Posted on 24 Feb 2020 by Jay Shaw

Corruption 2029

The Defence

Developer: Bearded Ladies
Publisher: Bearded Ladies
Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie, Strategy, Turn-Based
Platform: PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: 17 Feb 2020

The Prosecution

Minimum
Recommended
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i3 4160
AMD FX 4300
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 5 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i7 4770
AMD FX 9370
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 4GB
AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 8GB
RAM: 8 GB
HDD: 5 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

Corruption 2029 is the new tactical strategy game by The Bearded Ladies. Gone is the post-apocalyptic world of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden and in is the fresh semi-apocalyptic world of an America torn in two by rival factions. The authoritarian fascist NAC take on the role of your enemies while you assume the boots of three UPA soldiers enhanced with cybernetics and running a BIOS according to the intro.

The Trial

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: If you didn’t like Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, you’re almost certainly not going to like Corruption 2029 because they’re practically the same game with an aesthetic change. There is more to it than that, but speaking broadly they’re incredibly similar in terms of gameplay: you’ll explore zones with a group of three units in real-time, sneaking around enemies and setting up ambushes and when you get spotted, or choose to, you’ll enter a turn-based strategy mode that plays remarkably similar to modern XCOM.

Where Corruption 2029 shines is the gameplay loop. Each encounter is like a puzzle you’ll solve in two stages. First you’ll sneak around probing the enemy patrols for weaknesses and see how many enemies you can silently pick off and how many items you can take. Then you’ll assess your resources, enemy positions and squads, the best positions for an ambush, and then you’ll trigger a battle. At this point it’s less like a puzzle and more like super-powered cyborgs kicking the shit out of hapless troopers who don’t really seem to want to be there.

The enemy AI isn’t bad, it will sometimes manage to pull off an interesting move like flanking or taking high-ground against you but for the most part it’ll pick a spot where it can shoot back at you and do that until you kill it. The AI does play to its strengths though; grenadiers will stay at medium range, snipers will snipe, and enemy Overseers will try to stay out of the battle and launch small units called Screamers in an endless stream. Encountering an Overseer changes the flow of the whole tactical layer and you have to prioritise putting them down which can often mean launching a sub-optimal ambush just to kill them before they can launch any annoying Screamers.

The optical camo effect holds up even under close scrutiny and looks incredibly cool.

When it comes to outwitting or out-fighting your opponents in the tactical layer you have plenty of options. Assault rifles and pistols target a single unit as you’d expect but the shotgun, flamethrower, and minigun all have a cone of fire and can hit multiple targets. The shotgun and minigun can even break destructible terrain like walls and other obstacles to either flush enemies out of cover or open up a new route. Your soldiers also have augmentations that can be equipped three at a time and give you various upgrades like more health, armour, or crit rate but also some new tactical abilities like throwing down a shield or bull-rushing an enemy to KO them. Then there’s the leap; a powerful jump that can send you over a dozen tiles across the map, through walls and ceilings and will even knock back an enemy if you land on them.

Equipping your team is important. Unlike Mutant Year Zero you can freely change the roles of your units as you want but it’s important to have a strong idea of what function they’re going to perform in combat. Giving your shotgun wielder nothing but health upgrades sounds good on the surface but they’re going to struggle to manoeuvre into advantageous positions without some kind of mobility boost. We found that equipping a unit with a sniper rifle, elevation critical hit chance booster, and range booster was particularly overpowered and allowed for guaranteed critical hits every time they fired while they remained safely away from the fighting. This turned most battles into a more defensive affair but depending on how you favour playing you might find another approach is equally viable.

Apart from the Overseers, enemy units leave a lot to be desired. There’s no mind controlling units like XCOM or Mutant Year Zero, no alternate gear either. They just feel bland to battle and while that can aid in selling the conformist society they’re a part of it does mean that they’re very very easy to predict and fight. The most variety you’ll see in enemy weapons is snipers having a sniper rifle and Breachers throwing incendiary grenades that do so little damage it’s barely worth avoiding them. Your grenades are capable of four effects: a high damage explosion, incendiary, EMP, and armour shredding. If the enemies got the same variety they’d be so much more interesting to fight. On the topic of grenades; all but the explosion feel worthless. You can armour-break with a free to use ability, EMP is literally never needed, incendiary does a tiny amount of damage, and the explosion mode does the same amount of damage as a critical sniper shot. We threw the three useless types just to see what they looked like and never touched them again.

