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Strategies to Win in "Plague Inc."

Darius is a former high school literary and feature writer with a Bachelor of Science degree in Information and Communications Technology.

What is Plague Inc.?

Plague Inc. is one of those popular mobile, PC, and physical simulation games you can find and download. It's a game where you unleash an unknown pathogen into a simulation of a world where your main objectives are to infect and kill every human on the planet. If you've ever dreamt of being a supervillain where you could do the same thing, it's a dream come true.

"Plague Inc."

"Plague Inc."

A Plague Game, Simplified

Let's get some things straight, first: diseases aren't a joke, as well as the impacts of worldwide pandemics in real life. Our history recorded most of its famous pandemics from way before the Black Plague to the present's COVID-19 pandemic. But those are for other articles or forums to be discussed and worth expounding on.

This article, though, explains and offer helpful tips for ways any mobile (or PC) game player, the veterans or newbies, could successfully win every normal difficulty by each standard plague type on any round. This can (or may) also apply to their other difficulties.

Also, remember that this game is highly fictional even though there are scientific "things" behind the development. I won't be discussing the real implications of plague and pandemics and plague type in real life in-depth, but I will be discussing methods to help you win the game. If you're curious or have no idea about these said subjects, you could either talk to your friend who studied health and epidemiology, read books, or do (extensive or not) research on the internet.

The Basics of Plague Inc.

The gist and the basics of the game go like this:

  1. You choose a country for your plague, infecting "Patient Zero" or the index patient with an unknown/undiscovered pathogen.
  2. You have to earn DNA points by popping yellow, red, and blue bubbles on the screen.
  3. You have to evolve your pathogen to infect or kill more people.
  4. You have to fight the cure/vaccine against your plague being created by humans.
  5. Eradicate all life on (simulation of) earth.

Well, you might be wrong about that. It could get you a couple of tries to beat a standard plague type match on normal difficulty and a couple more on its other difficulty settings. But, needless to say, I did triumphantly won every standard plague type match on the game. And I might as well share my strategies and how-tos to help you beat them.

What happens if you do win a standard plague type match in normal difficulty? You'll unlock the next standard plague type, of course, and the game will reward you with a chink of a random genetic code which will be either useful or not during your future matches. And if you're having extra greens on your digital wallet, you can unlock special plague types (which each of them require different strategies for beating the game).

By starting a new game, you are required to select a plague type. After selecting a plague type, you can either enter a creative name for it or leave it blank so the game can make a name for it. After that is modifying the genetic code, and each genetic code has its own perks on helping you during the game. The simulation will then start once you've completed these minimal steps, and you're now on a match and a mission to eradicate seven billion people.

An example of "Plague Inc." gameplay. Photo by NDemic Creations.

An example of "Plague Inc." gameplay. Photo by NDemic Creations.

The Game's Common Yet Helpful Strategies

Early-to-Mid Game

The index patient starts in a chosen country. As time went on, the pathogen infects more people in that chosen country. You are going to be given extra DNA points upon starting the game, and extra DNA points if you've unlocked a genetic code for it. Yellow DNA bubbles will randomly appear for you to earn more DNA points as well.

Choose a robust country, one that is teeming with people. A country that won't jeopardize your plague type's ability to infect more people because of conditions like it being a rich country, a less-populated counted, less-traveled country, and its climate.

While the simulated world spins and their ships and airplanes go from here to there, you managed to collect enough to evolve plague for the first time.

There are three levels during the game that you need to keep an eye out:

  1. Infectivity
  2. Severity
  3. Lethality

You also need to keep an eye out on the game's cure level. Once the game's humans begin researching, and if it reaches 100%, you will lose the match.

