Corruption 2029 – Review
2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown was so good it has now become a solid template for many Western-made strategy tactics game, or a reference point to discuss the games of that genre. But there’s always room to innovate within the area, which indie developers The Bearded Ladies are making use of. This is the makers of Mutant Year Zero: Road To Eden. That game was based on an existing IP and married CPRG elements to XCOM-style strategy tactics combat.
Corruption 2029, their next game that came out of nowhere, is an all-new IP with a dead focus on tightening that combat aspect.
How does that turn out to be? Pretty great, actually. Corruption 2029 is a tight, focused package for the hardcore strategy tacticians out there, albeit a bit barebones.
Corruption 2029 is set in the near-future dystopia where everyone is okay with body augmentation, and the United States of America is being led by a corrupt government, hence the name. Now, a splinter faction of guerilla fighters, are taking the fight against the oppressive government, one squad battle at a time. This is where you come in.
For a small indie game, Corruption 2029 can look beautiful. The opening areas where you explore a deserted town with military outposts have a strong look to it. The autumnal leaves and god rays piping through the tree barks. This is excellently contrasted with the brutal, sci-fi-ish buildings the military has erected.
While The Bearded Ladies is going for 80’s near-future tropes with the world design, it can’t be helped that the enemy designs really reminded me of XCOM 2. Not that it’s a bad thing, but if the goal was to stand out apart, then it didn’t for me, unfortunately.
Still, the visuals are well made. The UI is clear and easy to use, though it’s easier with a controller than mouse and keyboard. The voice acting, which I have to assume to be the very reason it’s set in the US, is decent. There is an attempt at world-building here, with many flavour text and dialogues. Yet the setting remains as generic as its inspiration. At least it’s not terrible, just mediocre.
What Corruption 2029 excels at, however, is its sheer game design. Yes, there are low and high cover and a two-action-per-turn system. But the RNG scale is more forgiving with only 25 percent intervals. That means the lowest possible chance to hit will be 25%, with 100% chances of hit possible and can often be acquired. Bearded Ladies definitely nailed this portion of XCOM down, but made the RNG system more tolerable.
What makes this stand out from other strategy tactics games is how it handles stealth and how you set up ambushes. Your team of three playable characters can roam about the map freely and scout the area before engaging with any of the enemies. There’s a stealth cloak you can trigger, making you harder to be detected, and the danger radius where an enemy can detect you are clear to see. This allows you to pre-plan your ambushes, know exactly what you’re up against, and make some arrangements before proper combat. Maybe get that extra grenade lying around. Or lure one dude who you can sneakily one-shot them with your silenced rifle.
Strategy Tactics At Its Best: When It’s Hard
But when combat kicks off in full, it’s relentless. Enemies will punish you hard for any out-of-position squad members. Early on, two connected hits are enough to send your characters to bleed out. Thankfully there’s no permadeath, but there are missions where you have to clear multiple maps in a row. Corruption 2029’s early game will make you feel overwhelmed by the strong enemies, encouraging you to use stealth. But over time, mission rewards will unlock you new weapons and abilities.
But then the difficulty spikes again.
Corruption 2029 will make you punch above your weight a lot. You’ll have to optimise whatever loadout you’re carrying to its maximum to get that perfect run. Enemies will usually need all of your three characters focus firing on them to be taken out, or risk being overwhelmed by their numbers. Stealth feels ever more essential as you progress further. Or maybe I’m just not that good at startegy tactics. By the last few missions, I have to drop it to easy after playing on normal for most of the game. I got tired being scolded by the other operator voice you that accompanies you each time a squad member died.
Squad customisation is very lean. You’ll only have that set of three characters throughout the course of the game. But you can freely customise their loadout. Each squad member can carry two weapons and three ability slots (active and passive). Some of the active abilities are great game-changers, like an emergency shield bubble that lasts a turn, or allow you to a leap with those augmented legs and deal death-from-above knockbacks.
Also, don’t expect a base-building metagame either. Corruption 2029 is purely focused on on-the-ground tactical combat.
Corruption 2029 is split into three acts (operations, as it’s called in-game), with six missions each, but the critical path only requires four missions from each act to complete. I took 4 hours to complete the first act, though maybe an hour or so is just from save-scumming as I was learning the combat system. Expect spending around 10-15 hours to complete the game.
Also, prepare to see the same seven maps throughout the game. To be fair, these maps, and the enemy placements for each mission, are well varied enough that each fight doesn’t feel the same. But if you’re a stickler for variety, it does get samey, though there are attempts in the last few missions to make them look different.
For more hardcore players, there are medals to earn in each mission, some requiring you to visit back as you’re not strong enough to pull them off- like wiping out all enemies in one tactical turn. Other than that, there’s little reason to go back.
It isn’t a problem though, as the game does feel like it’s already stretching thin. Again, there’s not much breadth of content here, it’s more a showcase of how a tighter, more stealth-oriented strategy tactics game can be.
I really dig this game. Yes, it can be punishingly hard. And the game has some weird quirks that will throw you off for a bit. Like it’s possible to have a character hide in cover but can’t go out without getting seen due to the detection meter radius expanding gradually as you get closer. And you can’t climb over windows outside of combat.
But I like how Corruption 2029 really pushes you to use your limited skillset to its limit. Enemies always getting stronger, and that one-shot silent rifle won’t be enough for stealth kills. It never wants you to be in a comfort zone, which is a strategy tactics game should.
A bit hard for my taste, especially near the end, but overall I enjoyed what I played.
Corruption 2029 feels more like a tech showcase of what this team can do compared to their previous game. Which is fine, consider the scale of the game and how little promotion it had prior to launch.
While it has its shortcomings, Corruption 2029 is one fine strategy tactics game that will challenge the most hardcore of players to rethink their go-to game plan.
If you are such a person, Corruption 2029 deserves your attention.
Reviewed on PC. Review key provided by The Bearded Ladies