Joey Betz has already been featured here for his game Crush the Castle. His game Phage Wars, however, has been the game stealing by far the majority of my billable hours this week. It’s simple, quick to pick up, and oddly addictive in the same way that Zergfests in Starcraft are addictive. You are a species of disease that inhabits a body, and you want to be the dominant infection. To this end you conquer cells throughout the body sometimes taking uninfected cells and sometimes stealing them from other infections. Your ammunition is parasites that you grow in the cells once you have them under your control. The cells are different sizes and all regenerate at different speeds. The larger cells regenerate quickly but take more parasites to conquer while the smaller ones regenerate more slowly but require less output to take over. Up to four other diseases are active on the same board, all fighting to become the dominant species by controlling all of the cells available.
Controls are easy. Click a cell that you control and then click one that you don’t have control of yet. Roughly half of the parasites from your cell will attack the other cell and if that number is greater than the total amount holding the enemy cell, you will take it over. Click two or three of your cells (up to eight) and send them on a rampage, crushing any foes that stand in the way. At the start, you choose your infection. Some hit harder than others, requiring less parasites to take over a cell, while some move faster. This is especially important if you need to attack an enemy infection from a long distance.
The graphics are pleasingly simple, without a ton of ornamentation. You get the idea of what is happening, but this isn’t exactly Crysis. Circles are the cells, glowing dots are the parasites. The number of parasites in a cell is in the center of the cell, although at later stages you lose the ability to see the enemy’s parasite totals, making it far more important that you pay attention to how the parasites are moving from cell to cell. I did not notice until this point that as a cell gains more and more parasites, it grows. Once I discovered this, I blew up several cells to extreme sizes simply to see how big they would go. The background is a static out-of-focus shot that could easily be a group of cells or a fallen stack of steel beams. I honestly didn’t pay it much mind until I started to write about the game. That’s not to say it’s bad, it sets a calming mood and doesn’t overwhelm the player with a ton of moving parts.
I have been enjoying Phage Wars immensely. It is an oddly calming game of conquest. I have not completed the game with all of the eight infection types, but I can certainly tell you that if you intend to do so, you will have to be willing to adjust your play style multiple times. Parasites caught out in the open don’t count towards your total, so if your last cell is taken while you have a ton of parasites heading somewhere else, you will lose. I’m more than happy to give Phage Wars a 9.5.