Fight against the USA as the USA in this XCOM-lite that employs real-time stealth mechanics for an interesting tactical experience.
Developer: The Bearded Ladies
Publisher: The Bearded Ladies
Release date: 17 February, 2020
My soft spot for tactical RPGs always has me on the hunt for the next one and as soon as I saw Corruption 2029, I was already in. I haven’t had the chance to play Mutant: Year Zero yet as I’m not too sold on the pig and duck thing, but I’ve heard promising opinions all around on it. Although the setting is a significant break from that, it’s been a solid experience that has me interested in both the work of the past and the future for The Bearded Ladies.
Divided We Fall
Corruption 2029 focuses on a region on the border of NAC and UPA territory that holds several important objectives for both sides of the conflict. The New American Council (NAC) has steadily been losing ground to the United Peoples of America (UPA) and has begun preparations to even the odds through extreme measures, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction. You’ll be taking on the role of a small squad of UPA elites who have had most of their free will wiped so that you may control them directly.
Corruption 2029’s campaign is more linear than you would expect from the genre, though you’re able to play any mission that you’ve unlocked with the new gear that you’ve acquired. Each mission has a unique reward that is acquired upon successfully completing its main objective and most missions have a bonus objective that offers an additional reward if it’s met as well. These rewards include new weapons, implants, and options for your configurable grenades, all of which offer noticeable improvements to your squad’s efficiency. For those achievement hunters and those seeking more of a challenge, each mission has three medals that can be earned by accomplishing goals like defeating all enemies within a certain number of rounds or by offing a number of them before breaking from stealth.
United We Stand
Your squad members, like the missions, are the same each time you play; there’s no procedural generation here. These units don’t gain experience and have the same capabilities as their allies until you equip them with weapons and implants. Weapons are mostly what you’d expect (sniper rifles for range, shotguns for close enemies in an arc) while implants are the real character progression of Corruption 2029 and add both active and passive abilities to whoever has them equipped. The only real difference between these soldiers themselves are their names and their appearances, everything else can be equipped or removed at the drop of a hat. I’m firmly neutral on this; on one hand, it’s convenient to be able to redefine your squad in between missions, on the other, it strips them of feeling unique and is yet another element of the title that removes the desire for a second playthrough.
Bombs Bursting In Air
Overall, combat in Corruption 2029 feels like a streamlined XCOM. Missions start in stealth and you’re able to manoeuvre around in real-time until your enemies are alerted. Silenced weapons are used to eliminate your enemies without breaking your covert state, but a shot that doesn’t kill (or one that kills in plain view of another enemy) will reveal your position. Your units are revealed on a case-by-case basis, so this can be used to your advantage and offers an additional layer of strategy as enemies can’t call on their allies until their turn, meaning even a loud weapon could clear them out and maintain stealth if it’s done a good distance away from their allies. Strangely, the sight of the corpses of their now-deceased allies doesn’t raise any eyebrows, so once they’re dead, they’re no longer an issue. I enjoyed the stealth portions for their strategy element, but the realism takes a bit of a hit from the unobservant foes. I would’ve liked to have seen hiding the bodies or even destroying them (hey, it’s the future) to factor this in.
Once guns are blazing and ears are ringing from explosions, the combat aspects of an XCOM-like show themselves fully. Overwatch is here, as is ammunition management, two AP turns, and the partial/full cover mechanics. There are a few standouts though, including configurable grenades that allow you to determine their effects prior to throwing them, and your units having the capability to stand up with a good portion of their health restored if you kill off the foes that you are currently engaged in. This happens even if there are still enemies on the mission as long as they are not aware of you which is very beneficial at times. There are no repercussions for aborting missions so restarting your battles freely pushes the title into more casual territory, though missions themselves tended to have enough difficulty to keep me engaged and entertained.
Corruption 2029 is a strong new entry into the turn-based tactical genre that’s certainly worth a playthrough even if it doesn’t inspire you to give it a second go. There are a few quality of life improvements for veterans of these types of games but there are a few bugs that could still use squashing that could complicate your enjoyment along the way. The AI struggles to keep up at times, usually in your favour as the enemies seem to get confused and put themself into extreme danger without any real benefit. Fortunately, these are rare enough (or at least not game-breaking enough) that I can recommend Corruption 2029 to those who enjoy its inspirations and want more futuristic tactical combat. I warn against getting your hopes up if you’re looking for a strong RPG element though, as much of what we’ve come to expect on that side of the genre has been shaved off for a more raw tactical experience.