Everyone loves a good turn-based tactical RPG and it’s easy to forget that there more in that genre than just XCOM. Just last year, we’ve had a fairly strong contender from the imaginatively named developer – Bearded Ladies and their Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden. The game was very well received thanks to its solid gameplay, post-apocalyptic setting and a memorable cast of mutated animals as main characters. While some would argue that that game was ripe for a sequel, the developer decided to move away from the post-apocalypse and into a more relatable, militaristic setting with Corruption 2029.
To get an instant win, the developer just needed to improve upon a rock-solid gameplay foundation and make use of the complete creative freedom afforded to him by an original IP. While they somewhat did manage to surpass their previous outing, a fresh coat of paint is often too thin to cover up everything we’ve already seen in Mutant Year Zero.
Corruption 2029 is available for purchase on the Epic Games Store.
There’s not much to go on about here. Corruption 2029 features more of a premise than a real story that leads anywhere significant. The dystopian near-future is the consequence of an American second civil war between two factions – New American Council and the United People of America.
It’s cool that the introductory exposition and the letters scattered throughout the game don’t paint one faction as evil and the other as good. It’s only too bad that the game doesn’t ever explore the moral ambiguity and instead focuses on three barely human soldiers as it drags them through missions without any regard for the bigger picture. Sure, each of the three chapters does have a somewhat larger overarching mission objective like shutting down the launch of a weapon of mass destruction but the success of the mission never feels urgent or meaningful storywise.
It doesn’t help that the only voice you’ll hear in the game is the one from your female mission handler, as the soldiers themselves are devoid of any personality and don’t utter a single word throughout the entire game. After only a mission or two, the initial intrigue is gone the story becomes an afterthought with only the tactical gameplay and your expanding arsenal being there to keep you interested.
Luckily, the gameplay is where Corruption 2029 truly shines. Suffice it to say that you’ll feel right at home if you’ve ever played XCOM, and especially if you played Mutant Year Zero. As mentioned, Corruption is more or less a militaristic reskin of that game – with some additions. Like in that game, you take control of a three-man squad that you can customize to your liking in between missions by equipping them with different weapons and skills in the form of implants.
The combat of Corruption 2029 works in two stages – the freeform setup, and the turn-based execution. In the setup stage, you can freely control the entire squad or individual units using WASD and position them around the enemies for an ambush. The enemies scattered throughout the map have red circles around them that represent their detection range and are either stationary or follow a set patrol route.
Like in Mutant Year Zero, entering the detection range of an enemy or firing a bullet will take you to the turn-based portion of the game. However, Corruption 2029 also features some stealth mechanics that are often necessary for the successful completion of a mission. Certain weapons come equipped with suppressors and if you kill an enemy while he’s not in the detection range of another enemy – you’ll not alarm the entire map. This affords you the opportunity to thin the herd before you commit to a full out combat scenario where your tactical prowess will come into play.
Once that does happen, Corruption 2029 shows that it’s no joke. Even on the lowest difficulty, you can’t power through any of the combat encounters as they require careful planning and a bit of luck from the RNG gods. Units have two action points; moving to a nearby location or reloading a weapon spends one while moving to a distant location, using some abilities or equipment as well as shooting at an enemy spends two. The move and shoot limitation also applies to the enemy units so each combat scenario becomes a game of fun game of cat and mouse with the fairly competent AI trying to outflank you at every turn. The successful attacking and defending will depend on unit positioning, cover quality, and an underlying percentage game of chance.
What the latter means is that unless the chance of an attack is 100%, your units can miss even when shooting at an enemy from 5 feet away. The fact that there’s a fair bit of luck involved might not sit well with some players but the unpredictability makes for a more nerve-wracking experience and forces even more careful planning. The end result is that successful missions against the unfair odds provides the player with an unmatched sense of satisfaction.
Even though the maps all look fairly similar and come with a small number of different objectives, the game is kept fresh by new enemy types as well as new weapons and abilities acquired by your squad. The ever-expanding arsenal of weapons and implants can be equipped to your units in any combination and should be extensively utilized as the game progresses. Its fun experimenting with the builds to create unique combinations that can have a severe impact on how you approach missions. For example, you can have a far leaping sniper that can easily reach high locations to create sniping nests, a shotgun/flamethrower combo that can decimate multiple enemies or a decoy deploying, minigun toting tank with a deployable shield.
There are some problems, however, as many of the shooting and detection systems don’t feel entirely consistent. Oftentimes, the enemies will be able to utilize some mechanics with an unfair efficiency that can frustrate and destroy all your carefully laid plans. Their shots land more often and they can sometimes shoot your units from impossible positions from which your units won’t be able to return fire. While not a game-breaking thing, it definitely lessens the tactical experience when you and the AI operate on a different set of rules.
While not overly long, the game offers some replayability thanks to bonus objectives on each mission as well as the aforementioned classless gear system. Depending on the number of enemies, each mission can last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how meticulous your planning is making the game offer a good bang for your buck in terms of longevity. While difficult, the game is forgiving in the sense that it will revive your units should you kill all nearby enemies and comes with a fairly forgiving checkpoint system that makes it so you don’t have to start each mission from the beginning should you lose all your units.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
Graphically, Corruption 2029 looks surprisingly good. While it uses the same engine seen in Mutant Year Zero, the textures, and lighting, in particular, seems to be much improved. While there’s not much variety in terms of world design from mission to mission, the on offer desolate streets and bridges, lush forests and enemy bases provide a nice looking backdrop for the action. Besides being filled to the brim with different structures and objects (some of them destructible), all of them have some nice particle effects that make them feel more alive. It’s all highly atmospheric too with fog descending on certain areas, dirt and leaves blowing in the wind and sunshine scattering through the treeline.
The units are well animated and the combat is spiced up by slow motion and camera zooming moments to contribute to the satisfying nature of successful hits. There are some minor clipping issues but the game is mostly bug-free and performs buttery smooth – even on lower-end systems.
Contrary to the good visuals, the sound is severely lacking. As mentioned, the game barely has any voice acting and the same goes for music. After going through the game, I feel like there’s only one track that’s on loop the entire time. Seriously, have a look at any gameplay video while skipping to a couple of different segments and you’ll only ever hear the cliche tactical thumping and nothing else.