There’s more on the battlefield that goes sorely underused too. There are enemy turrets which you can hijack for a single super powerful spray of bullets across a fixed area but those turrets can’t be used by the enemy and despite being called “auto turrets” they don’t shoot at your team at all. Occasionally you’ll find a remote explosive which can be set and detonated whenever you like but enemies are often oblivious to the explosion sound. This both makes it extremely useful for picking off tough or troublesome patrolling enemies and a little frustrating that the huge explosion the size of a small building doesn’t attract any attention.

The minigun can annihilate buildings in spectacular fashion.

There’s a couple of exploits in the way enemies detect you other than the remote explosives too. You can split your squad up whenever you like and so long as you leave your units in stealth mode and get far enough away the enemy can’t detect them. This means you can often leave two of your squad elsewhere and infiltrate an enemy camp with whoever has a suppressed weapon then hit the regroup button and either watch your units wander right past enemies or have them teleport right to your side. The latter is a nice quality of life feature but it still feels silly that you can basically exploit your way past enemies. This teleport even works in inaccessible areas; say you use your super jump to get on the roof of a three storey building with no stairs or ladders, hit regroup and your team will be right up there with you in a spot the enemy can’t get to and with a huge high-ground advantage. It gets more than a little silly on urban maps.

Graphically the game isn’t anything impressive but the texture work and lighting are well done and despite being on a square grid the world feels well laid out and fairly organic. Abandoned cars litter the roads, luggage is piled up behind a building with corpses and a torture chamber inside, battle damage has blown out walls of a police station. These locations are all well designed and work to the game’s strengths but there’s so much grey and brown that it feels like The Bearded Ladies texture artist just arrived from 2010. It’s not a world you’re supposed to want to live in and the dreary palette helps sell that but it doesn’t make it all that fun to discover new stuff because it’s just more grey at the end of the day.

Sound design is a little flat too. The minigun is especially egregious as it spews out hundreds of bullets, tearing down walls and sounds like a penguin with IBS and someone nudging an Ikea cabinet. All of the guns lack any kind of presence in the soundscape and having a cool futuristic assault rifle that sounds like a cheap toy gun you’d buy a five year old from the local post office is incredibly immersion breaking. Your guns should crack and boom, the flamethrower should roar, and the minigun should have a sound effect so intense it’d give a Gurkha PTSD from the next country over. Environmental sounds are lacking too, breaking through a brick wall sounds like you knocked over a box of Lego bricks and abilities like the energy shield have no hum or crackle to them which makes it blatant you’re doing nothing but turning off that unit’s ability to take damage for a turn.

The Verdict

Poor sound quality aside Corruption 2029 is an excellent game that we had fun with from start to finish. There’s not a huge amount of missions and you can get through it in about six hours but challenge medals provide some small reason to replay areas even if they don’t seem to give any rewards. Corruption 2029 very much feels like Mutant Year Zero v2.0 and that’s okay because The Bearded Ladies have stumbled upon a very satisfying gameplay loop that takes a lot of the tedium out of playing a tactical game. With its cool soldier designs, futuristic civil war, and well written enemies, Corruption 2029 is something we want to see more of and hope the developers stick with this world for at least another game or expansion. If you’re a fan of tactical strategy games this one is highly recommended by us, so long as you can stomach using the Epic Store.

Case Review

  • Cyborgs: Being able to outfit your soldiers as you see fit is an improvement over Mutant Year Zero.

  • Come In: Busting through walls to annihilate enemies within feels great.

  • Sneaking Mission: The real-time sneaking and exploring keeps things moving at a good pace.

  • Grey: It’s so, so grey.

  • Whimper: Sound effects don’t even manage to be on the same continent as a bang.

  • Conformity: More enemy variety would’ve really helped keep combat interesting in the mid-late game.

4.5 Score: 4.5/5
More Corruption please.

Evidence

  • Audio: Volume sliders for master, speech, sound effects, music, and ambience.
  • Video: Display mode and resolution selection, vsync toggle, gamma and motion blur sliders.
  • Graphics: Quality preset selection, resolution scaling slider, selections for texture quality, view distance, shadow quality, anti-aliasing, visual effects, post processing, foliage, toggles for high quality soft shadows and volumetric fog.
  • Gameplay: toggles for subtitles, tutorials, controller vibration, autosave after combat, double tap action executes, language selection, sliders for subtitle size and cursor/camera speed.
  • Controls: Full re-bindable keyboard and gamepad controls.
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