The release of The Bearded Ladies’ Corruption 2029 hit me by surprise one quiet February morning. Having played Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden and its expansion, Seed of Evil, I had thought that more follow-ups were warranted. After all, a Seed of Evil playthrough shouldn’t last you more than five hours and it hardly answered lingering questions you had about the game’s universe.
That brings us to Corruption 2029. If you’ve played turn-based/squad-based tactical RPGs such as X-COM, then you know what to expect. If you’ve played Mutant Year Zero, then you’ll feel right at home. Depending on your mindset, familiarity can either be a good thing or a bad thing.
Corruption 2029: The story so far
You’re given very little to go by once you start Corruption 2029. It’s set in the post-apocalyptic United States, a dystopian future where two factions — the New American Council (NAC) and United Peoples of America (UPA) are at war. You control UPA “units,” soldiers that are remotely controlled outside of the battlefield.
If you liked the character designs and quirks of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, then Corruption 2029 may slightly disappoint you. Gone are the wacky-looking characters. Instead, they’re replaced by generic troopers with few identifying features.
Wolf isn’t a humanoid wolf; he’s more like a Destiny 2 hunter. Tranter, meanwhile, looks like a box-headed Exo Titan. Lastly, Briggs, for some odd reason, looks like he’s either cosplaying as a Warlock or he decided to leave the house while wearing a Porygon on his head.
Popular (and familiar) mechanics
If you’re missing old, familiar faces, then the gameplay mechanics in Corruption 2029 might be more to your liking. It’s Mutant Year Zero all over again. You’ll even notice some reused assets, gameplay features, and the main menus having the same look.
In any case, the regular in-mission exploration lets you run around in a given map, picking up collectibles along the way. You can also scout ahead to spot enemy positions and pick off troopers one by one. Committing to an ambush (or getting spotted) will have the game switch to its tactical battle mode akin to X-COM and every turn-based strategy title that came before.
Once you enter battle, you’ve got your basic movement, attacks, abilities, grenades, medkits, and, of course, the “overwatch” action. As was the case in Mutant Year Zero, you’ll start favoring stealth over time and eliminating hostiles without alerting others nearby will become your go-to tactic. As was also the case with Mutant Year Zero, the lack of stronger silenced weapons and enemies constantly calling for reinforcements mean that most missions will turn into a war of attrition.
I did notice more nagging issues. First, there’s an option to plant a mine on the ground and detonate it once an enemy passes by. None of the button commands (whether via keyboard or mouse) worked, so I just decided to shoot the mob. Similarly, the camera rotation by way of “Q” and “E” suddenly stopped working.
In Mutant Year Zero, there was a small hub that you could visit to buy weapons and mods. A few missions in and I haven’t seen that feature yet in Corruption 2029. At first glance, it seems you’ll simply pick up existing consumables during missions. Then, before starting each mission, you’ll just select your skills and upgrades via a panel.
Corruption 2029 has three chapters (operations), each with a handful of missions to complete. It’s too early to tell how my experience with the game would pan out. Sufficed to say, it better start piquing my interest soon.
Corruption 2029 review update: Lack of weapons and skills
Continuing with our Corruption 2029 review, it seems my worst fears have been confirmed. There really is no hub to speak of. No additional characters that let you buy additional gear or upgrades. Everything you can equip, be it weapons or skills, simply comes from completed missions. It’s a very streamlined and barebones approach to a turn-based tactical RPG. Come to think of it, it’s probably best to remove the “RPG” part.
Gone is the feature to select or improve certain skills as was the case in Mutant Year Zero. There’s no restriction on which weapons or abilities to equip. As such, there’s very little distinction among your characters or even with your loadouts.
The game has two pistols (one silenced), two snipers (one silenced), a shotgun, an assault rifle, and a Gatling gun with a 2-turn cooldown. Given that silenced weapons remain slightly weak all throughout, you’ll find yourself eventually discovered by rebel soldiers or robots. Then, it’s time to hunker down and go into “overwatch” as you wait for enemies to come closer (or use the occasional skill). Rinse and repeat until the game’s finished.
Going back to “Shady Oaks Motel” for the 10th time
While Corruption 2029 does have three chapters and a total of 18 missions, barely anything distinguishes one from the other. In fact, the game only has six maps and you’ll be trekking across the same areas over and over. I swear the game thinks I have a mistress because of how many times it asked me to go to the “Shady Oaks Motel” map.
Mission objectives are also lacking since a majority just require you to kill all the enemies in a given area. Even tasks that are supposed to break the monotony become tedious. On two occasions, you’ll be asked to rescue a character and bring them to the extraction point. The process goes like this:
- Kill most of the enemies in one of the six aforementioned maps to rescue the NPC.
- Sneak past all hostiles until you reach the extraction zone; you may need to go through multiple maps as well.
- In the designated zone, kill all the enemies to enable the extraction to finish the mission.
What about the final climactic mission of the game? Well, that also takes place on the same map that you’ve been to before versus the same cyborg-type enemies that you’ve encountered in previous romps.
Corruption 2029 review: The final verdict
The Bearded Ladies’ Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden showed a lot of promise when it originally launched back in 2018. All the studio had to do was flesh out the narrative and increase replayability in subsequent content drops or updates. The Seed of Evil expansion failed in that regard. Rather than following up, we ended up with Corruption 2029.
As a standalone product, Corruption 2029 is sorely lacking compared to other quality turn-based strategy titles. As a spiritual successor to Mutant Year Zero, its threadbare plot, low enemy variety, and streamlined presentation leave a lot to be desired. Laughably, the one thing Mutant Year Zero and Seed of Evil could’ve used — a conclusive story that neither leaves you hanging nor ends abruptly — is also missing in Corruption 2029. There’s a cliffhanger ending that made your entire journey pointless even though the said journey wasn’t that enticing, to begin with. Likewise, old issues such as weak weapon choices and problems with line-of-sight remain present.
If you’re looking for a budget-priced tactics game, then you may consider Corruption 2029 once it’s on sale. If you’ve already played Mutant Year Zero and you were hoping for something bigger and better, then you might as well wait for the year 2029.
Corruption 2029 is available now via the Epic Games Store. You can purchase the game for $19.99.