Tips for Transmission

  • The first tip I'm going to tell is evolving its transmission, and two transmission modes are highly effective if you want to increase your plague's infectivity: air and water. Air transmissions increase your chances of having pathogens hitching rides on traveling planes, and water transmission increase your chances of pathogens sailing in the oceans through traveling ships. These planes and ships carry the pathogen from the infected country to an uninfected country, spreading the disease. By maximizing its evolution, the pathogen can survive in traveling ships and planes even are these ships and planes somehow managed to have filtrations and disinfectants inside of them. The reason why air and water transmission is most recommended because both transmission modes don't make the plague to increase its random mutations, unlike having them transmitted through blood, livestock, birds, rats, and insects. Although this can still vary if certain countries with certain conditions, like climate change or whatever that pops up on the news dashboard of the game. But I recommend you evolving air and water for maximum transmission.

Tips for Symptoms

  • The next tip is to don't start on evolving new symptoms unless needed, especially in the early moments of the game's matches. By evolving symptoms, you're making the plague more infectious and scary (severity). The level of your disease's severity and fatality is directly proportionate on how fast the humans on the game would react to it. If this continuously happens and gradually, the humans in the game will notice your plague sooner than later. This will make them act on it and devise countermeasures, like banning flights and ship transports, implementing strict surveillance and martial laws, or distribution of face masks and filtered water, jeopardizing your plague's ability to infect more people especially countries that only either require ship transport (like Greenland and the Caribbean) or a flight (like New Zealand and Iceland). If these isolated countries completely locked themselves up because of your tremendously scary disease, chances of infecting them are very slim unless you evolve your plague for a bird's transmission mode or if an infected cure plane drops on it. Thus, your chances of winning the match will also fall.

Mid-to-Late Game

Each symptom evolution gives off an equal amount of effectivity once evolved, but a number of them do have some passive with them that your plague type can have in the game (such as a decrease in research speed, boost in colder or warmer climates).

You can, however, start on evolving respiratory symptoms (like coughing and sneezing) to increase your infectivity. The humans in the game would still notice your plague, so make sure you evolve it at the right time. The symptom is a boost because it affects countries with colder weather and climates, the countries in the game that you should be looking out. The plague won't be "that" scary, so cure research will be slow. Until then, watch out for the game's WHO's announcement about placing your disease on their watchlist. This means that cure research is speeding up and you have to make split-second yet strategic decisions to win the game.

Tips for Abilities

  • You can use your DNA points to buy climate resistances (for cold and hot locations) and/or drug resistance. The drug resistance evolution is effective if you want to hasten the infectivity in rich countries. These are not needed as much, but they can help you significantly should you decide to quickly infect more people in the game especially in cold, hot, and rich countries. You can also use your DNA points to buy special abilities. They are your plague type's good buffs during the game.
  • If all locations are successfully infected, and if there are no more healthy people living in the game, you can now unleash deadlier symptoms to finish the game. Start by further evolving your respiratory symptoms until it reaches total organ failure, significantly raising your disease's lethality. You can also evolve the coma symptom and its other symptoms to reduce the cure research speed, giving you enough time to eradicate the game's earth populace.

This recommended strategy works out, and sometimes it doesn't. It is a simulation game, after all. Humans in the game will still find ways to counter your plague, or the fatality rate of your plague was so high it killed off more people than it infected them, or they were just too fast on their cure research. But failure on a match is okay as long as you learn from your past mistake so that you can use it against the game in the next matches. A successful match can last up to more than half 15 to 30 plus minutes depending on the strategy, plague type, etc. and it will reward you an unlocked random genetic code to use as your arsenal for the next matches.

Standard Plague types selection panel of the game. Photo by Miniclip.com

Standard Plague types selection panel of the game. Photo by Miniclip.com

The Standard Plague Types

There are seven standard plague types in the game:

  1. Bacteria
  2. Virus
  3. Fungus
  4. Parasite
  5. Prion
  6. Nano-Virus
  7. Bio-Weapon

Inside the game, each plague type has the same modes of transmission and deadly symptoms. Each of them, however, differ on a "Special Ability" in the "Abilities" panel, despite having the same cold, heat, and drug resistance rosters. Each of these plague types is also unique and very different from each other, as they are in the real world, which I will be discussing below.

Remember that we are playing on a "Normal Difficulty" and that you can easily win matches, but the tides of the simulation game still depend on how quick and strategic you act with your plague type.

