It’s surprising to see another game from the folks that developed the excellent Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden and its equally brilliant Seed of Evil DLC, but Corruption 2099 is indeed a new game from The Bearded Ladies, a Swedish studio with a knack for XCOM-inspired games. It’s very similar to their previous game, so much so that if you’re familiar with that one, you’ll instantly feel comfortable dabbling into this one.
On the other hand, if you didn’t like Mutant Year Zero for any reason, Corruption 2099 isn’t going to be for you. It presents the exact same style of gameplay, but this time, instead of trudging through a post-apocalyptic Sweden in control of a group of a mutants in search of the holy land, you’re now in charge of a squad of cyborgs during a second American civil war. Dropped into the middle of enemy territory, you have to make due with the few units that you have at your disposal in order to complete your mission.
Really, there isn’t really anything new in this game in regards to The Bearded Ladies last release, so much so that I thought I was playing some kind of mod for Mutant Year Zero. While in theory that could be a good thing since that game was one of my favorites for 2018 — keep bringing that list up, don’t I? — it’s a little disappointing to see these devs not strive for something new this time around. Outside of having a new set of characters to play with and a new setting, very little sets this game apart from what came before it.
Even worse, some aspects of Mutant Year Zero were done away in Corruption 2099, like the character development tree, where in the new game new skills come in form of mission completion rewards and can be equipped by any of your squaddies, like freezing shots and the ability to drop riot shields that provide temporary cover during firefights. Upgrading and customizing characters happened to be one of MYZ’s best parts, which along with their unique personalities made caring about your group of mutants such a core element of that game. Here, none of that happens, even more when they’re merely grunts that don’t even interact with one another.
There isn’t much going on when it comes to story, either. You play as a group of soldiers from one side of the conflict, and besides the orders that you’re given between missions and the random chatter you pick up from enemies along the way, there isn’t a lot of development on that front during the game. There are slight hints of something else going on, but they’re so far in between the forgettable one-offs by the cannon fodder that it’s too little to care. It’s especially disappointing to see this coming off of Mutant Year Zero’s atmospheric campaign story.
Then again, if you’re into games that play like XCOM but that have something more going on, Corruption 2099 can be a lot of fun to get into. For as uninspired as its maps are, and in that they are only a handful of them to explore with repeating missions recycling them around, the gameplay is certainly rewarding. Stealthing around is always a blast, but unfortunately you only have a couple of silenced weapons to make use of, so going in purely in infiltration mode like in Mutant Year Zero isn’t really possible this time around. You can still pick off straggling enemies, though, so a patient and careful approach is just as serviceable now as it’s ever been.
I have hopes that The Bearded Ladies will tweak and add more to Corruption 2099 in the long run, like they did with Mutant Year Zero with its free updates that added extra features and modes, as well as its great DLC — and if that happens, I’ll be sure to provide an update to this review. But as it stands, this game feels more like a reskin than a game that strives on its own merits. And even as a mod, it’s missing some of the features that made the team’s previous work so enjoyable in the first place. It’s really impressive to see such a quick turnaround for a game as it was seen with Corruption 2099, but it also goes to show that repeating the same formula too soon after it was proven to be successful can backfire greatly.