Title: Corruption 2029
Version Tested: PC
Available On: PC
Developer: The Bearded Ladies
Publisher: The Bearded Ladies
Genre: Turn-Based/Stealth Hybrid Tactics
Official Site: Epic Games Store
Release Date: February 17th
Where to Buy: Epic Store Exclusive
Corruption 2029 is the second game from indie studio The Bearded Ladies. The small Swedish game studio is the creator of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden. This time around, the studio decided to publish their game themselves, and it’s an Epic Store exclusive. While both the studio’s games are in science fiction settings, Corruption 2029 takes on a more serious tone. I didn’t t find any talking ducks in this one… (though if anyone finds one, please DM me and share it). So if we’re not here for charming mutant animals, we’re here for the gameplay. Let’s talk about it; how does Corruption 2029’s difficult tactics campaign hold up?
Gameplay – An Interesting Hybrid of Game Styles
Corruption 2029 takes two-game elements that usually are not put together, and it blends them into the whole game. These, of course, are the same game elements that Mutant Year Zero also incorporated, namely real-time stealth and XCOM style tactics gameplay. Players control a team of 3 units, which can be fairly customized to make unique classes. Unlike in XCOM, players will not manage large teams. While the three units the player starts with are used for the entirety of the game. And if one of them dies on a mission, they are still available for the following level.
The structure of the game is very straight forward as players are tasked with completing missions in mostly sequential order. Every other mission allows players to choose one of two encounters, each with a different reward. Though due to the game’s high difficulty (more on that in a bit), skipping upgrades or new guns is rarely a good idea.
Stealth and Combat
The gameplay is always broken into two phases; The stealth phase and the tactics phase. The former is free roam, while the latter is turn-based. Anyone who played Mutant Year Zero will be familiar with these phases, and they work similarly in both titles. The main focus of the stealth phase is to explore the map, find good cover to start combat, and find pickups like grenades and medkits. I wasn’t sure how well this would fit into the game at first. After playing a few missions, and especially after unlocking silenced guns, it became clear it is an interesting mechanic. If you kill a separated enemy in a single turn with only silenced weapons, you switch back to the stealth phase. These opportunities were great in the middle of the game, but near the end became rare and frustrating.
The combat phase plays much like XCOM or Phoenix Point. Equipment and team composition is the key to victory in Corruption 2029. Using equipment abilities can grant fun powers, like running through walls, jumping across the map, or taking over enemies. This is where the game shines the brightest, and I often wished I had more than three units with only three slots each. The small squad and few upgrade slots often forced me to leave most of the upgrades behind on later missions.
Corruption 2029 is mostly focused on getting players into tactical situations that require forethought and careful planning. The game is not so concerned with the importance of the story, giving your team personality, or creating an interactive world to explore. For a game so focused on tense tactical gameplay, I ran into more than a few gameplay bugs during combat.
The game never hard-crashed, but having important user interface elements disappear, or enemy models stay on the map after termination caused frustration and even forced me to re-load saves a few times. One time a unit was one space away from an enemy, but the game would not let the unit fire a shotgun, which had worked in other situations. Two times my whole squad lost their ability to move on their turn, forcing another restart. Nothing is worse than being several terns deep into a complex combat encounter and having to back out back to an earlier save. The combat feels mostly good, but the number of UI and gameplay bugs get in the way of what could be a much smoother experience.
Environment/Setting – Beautiful but Small in Scope
Corruption 2029 is set in a version of future America that is controlled by a totalitarian government called the New American Council. You control a group of units belonging to a resistance group called the United Peoples of America. The UPA is tasked with taking the totalitarian government down. Streets and towns are a warzone, and maps are littered with dead civilians. The setting does not get much explanation, and the politics and history of the game are not adequately addressed. The themes of power over others through technology are present throughout the game; the setting might have been better if it was not set in the USA as it brings up more questions than answers.
The maps are not huge, and that’s a good thing cause players are encouraged to explore the entirety of each level before engaging the enemy. The squad moves slowly (especially in stealth mode), so the maps don’t feel claustrophobic. The amount of interaction within the environments, however, is relatively sparse. It’s hard not to feel like the beautiful environments are not a missed opportunity, and they feel like they want to tell a bigger story, but never quite get there. Though there may not be a ton to interact with on the various maps, the 3D models all look fantastic. The environments are very real looking, and the mix of nature and city looks great together.
Map diversity is another game element that deserves discussion. There is only a handful of locations, and though they do occasionally get a new “coat of paint,” players have to replay many of them. The maps are all beautiful, but I really wanted more diversity in them by the time I reached the end of the game.
Difficulty – Hard and Unforgiving
The development team themselves describe their game as “tough-as-nails” and a challenge to even veteran tactics game players. The game is indeed very hard, and I had to turn the difficulty down (something I rarely do) at specific points. Most enemies have tons of health compared to your squad, and you are always outnumbered. The game can feel artificially hard at times, especially when enemy teams include over ten units. Some strategies work universally and are essential to implement in harder levels to ensure you’re not wiped out quickly. Looking for higher ground, unlocking the sniper and minigun, and killing all loan enemies, you can silently are good ways to get an advantage.
By the middle of the game, I had enough equipment to really start to execute some fun turns. (By the way, “augmented leap” is the most fun ability, and lets a unit jump through roofs and across the map!) In the early game, it is hard to do much in the stealth stage since you have one silent weapon and few abilities. Stealth, in the beginning, ends up being mostly to scout the map and find pickups. And stealth on the last few levels became increasingly frustrating. Even with two silent guns and most abilities unlocked, the enemies near the end of act three were generally too strong and numerous to silently remove before combat. The difficulty is not impossible to master, but it does feel poorly paced at times.
Story – Powerful Setup, Little Followthrough
Corruption 2029 feels like it has a lot of parts of a good story, but not a complete tale to tell. No real character is given to any of your squad members, though this is somewhat in-line with the game’s setting. All the units under your control (and seemingly the enemy as well) are heavily augmented cyborgs who are close to “losing their humanity.” The game has very light cyberpunk elements to it, and the concept that people can be controlled with technology is present on both sides.
The lines between good and bad get heavily blurred early on, and you discover the UPA is responsible for destabilizing whole cities like Chicago. The game continues to give small clues to the nature of the setting and both sides through found notes. But it is often disappointing in its conclusions and vague storytelling. Again, it feels like Corruption 2029 wanted to tell a cool sci-fi story, but it does not do enough world building to make it pay off in the end.
Verdict: Corruption 2029 is only $20, which for the price still has an ok amount of content for tactics fans. Players who want challenging combat puzzles in a beautifully rendered 3D world will likely enjoy their time with it. Though the lack of diversity in maps, enemies, and settings along with the simple storytelling may leave players wanting more. Even worse, players who enjoy the beginning and middle may still get burned out by the end, even with the light plot twist (I won’t spoil the small bit of story they do implement here). Tactics fans will likely find it fun to use a team of cloaked cyborgs for hunting enemies, but inexperienced players may get frustrated, and the story is more for flavor than substance.
- Beautiful 3D environments
- Fun abilities to build custom classes with
- Cloaked stealth strategy is interesting and adds to the tactics combat
- More than a few bugs that can hurt gameplay experience
- The story wants to be bigger than it actually is
- The difficulty is very hard, and the pacing is somewhat uneven