Stealth and Tactics Still Mix Well, but Corruption 2029 is a Lesser Mutant Year Zero

If you want more of the same, you've got it, but without the same charm.

Corruption 2029, the latest game from Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden developer The Bearded Ladies, came as a surprise. It was announced just two weeks before its release on the Epic Games Store, with little more fanfare than a press release in my inbox. Now I understand why. The game feels less like a full-fledged release and more like an experiment — an unofficial expansion to Road to Eden that tweaks the gameplay slightly, but comes with next to none of the charm of its predecessor.

As the name implies, Corruption 2029 takes place just under a decade into the future. The United States has split after a “second Civil War,” thanks to disinformation and… differences. Exactly what kind of differences those are isn’t really addressed at the start. The game walks right up to edge of a “ripped from the headlines” affair, but mostly just teeters into basic sci-fi warfare. Your own tactical squad — which operate much the same as your Looney Tunes mutants from Mutant Year Zero, which is to say like XCOM or other modern turn-based tactics games, but with stealth — is made up of “Units.” They’re hollowed-out cyborgs with no personalities of their own, controlled by a drone operator far from the battlefield. They look cool, in the pseudo-futuristic way the game is going for, but they’re far from charismatic.

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The world itself also lacks the intrigue and variety that made Road to Eden stand out beyond its covert gimmick. You don’t stalk a semi-open-world for scrap, or return to some homey headquarters to buy upgrades. Instead, you go on discrete missions. You can return to those missions at any point — for bragging rights or to complete bonus objectives that unlock new abilities. But you’ll always confront the same maps and challenges. Hell, sometimes you’ll see repeats anyway, which is a lot more jarring when you select jobs from a menu, rather than wander into battles organically.

So Corruption 2029 pales in comparison. But on its own, it’s still a competent tactics game with a great hook. The Bearded Ladies struck gold by combining stealth and turn-based battles. And it still works here. The ability to pick off enemies one by one, using your single silenced weapon at the start of the game, is immediately satisfying. It adds a layer to modern tactics games beyond managing cooldowns and applying overwatch. Even then, though, there are some clear quality-of-life issues.

Review Corruption 2029 Impressions

Expect the Unexpected (And the Expected)

The game isn’t exceptionally clear about how stealth works. Killing an unaware enemy with a silenced weapon, for instance, might still say “the enemy heard you.” What it actually means is that an enemy saw you — something Corruption 2029 doesn’t actually tell you to be wary of, or give you any on-screen indicator for. You just kind of need to eyeball it. Other times a bonus objective might task you not to cause an alert. Whereas it actually means not to alert an enemy — despite “an alert” being a specific, named action enemy units take.

It’s just… messy. Road to Eden was the same, in some respects, but made up for it with a talking duck that could grow moth wings. It had heart and absurdity on its side.

Those same, standout abilities are where Corruption 2029 does set itself apart a bit. The game offers more freedom with how you build your squad by making every weapon and skill equippable. You can’t change them mid-mission. But you won’t find yourself five hours into the game with a character build you don’t like, either. The interchangeability detracts further from your units’ personality, but it’s probably for the best. It’s the part of Corruption 2029 that most feels like a test bed for future developments in a proper Road to Eden follow-up.

Review Corruption 2029 Impressions

Cool Down and Ramp Up

If anything, I wish the newer game was more liberal with wacky powers — for both you and your foes. The early goings don’t apply a lot of pressure. There’s no rising security to light a fire under your ass, like in, say, Invisible, Inc. You’re more than welcome to take endless potshots or sit back in overwatch when stealth breaks and battle begins. Your enemies will do the same — a lot. And since ability cooldowns are tied to kills, like in Mutant Year Zero, rather than total turns, you don’t always have better strategic options. Even things like grenades must be “farmed” by picking them up in missions. You don’t get more at the outset. Altogether, it leads to lots of drawn out stalemates where nobody wants to move from full cover.

Resurrection units, which bring dead enemies back to life if you don’t kill them first, do eventually return from Road to Eden. That helps… for a time. But they won’t surprise you if you played the previous game.

Corruption 2029 feels like an experiment in need of more experimentation. It feels like another expansion to a game it doesn’t actually grow out of. It’s also only $20: just five bucks more than the Road to Eden‘s actual, official expansion. And that’s a good price, if you’ve already played that and are just jonesing for more of this exact formula. If you haven’t played Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, though, you should hit that first. Get your fill on the more complete, more unusual game first (it’s still free on Xbox Game Pass). Then decide if you want another dip into this particular bucket.

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Steven Strom

An obsessive writer broadcasting to you live from the middle of nowhere. Thinks cute things are good, actually.

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