As a gamer who is slowly moving from video games to board games, it’s always nice to find a game that is bridging the gap.
Comparisons online are likening Quarantine to the board game Pandemic. Instantly when you start playing you’ll see why. You play on an atlas with major cities connect by lines, you play as a team of operatives fighting a disease and you are trying to stop the disease spreading from city to city.
Sadly that’s where the similarities end. Quarantine feels like it has tried to take the best bits of Pandemic and, bizarrely, XCOM 2 and tried to mix them together, and like mixing the best bits of a lovely cheesecake and a case of your favourite beer, it’s just a confusing mess.
At time of this preview there are three modes to Quarantine. Bacteria, Virus and Prion. The gameplay is unchanged across the board, the only difference is that they have different rates of infecting uninfected cities, increasing infection in infected cities, and different mutation rates.
At its core Quarantine is a turn based strategy game. Each turn your team members get one action each and then the disease will spread to new cities and further infect cities its already in. Over the course of a game your team will grow from a single operative to a team of four, you’ll research the disease, trying to slow it down as you gather more samples to find the cure, and you’ll develop technology to improve your team and the actions they can take each turn.
Honestly, it takes getting to the Medium and Hard difficulty levels before the differences between the Bacteria, Virus and Prion game types kick in. Quarantine guides you through Easy mode, never really letting the game snowball away from you, but even when you step it up a notch to Medium to have a decent challenge, it never feels more than an upscaled mobile game.
Where in Pandemic there are a few operatives, who between them have a very particular set of skills, in Quarantine your team is made up of four hirelings who have very little in the way of differences.
The Medics treat infection faster, Diplomats help you build your finances by making Offices (your source of income every turn) cheaper to build, Security takes less damage when they complete operations, and Scientists get an extra sample of the illness when they gather them.
Apart from that they’re all the same. There’s no game changing abilities, or that great feeling you get when you realise your operative can save the day when you’re backed in a corner playing on a tabletop.
It feels unfair to keep comparing Quarantine to Pandemic, but it’s so clearly trying to ride that wave. Frankly, they shouldn’t have released on Early Access until they were closer to their finished product.
Unlike Pandemic, there’s no tactics to moving around the board. There’s no planning ahead to make sure you can react to whatever the game throws at you, in Quarantine your team can move anywhere in the world on their turn. It takes away any kind of tactics. The entire strategy is boiled down to moving wherever the infection is strongest and treating it while you get enough samples with your scientists to cure the disease.
Each turn your operatives can either Quarantine a City to prevent the infected getting in or out, perform a Treatment Operation to reduce the level of infection in that city, perform a Sampling Operation to gain more samples of the disease so you can research it in the lab or you can heal the Operative in question.
Outside of using your Operatives each turn to complete actions, you have access to a research Lab and a Tech development tree.
In the Lab you can spend samples you’ve gathered in the field to research the disease. This research will eventually cure the disease and at each step you’ll either slow down the disease or speed up your fighting it. Your Tech tab features four trees, one flavoured for each of the type of operative. These trees have upgrades that will buff your team and help your effort to eradicate the disease. There’s a real promise here that Quarantine could be a strong game, but these upgrades don’t have enough of an impact.
If there were more differences between the three game modes or if the Lab and Tech developments had more overall effect on the game then Quarantine would be a serious contender for scratching that Pandemic itch. Unfortunately as it stands it’s got a ways to go in development and shouldn’t be available for purchase though Early Access.