The Bearded Ladies released their newest hybrid stealth and tactical turn-based strategy game a couple of weeks back and I became excited. After all, I do love a good strategy game that isn’t as frustrating as XCOM 2.
Corruption 2029, the spiritual successor of Mutant Year Zero, revolves around an American civil war between the United Peoples of America (UPA) and the New American Council (NAC). For the uninitiated, the UPA is the group that players belong to, while the NAC is the group that players must infiltrate and destroy. To achieve this, players embark on several missions that will merit various augments which helps them prevail against their enemies. Augments gained from these missions are necessary because your squad consists of only three members. With these three characters, Wolf, Tranter, and Briggs, players must succeed in their mission objectives or else they are doomed to restart from a previous save or start again.
Overall, it’s another post-apocalyptic world that could very much become a reality given the current state of affairs, but I find that the game itself falls a little short for me. In no way is the game not satisfying, it just has some issues that bug me.
Mission Choices and Upgrades
The first quest that players embark on is to find a weapon of mass destruction known as “Savior”, but players don’t know where it is found. Missions require the squad to get information about this weapon and secure it at any cost.
Quest lines are categorized in Files, which have several individual missions that players must complete to get closer to finding Savior. At the end of the first mission, players receive information necessary to complete their tasks. The second mission, of which there are two, give different enhancements that can be used for the units. However, each augment can only be used by one character, and once players enter a mission, these augments cannot be changed. At the beginning of the game, this is a non-issue, but if players make it to a multi-objective mission (where all the primary objectives must be satisfied in order to succeed), players might want to consider their augment choices more wisely.
Some of the augments that players can receive are kinetic barriers, weapon range boosts, a long jump, mindhack, and a movement booster. Now, keep in mind that some of the augments are passive while others are active augments. However, the most important element is to consider which three augments your units will use. This allows for some customizability where the rest of the game is void of it.
Gameplay and Combat
Combat in Corruption 2029 is turn-based, much like XCOM or its own predecessor Mutant Year Zero, but it has a mechanic that I was not familiar with prior to this game. Corruption contains a stealth element where players can stake out the area for medkits, remote detonators, or other useful items. When roaming the map, players have the ability to set themselves up advantageous to them, making combat much easier than something like XCOM 2 where there is less ability to do so. In some cases, maps will have a radio that can be used to distract nearby guards or lure them into the radius of a remotely detonated grenade. It is a mechanic that is perfect for players like me because I absolutely love stealth-based games. Doing so means that players can potentially take out smaller guards before dealing with the heavy hitters. Also, this allows the squad of three to fight on more even footing rather than being overwhelmed by reinforcement units. (cough cough XCOM 2)
Much like Corruption’s predecessor, this game has a healing mechanic that other turn-based strategy games lack. If a unit is taken down by an enemy agent, the player has three turns to reach their squadmate to revive or heal them. This is both very useful and irritating because it forces players to keep units close to each other yet far enough away to set themselves up against the enemy, which is difficult if you have to devote a squadmate to save another. Players aren’t overwhelmed in this game as easily, but if one goes down, the results can be dire. I once had a squadmate get taken out on the way to reviving his squadmate!
For all of the neat elements in Corruption 2029, the element of mystery, stealth mechanics, augmentation capabilities, etc…, it’s not without its flaws. For one thing, the AI is incredibly stupid. And by stupid, I mean really stupid. For example, I set my units to scope out the map for enemy locations, targets, and grenades or medkits. I was able to kill small groups of guards that were easy pickings. In each mission, I was left with the bigger, more challenging units, to take on. Here is the stupid part of the whole deal: not only was I able to take down units without alerting others, but I was also able to do so without hiding the bodies! On top of that, patrol units would walk right by a dead colleague of theirs without even noticing something was wrong! Oh wait, but there is more! In one mission, I was able to use the distraction radio multiple times without the enemy realizing that something was wrong. I expected them to pat around further or send another buddy over, instead of following the same path to the radio, allowing me to sneak on past.
Another flaw in Corruption’s design, in my opinion, is the fact that if a unit of yours goes down in combat, there is no penalty for the character once the objective has been completed! Let me explain. In an early mission, two of the three of my units were downed. As a result of this, I had nothing left to lose and so I sent the last guy to the computer terminal to hack it for the information. My hope was that I could complete the mission as well as see what the game does when losing units. The moment I completed the objective, my other two units just GOT BACK UP and had FOUR HEALTH BARS just given to them! In other words, unless players enter in massive combat missions where they don’t stealth through the area, units going down is not worth the medkits.
In fact, on that note, there is no cybernetic repair cost, penalty to the mission, or anything to show that players had a rough mission. Players will either succeed or they will fail. That is all. And the fact that the AI is unintelligent, makes Corruption 2029 a much easier tactical strategy game.
Audio and UI
The UI in Corruption is fairly straight forward. Players use WASD to move around the map, they can use the spacebar to execute commands, and they can see most of the information needed on the screen. In the top right, is a small bar of icons that show how many medkits or grenades a player has available to use. Please note that players only have access to 3 of the medkits, grenades, and remote detonators. The way the UI is set up is extremely user-friendly.
Before starting any mission, players choose which task they will complete first (because sometimes there are a couple of options), then they pick their loadout. This is where players will add any augments they wish to have on the units during a mission. After these are chosen, players get to pick their dropzone. (Which, is useful if you want to stock up on supplies but know that if you complete an area and then go back to it, there will be more enemies and items will be in different locations. Just be warned. There isn’t a free pass in Corruption.)
The only issue I had with the UI in this game was the camera pan. It’s incredibly awkward to hold down Q and rotate around the character to see nearby enemies. It’s a feature this isn’t really grating, but it took a little getting used to. I wasn’t a fan of the way players needed to camera pan, but we can’t have everything…
My biggest issue with Corruption 2029 is the audio. While the gameplay and UI had its issues, and the AI annoyed the crap out of me, and the story wasn’t fully thought out, the audio ruined the experience. I’ll try and explain my issue with the audio. It wasn’t the sound effects of the water when walking through puddles or the birds fluttering off, because all of those added to the atmosphere. But, when players are about to enter combat, the sound becomes a slow heartbeat and it intensifies for every step players make closer to an enemy unit. It’s at that point when the music glitched out. Corruption’s combat music sounded a lot like it was being played in slow-motion, with a hint of background static. I’m not even sure how to explain it properly, except that the music only caused a problem right before combat situations. This was enough of a bother that it soured my experience of the game, where the rest of it was mildly satisfying. And what’s worse is that I have no idea if the issue was limited to my copy of the game or not. I’ve looked through other reviews and not one single other reviewer made mention of an audio issue. Furthermore, I assume the problem has to do with my copy of the game because I played it on a couple of different computers to end up with the same result.
Corrupted Final Thoughts
Overall, I enjoyed my experience with Corruption 2029. While it is not as difficult as other turn-based strategy games like XCOM 2 or BattleTech, it has its charm. I love the ability to stealth around before combat begins, and I love that players get to outfit their units with various augments to give them an advantage in missions. In fact, despite my issues with the game, none of them are game-breaking where I’d be forced out of playing it. I really do enjoy the fact that I can both stealth and employ tactics to complete missions.
Even though Corruption 2029 is much more simplistic (in my opinion) than others in its genre, it doesn’t make it unworthy of play. In fact, I will go as far as to say that Corruption is an entry-level strategy game that doesn’t force players into unfair fights which cause you to scream endlessly at your computer. If you want a challenge, play XCOM 2. If you want easy, play Corruption 2029. If you want something in the middle, well, I’m still looking…