Bacteria under the microscope.

Bacteria under the microscope.

1. Bacteria

"The most common cause of plagues. Unlimited potential."

The Bacteria standard plague type will be your initial plague type to use in the game, meaning that the other six will be locked (unless you beat their "Normal" and "Brutal" matches). Bacterias, in real life, are everywhere. Not all of them are bad, and not all of them are good (probiotics) as well. They develop antibacterial resistance due to unchecked use of antibiotics, paving a way to create the so-called superbugs. Because of this, experts say that antibiotics might become obsolete in the future and these superbugs could pave the way for new waves of real-life plague. But don't be afraid since experts are also configuring ways to defeat these menaces before they surface to wreak havoc.

The Bacteria's special ability is raising its resiliency, survivability, and effectiveness on all climates. When you're playing the game, you can sometimes click on a specific country and view its status. Some countries are hotter while some are colder. Other countries are normal or fall on the tropical climate category. These variations affect the overall infectiousness of your new plague. By upgrading its bacterial resilience ability, you somehow added more chances for your plague to infect more people.

Since the only special ability this plague type has is increased survivability in all climates, you can focus on it first before buying transmission modes for your plague to proliferate. The bacteria, unlike any other plague type in the game, don't give extra DNA points because of ability as well so you have to strategically wait until the majority of countries in the game are infected.

A virus.

A virus.

2. Virus

"A rapidly mutating pathogen which is extremely hard to control."

The Virus standard plague type is unlocked once you've won the Bacteria standard plague type in either normal or brutal difficulty.

Viruses, in real life, are neither dead nor alive. They just simply exist. I've read and listened to countless people naming them as organisms that are just here for pure existence. Viruses, if I recall correctly, can also be either double-helix (DNA) or single-helix (RNA). The most common and the most unstable of these two are RNA viruses, opening new locks for undiscovered mutations and evolutions. They are the smallest compared to bacterias. Although most known viruses cause diseases some are quite beneficial. They are either eradicated by cure or by vaccination (herd immunity).

The Virus plague type's special ability in the game in viral instability, which causes the game's virus plague type DNA to randomly mutate and evolve free symptoms making it deadlier the longer it exists in the game. This ability keeps you from spending excess DNA to use for other abilities, but the cost is that since the virus is getting "scarier" by each mutation it gets it is easily detected and figured out by humans in the game. And the cure research, your mortal enemy in the game, will often start sooner than later.

Even without buying the special abilities, the passive of the virus plague type is still activated. The durations between intermittent mutations are just longer, and buying these special abilities reduces the length of that duration. You can have these random mutations devolve for a cost, with each devolutions costing more and more than the last. There's also a genetic code that can be used where the devolution of a mutation won't increase. All-in-all, you have to keep an eye out on your special abilities. Once a symptom randomly evolves for free, the humans in the game would notice it faster. Hence, if this keeps on going, the cure research would also be faster.

A fungus, usually mushrooms.

A fungus, usually mushrooms.

3. Fungus

"Fungal spores travel long distances without special effort."

The Fungus standard plague type is unlocked once you've successfully beat either the Bacteria or Virus plague type in either normal or brutal difficulty.

Fungi are commonly found in dead plants, dead animals, and mushrooms in real life. They are, basically, plants that don't require much to survive but would still depend on nutrients such as water or sunlight. There are a hundred, even thousands of species of them and each is unique on its own. They can cause the well-known Athlete's foot or Candidiasis in people with compromised immune systems. One well-known fungus specie is the Cordyceps, which is also featured in another successful video game "The Last of Us," is also known as the zombie fungus. Still having the ability to infect and control its host, only insects (or other small animals) in the wild can be affected by them.

