When Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 was launched in 2015, it was met with a rave response from gamers. A campaign-based tackle the unique Pandemic, it dropped followers into the acquainted function of medics battling to eradicate lethal viral strains earlier than they unfold across the globe and destroy humanity.
The sport’s greatest draw was a storyline which unfolded over a number of play classes, with ailments mutating and cities falling into chaos as a sinister conspiracy unfold its tendrils internationally. Alongside the best way, gamers put stickers on the board, destroyed playing cards, and opened sealed compartments to disclose hidden parts, completely altering the sport in response to their very own actions. A sequel, Pandemic Legacy: Season 2, took the motion a long time into the longer term, exploring a world wracked by the occasions of the primary sport. Now, there’s a 3rd and remaining installment, taking gamers again to the damaging days of 1962 and the peak of simmering tensions between the USA and the Soviet Union.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 revolves round CIA brokers tasked with uncovering plans for a robust new bio-weapon being developed by rogue components of the Soviet intelligence providers. The place the established Pandemic components noticed gamers zipping from metropolis to metropolis to eliminate plastic cubes representing ailments, right here you and your companions intention to clear the board of miniature plastic spies. Allow them to unfold too freely, and so they’ll overthrow the capitalist system. Extra importantly, they are going to hand you an embarrassing loss.
It’s largely a superficial change, but it surely’s removed from the one means that Season 0 evokes its Chilly Struggle environment. Totally different areas on its board include totally different alignments: Allied, Soviet, and impartial. As enemy brokers, you received’t be capable to fly freely into Soviet territory, and getting round these restrictions requires organising groups of native brokers, represented by plastic miniatures that appear like VW vans. You’ll be capable to dispatch them to do your soiled work, assassinating Soviet spooks with ruthless effectivity.
Your targets for every playthrough additionally really feel suitably CIA-esque. You’ll want to search out the areas of enemy belongings and infiltrate secret Soviet services. Better of all, although, are the high-stakes manhunt missions which see a goal corresponding to a defector or double agent begin in a single metropolis and frantically make their means in direction of Soviet strongholds whilst you attempt to minimize off all of their doable escape routes. It makes for an exciting chase with some genuinely gut-wrenching moments the place your quarry slips via your fingers simply as you shut in to seize them.
What actually makes the sport shine, although, is what occurs between missions. As with earlier video games within the collection, you’ll run via a deck of playing cards introducing dramatic new plot components. You’ll add stickers to the board representing ever-tightening Soviet surveillance, guaranteeing cities extra harmful to go to. However what’s most attention-grabbing is the flexibility to improve your characters over time. Every comes with a passport booklet with pages for 3 totally different identities, all with their very own skills. Over time you’ll add new powers, letting you fine-tune every agent for duties like searching down enemies, sharing data with teammates, or recruiting native operatives.
You’ll be capable to change between identities as you play to adapt to the altering scenario on the board, and in an impressed contact the sport enables you to customise your characters’ look utilizing layers of stickers. It has no impact on gameplay, however the concept of slapping on a wig and a false mustache to sneak behind the Iron Curtain is undeniably enjoyable.
As you delve deeper into the marketing campaign, the sport ramps up its issue, and whereas it’s unattainable to enter element with out giving freely some essential surprises, you possibly can count on to cope with ever-intensifying Soviet schemes and pencil-pushing superiors who appear intent on getting in your means. What begins as a reasonably extra sophisticated model of Pandemic morphs into one thing far meatier and extra demanding.
The incremental means of change means you by no means really feel overwhelmed. There are some events, although, the place it turns into clear halfway via a session that you simply aren’t going to win, and it’s right here that Season 0 feels flat, with gamers aimlessly wandering across the board chasing unobtainable targets. It looks like going into the second half of a soccer match together with your group shedding 8-0, though in our marketing campaign it solely occurred as soon as.
Even while you lose, you’ll progress via the plot. This would possibly imply lacking out on some very important intelligence, nevertheless, and acquiring and deciphering data may be simply as essential as what truly happens on the board. There are smuggled paperwork, secret plans, eyewitness testimonies, and different clues which you’ll intention to piece collectively to type an entire image of what your adversaries are as much as.
What may be most spectacular, although, is the best way the sport digs into the inside battle of its protagonists. There are a number of factors all through the marketing campaign the place gamers’ opinions on totally different points have a direct, mechanical impact on the sport. And whereas the plot runs largely on rails, there are a handful of key choices which result in a choice of totally different endings.
If there’s one narrative shortfall, it’s that Season 0 by no means actually addresses the deeper query of whether or not the ends of all this shady spycraft justify the means. It’s not that the sport presents a simplistic good-vs-evil view of the Chilly Struggle; its depiction of the CIA is way from heroic, and there are some horrible individuals on either side. However the concept of vans prowling Latin America to bump off leftists is distinctly uncomfortable given the real-world historical past of CIA involvement within the area, even in the event you handle to imagine that the individuals you’re wiping off the map are actually secret brokers within the pay of Moscow.
Spy fiction of all varieties exists on a spectrum. On one aspect is escapist fantasy like James Bond, on the opposite are deeper tales exploring a world of distrust and duplicity, and what occurs after we permit individuals to step outdoors of legality and accepted norms. Season 0 falls largely into the previous class, and I’d have favored to have seen how its mix of narrative and mechanical wizardry dealt with some deeper, extra reflective points.
Is that this sufficient to negate all the things that Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 does properly? No. The sport is a becoming end result to a collection which has given gamers a succession of powerful choices, hard-won victories, and agonizingly shut defeats. For newcomers, Season 1 is a greater place to start out when it comes to complexity and storyline. However in the event you’ve been alongside for the trip from the beginning, that is one hell of a send-off.