly different behaviors. On harder difficulties, you can see the infection rate climbing faster certainly, but I could not definitively tell you how fighting a virus significantly changed over fighting a bacteria.
In order to win you have to research a cure for the epidemic. The only way to get that done is to collect samples and then try to contain the epidemic for the necessary number of turns. Sampling costs nothing but also does nothing to stop the spread of whatever you are fighting. Every turn allows the epidemic to spread, increasing the “Global Infection” rate. When the bar is full, congrats, everyone is dead. You can use your team to treat the infected and fight back, but you will also need to quarantine cities to stem the spread.
Money is (not surprisingly) the real key to victory. You need to generate funds by building more headquarters. Everything worth doing from setting up quarantines to resolving random crisis costs you money. Lab work can be accelerated for the right price and your team can be expanded, which is particularly valuable since each teammate is an extra opportunity to contain the disease. If you run out of funds, you can’t really do much except delay the inevitable end of the world.
Unfortunately, this undermines the strategy portion of the game. At first, I attempted to use different leaders and explore different tech trees, but it mostly just leads to frustration as epidemic after epidemic wiped out the globe. Once I figured that cold hard cash was the only way to save the world and what tech research was the most valuable, I began playing every round with more or less the same strategy. It didn’t matter if I was fighting a rogue bacteria or a deadly virus.
Performance & Graphics
The entire game consists of a world map and a few lab screens that are fairly basic. It works for Quarantine, as the entire game plays and feels a bit like a board game. There are small animations representing the movement of the epidemic, which is a nice illustration at first but gets old after a few rounds. I really wish you could bypass them. Other than that, it is static artwork.
The audio is equally simple, with a few sound effects to accompany animations and a couple voice overs which act as narration and to signal a response from your various team. Sproing created a diverse team to call on to help contain the epidemic, but didn’t bother to include more than maybe two voice profiles. It seems unfair to call them on it given indie games work on tighter budgets than other titles, but they could have tried a little harder.
Quarantine is relatively quick to play and tries to offers players differently scenarios for variety, but you don’t need to adapt much with each class of infection after you discover a winning strategy. At the higher difficulties, Quarantine can be very challenging as your opponent becomes more virulent and moves faster, but it is still very repetitive. The main problem I discovered is that Quarantine goes from frustrating to boring quickly and provides little satisfaction in between. I found little motivation to keep playing as each encounter felt a lot like the last.
The game is still in Early Access on Steam, so there is hope in that.
Quanrantine is available on Steam for $9.99.
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