The Fungus in the game seemed to be the pathogenic type. The Fungus plague type has three key special abilities:

  1. Spore Burst
  2. Spore Eruption
  3. Spore Hardening

Spore burst is a special ability where the fungus plague type of the game releases small amounts of spores in the air, infecting a random a country. This can be done at a low yet accumulative DNA cost until Spore eruption is can be bought. Spore eruption is an ability where several countries, usually five to eight, can be randomly infected. When all of the spore burst and spore eruption abilities are used, the spore hardening can be used. This ability will make your plague burst fungal spores in the air, infecting random countries, from time-to-time and is permanent as long as the game progresses. This ability is highly efficient if you want to rapidly infect countries as fast as you can, with additional transmission abilities of course, as it can also give your spores resiliency to all climates.

The downside of buying these abilities is that as you unlock and buy more special abilities, the other abilities (the resistances) get more expensive. And even though newly infected countries offer red bubbles for DNA points, you still need to have more to make the pathogen deadlier especially at the middle to late moments of the game.

Remember that the main goal is to eradicate all life on the game, not just infecting them (because cure research will cause you tremendous problems in the long run). Strategic budgeting is used here to save enough DNA points to buy new and deadlier symptoms.

Microscopic parasites.

Microscopic parasites.

4. Parasite

"Parasitic lifestyle prevents DNA alteration from everyday infection."

The Parasite plague type is unlocked once you've managed to win Fungus' plague type in either normal or brutal difficulty.

Perhaps the most successful parasite there is the Toxoplasma gondii. They are single-celled protozoans found throughout the world. They are transmitted by, accidentally or intentionally, eating uncooked, contaminated meat, and shellfish if the food is not washed thoroughly. They are also found on common house cat fecal matter, and they infiltrate by slipping through nooks and crannies on the microscopic spaces on our hands and if people accidentally ingest their fecal matter (that's why washing your hands after cleaning your pet's poo is necessary). You wouldn't even know if you're infected by it because it doesn't reflect any symptom to the host whatsoever. In worse cases, it can trigger flu and eye problems. They are, however, easily eradicated by a person's healthy immune system.

Parasites depend on their hosts for survival, to the disadvantage of their hosts. The parasite plague type in the game, perhaps, exists to eventually kill its hosts.

The parasite plague type in the game prevents the player from getting DNA points by infecting people and starts off with higher severity levels. Remember that severity is directly proportional to how people would react to the disease? Higher severity also means higher DNA points accumulated on each pop of red bubble. By evolving this plague type's special ability, you're also reducing the level of severity it already has.

Therefore, this plague type prevents the player from getting the maximum amount of red bubble DNA points because of its special ability in exchange for making it hidden from its hosts in exchange reducing the level where people can notice your plague. Hence, you will be highly dependent on the orange bubble that randomly appears during the match as well as the extra DNA points you're getting from time-to-time. This plague type also requires strategic budgeting of DNA points since you only have a limited amount of them to spend on.

A prion protein.

A prion protein.

5. Prion

"Slow, subtle, and extremely complex pathogen hidden inside the brain."

The Prion standard plague type is unlocked once a normal or brutal difficulty match using the Parasite standard plague type is successful.

Prions in real-life do not contain any DNA or RNA whatsoever, but they are a bunch of malfunctioning proteins. They are often transmitted through inheritance. Even though they can also be found in any other organ, prion highly target's the infected's brain since its prion-genes are active in the nervous system. They have an incubation time ranging from two weeks to forty years. Moreover, prions are also the cause of some diseases without cure such as severe dementia and Alzheimer's. In short, these malfunctioning proteins are responsible for some neurodegenerative diseases.

Since prions cannot be, or at least improbable to be, cured in real-life, the game suffices to make it curable by making the duration of cure research speed longer than the rest of the plague types. Just to keep the balance of the game. And unlike the rest of the plague types, evolutions (transmission, symptoms, abilities) in the game have a delay in effect. Its special ability in the game is called the neural atrophy, which helps you slow down cure research speed. This is helpful if the humans in the game start noticing your plague and began researching for a cure.

Again, the downside of this disease type in the game is the delay for the evolutions to take effect. The upside is that it is so slow and hidden in the infected's brain that they won't be noticing it until it's all too late.

