The developer Bearded Ladies made a name for themselves with their hit Mutant Year Zero. When they announced, only a short few weeks ago, that Corruption 2029 would be arriving as a follow-up, I was ecstatic.
At first, Corruption 2029 looks EXTREMELY like the modern X-COM series. You play a squad of soldiers that look very much like Advent troops—probably because of the eyeless, angular helmets you wear. You fight for a faction called the UPA against a faction called the NAC in a post-apocalyptic America. The only thing it’s missing are the alien units that make up X-COM.
But being like X-COM isn’t bad, especially since Corruption 2029 takes the turn-based action formula and mixes it up a bit. See, Corruption 2029 is a little bit different than conventional turn-based strategy games; in so far that it has a HUGE emphasis on stealth, and setting up that perfect ambush. And let me just stress that I love the stealth aspects of Corruption 2029.
One of the complaints I frequently saw against X-COM 2 (and a complaint I had myself) was its timed missions. You only had a certain number of turns to sneak around, and perform whatever action was required. It was rare to play a mission that didn’t have a turn timer. Sure, mods fixed that, but Corruption 2029’s gameplay feels like it was built specifically to address that complaint, and I love it.
Sneaking around is essentially Corruption 2029’s main draw. You don’t click to move, like in most turn-based games, but instead you can take direct control of a character, moving them with WASD like you would a real-time game. Of course, once combat has started, you click to move, there are hit percentages, full cover, half cover—very X-COM.
The story for Corruption 2029 is simple, but it has its surprises. America has fallen. You play as an organization that is trying to stop the activities of the NAC, who appear to be typical evil fascists: gunning down civilians, and otherwise controlling by terror. But the story is ultimately a mystery that I don’t want to spoil. Despite how intriguing it was, I found that Corruption 2029 was lacking in production value.
Don’t get me wrong: I think Corruption 2029 looks great, and the gameplay look is extremely fun. But don’t expect much in the way of resource management, research, or really anything you would expect from similar games. Between missions you just select your three person squad’s loadout, which includes weapons, implants, etc. You don’t get new weapons from research, but instead through completing challenges. Each mission has an optional objective, and three challenges you can complete.
There is no currency, so any med-kits, or CONFIG grenades (grenades that have multiple functions), or turret codes (to hijack enemy turrets) have to be found in the mission itself. The game plays like one long save—every move you make could have direct ramifications for what happens next. If you use all of your grenades in one mission, you won’t have them for the next. If you take excessive damage, and have to heal a lot, you may struggle in your next set of engagements.
While I wouldn’t describe Corruption 2029 as open world, you do have a lot of leeway on how to approach missions. You even have the option to leave your current area—in fact, sometimes you have to so you can complete optional objectives. But the freedom you have to engage any specific group of enemies is amazing. Sometimes I would take a while just finding the perfect ambush spot, while distracting enemies away so I could kill them one by one with my silenced weapons.
Corruption 2029 has an arsenal of weaponry you would expect: sniper rifles, silenced pistols and rifles, assault rifles, shotguns, etc. But you aren’t given an abundance of this weaponry—so you will have to choose carefully who you want to wield the sniper rifle, and who you want to get up close with your shotgun. Grenades, medkits, and turret codes are shared universally, though.
Implants play a huge role in the effectiveness of your soldiers. Some sound mundane, like range increase mods—but they make a world of difference. Others, like the leap mod, are more obviously effective, allowing you to jump insane distances to get close (or far!) from your opponents.
While you don’t have to stealth, being able to cull the enemy’s numbers are a big deal. If you prefer the brute force method, there are lots of ways you can be successful. Buildings and most obstacles are destructive, so a few well-placed explosives can change a losing fight into a winning one. Turrets can be hacked with the proper codes, and make for an incredibly effective trap if you can lure enemies into their line of sight.
Despite how much I loved the gameplay, Corruption 2029 has a lot of shortcomings. One is that it’s short, and savvy strategy players could probably get through it pretty quickly. I savored my time with it, though, and ended up setting up each encounter for maximum effect. The fact that you can save your game during the mission also led me to reloading constantly to try and get that perfect run—every time.
Despite how strategically satisfying it is, there are a few actions you can’t take which I think would be obvious. You can’t vault through windows, for instance, so that makes both the real-time stealth parts AND the turn-based parts a little harder. Also, the AI isn’t the smartest. They can hear noise, and catch you in stealth if you get too close, but if you leave bodies everywhere—even in the pathing AI—they won’t respond to it.
Corruption 2029 is great, but it feels like half a game. When it was announced, I thought, “Wow, there’s this whole experience only a few weeks away.” It ends up feeling like half an idea, but it’s an idea that works so well, I can’t help but want more. And the fact that its not asking full AAA price might help make your decision. I think this one is definitely worth checking out for its hybrid real-time stealth and turn-based combat. I absolutely loved my time with it.
If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more. Patreon.com/3CR