Quarantine is the latest take on the viral infection genre (Plague Inc.), with the caveat that players are now fighting to save humanity rather than destroy it. The turn-based strategy game was developed by the indie studio Sproing and is now being published by 505 Games, a good indicator that the large publisher saw potential for a sleeper hit with Quarantine. But while the game does deliver strategic challenge in bulk, it lacks enough depth to keep the title entertaining for the duration.
Much like other viral infection games, Quarantine has a comparatively simple interface: players are met with a global map of interconnected locations that face a looming outbreak. Each city has several slots for the infection to eat up, and should enough cities fall to whatever disease gamers are attempting to stop, the game is over. The more infected a city becomes, the more dangerous it is for operators to complete tasks within them. Sproing added a few layers of strategy over this, ranging from operators with varying bonuses to research trees, random events, and a modest selection of infections - though these don't end up adding too much depth to the game as whole.
In Quarantine, there's a straightforward pros and cons system. Some staff members have greater movement range, but it's contrasted with less health. Conversely, some diseases spread more quickly than others, but will mutate slower as a result. Finding a balance between all of these is the trick between triumph and tragedy, especially when it comes to prioritizing research to put a band-aid on problems before they overwhelm the globe. Some diseases will begin spreading at a rate too high to compete with, so targeted research is key for an international defense. Likewise, knowing when to quarantine a city versus when to treat the infection within it is often the difference between containing a virus and watching it break loose onto another continent.
There are also different types of recruits to send out - some take less damage, some gather more samples, some treat more infections, and others grant fiscal bonuses. If they die they're gone forever, and players will be forced to shell out cash - generated by purchasable office space - in order to get the team back to full capacity. Players will also want to spend surplus cash on general laboratory researchers in order to discover more about the disease, before it mutates to give itself further advantages. Every turn in Quarantine presents new problems, and a constant reminder that players are racing against the clock.
Once players find a general pattern to success, however, the game's difficulty drops significantly. Since the diseases only differ in terms of infection speed and mutation rate, there's ultimately not much adapting that needs to be done in the game's slim portfolio of scenarios. That being said, Quarantine does support user-generated scenarios through the Steam Workshop, and once fans create new content this issue may resolve itself. The game also offers three different difficulty modes, the hardest of which is crushingly punishing for the uninitiated.
Unfortunately, the flavor text that the sporadic events bring to the table isn't enough to make each game feel unique, resulting in an experience that never quite fills its potential for replayability. Once players have mastered the art of turning red zones into disinfected cities, Quarantine quickly loses its momentum. The simplistic tone and lack of depth to the game make it feel like a mobile application ported over to the computer rather than a deep strategy title, but that isn't to say the game lacks merit: it's good, but it's not great. It's fun, but only for a short while.
Given that the game has the low price point of $9.99 (with an opening week-long price of $5.99), it's not a major investment for strategy fans that want to test their mettle for an hour or so. It's certainly more finely polished than free alternatives online, and does a decent job of challenging Plague Inc. and Pandemic in the sparse market for strategy disease-based games - though it's not the greatest cure for boredom out there.
Quarantine is available now for PC. Game Rant was provided with a PC code for this review.