The nano-virus photo from Plague Inc: Evolved

The nano-virus photo from Plague Inc: Evolved

6. Nano-Virus

"Out of control microscopic machine with a built-in kill switch."

Nano-Virus is unlocked upon completing a Prion's normal or brutal difficulty match.

The nano-virus is a microscopic microbiological nanotechnological nanorobot with the ability of self-replication. It was accidentally released from a laboratory in the game. The humans will then start broadcasting a "kill-code" to shut down the pathogen. This is why when you start a Nano-virus match, the cure research will also start because the cure is the "kill-code." This kind of quirk makes this plague type good for speed-runs or pressure tests. To balance it out, the Nano-virus has a higher than average starting infectivity level, better resistance in all climates (except for humid countries), and cheaper costs for evolving symptoms, and abilities to slow down cure research speed and increase its time before broadcasting the kill-code. There's also a special ability to override the nano-virus, giving it a temporary boost maximizing its infectivity.

There are two problems concerning nano-virus matches that you need to quickly act upon to:

  1. Cure research starts when you start the match, and it's quite speedy.
  2. Transmission of the nano-virus all over the world.

Just like any other standard plague type, you don't have to increase its severity (and infectivity) by evolving symptoms right from the bat. Increasing its severity would make it scarier and would influence the countries to shut their land borders, airports, and shipyards. You still have to somehow manage to spread the disease effectively and quickly before the cure research is completed (or else you'll lose the match). If you think that majority of the population is already infected with the plague, you can now evolve even more dangerous symptoms to finish the game.

Bio-Weapon signs and insignias.

Bio-Weapon signs and insignias.

7. Bio-Weapon

"Exceptionally lethal pathogen that kills everything it touches."

This standard plague type is unlocked once you completed a normal or brutal match using the Nano-Virus.

Thie bio-weapon standard plague type in the game is an exceptionally strong type of virus that was accidentally released from a laboratory. It is also the last standard plague type that you can conquer.

The bio-weapon, like the virus, is very unstable. But instead of random evolutions, its level of lethality increases over time. This plague type is good for speed runs and pressure tests for players since you have to infect all of the populace before having them eradicated.

The plague has four special abilities:

  1. Gene Compression.
  2. Nucleic Acid Neutralization.
  3. Deactivated Modified Genes.
  4. Annihilate Gene.

Evolving gene compression will increase the time before your lethality levels could rise. Evolving nucleic acid neutralization will reset your lethality level back to zero temporarily for a number of few in-game days. Evolving deactivated genes reduces the levels from the already existing lethality levels. And to compensate for its balancing, the bio-weapon plague type is more effective particularly in rich countries (where most standard plague types are having difficult times infecting their populace).

There are three key problems during a bio-weapon match:

  1. The gradual rise of the plague's lethality, making it scarier. Therefore, increasing the speed of research for the cure and making countries to close their borders.
  2. The plague has to survive long enough to be transmitted to a vast number of the populace in the game.
  3. DNA points.

Although these are all answered when you've unlocked it's fourth and final special ability: unlocking the annihilate gene. By evolving this ability, the plague will gain a temporary maximum boost on all levels (infectivity, severity, and lethality. After a few in-game days of its evolution, it will then revert to its original status. This is often unlocked when you're sure enough to unleash its potential in the simulation world. So, you have to be careful. You could either lose in the game by losing from the cure or losing people to further the infection.

Vaccines, cures, medicines, and gene editing.

Vaccines, cures, medicines, and gene editing.

Gaming Afterword

Despite its seemingly accurate depictions on pandemics and diseases, the creators themselves strongly advise their player that the game is purely fictional. It may seem coincidental, or perhaps weird, but I do agree with the game creator's note on their game. There is a huge difference between the simulation happening in the game and the events happening in the real world. And although all names sound science-like and smartypants, most of them are quite made-up. Diseases and pathogens in the real-life contain a multitude of variables with infinite outcomes. And like the humans in the game that causes the string of unfortunate events, happen, humans in the real-world are also responsible for their own resiliency and intelligence for finding solutions in never-before-known problems.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Darius Razzle Paciente