Edited by: Jade Swann
Corruption 2029, developed and published by The Bearded Ladies, is a turn-based stealth strategy game. You take the role of commander of a squad of three cybernetic soldiers working for the United Peoples of America. The UPA is currently at war with the New America Coalition. Fighting on your back foot, you have to sneak, snipe, and shoot your way across multiple interconnected maps.
Squads and Goals
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to navigate your three-person squad toward their objective. At your disposal are Briggs, Wolf, and Trantor. While these three soldiers can be upgraded and modified as you see fit, each will soon fall into their own specific roles as you unlock new weapons and modifications. Trantor, specifically, started with a silenced rifle, so he became my stealth specialist, sneaking around the battlefield and eliminating weaker targets before the fighting began. Once I unlocked the sniper rifle, I gave it to Wolf, keeping her far back from the battle and delivering her most kills. Briggs wound up being my assault unit, toting a shotgun and shielding units, allowing him to wade into the thick of things and come out alive.
New weapons and augmentations are acquired by completing objectives across various levels. The gameplay is split across multiple discrete missions. The game itself is split across three acts, each act containing six missions. Now, you won't have to complete each mission to complete the act. The six missions are arranged in a tree structure, with the first level being your choice of two missions, followed by a mandatory mission, followed by another choice of two, followed by a capstone mission. While you can and are encouraged to complete all of the missions, you can conceivably beat the game by ignoring one side of the tree. However, you'll miss out on a handful of, quite frankly, useful unlocks.
Up Your Arsenal
Most missions have a mandatory and optional objective. Those that don't have an optional objective have two mandatory objectives. You are awarded a new weapon or new augment for completing each of these objectives. Given your only modes of interaction are, "shoot the bad men," or "press the button," most of your objectives will be to go to a particular map and kill a specified target, kill all targets, extract the target, or gather intel. Further, each side of the tree favors a specific approach. You're told early on that you can approach missions either head-on, guns blazing, or via stealth and guile. So far as I can tell, the game certainly incentivizes a more stealthy approach. Most of the upgrades you get are range upgrades, disabling shots, and other items useful for avoiding detection. This goes for the right side tree and most of the mandatory missions. The left side, however, incentivizes a more assault-based approach. These upgrades are things like shotguns, health boosters, and shields. While both certainly have their place, a stealth approach certainly makes the game easier.
The game itself is separated into three layers. First, you have your preparation layer. Here, you can outfit and rename your three units. This is also where you choose your mission and your drop point. Then, you have your exploration layer. Here, you wander about the map, collecting consumable items and story bits, and scoping out the area before engaging. Finally, you have the tactical layer. This is where the majority of your time is spent. Ideally, if you spent your time exploring well, you can get into and out of this layer quickly without alerting guards. If you kill all alerted enemies before your turn is up, you'll be spat back out into the exploration layer, and play resumes as usual. If you don't, one of the remaining alerted units will notify all members of its squad, and a proper fight breaks out.
Combat in Corruption 2029 is simple, brutal, and deadly. Well, at least for your enemies. That is, should one of your units die in combat, they have three turns of bleeding out before they are out of that combat for good. Once combat is over, they return to the squad with half of their hit points and no sense of self-preservation. To prevent this, you should keep them in cover. Cover makes your units harder to hit, with half cover reducing the chance by twenty-five percent and full cover reducing the chance by seventy-five percent. Flanking your opponent removes this penalty. Hit chance can be affected in other ways, mostly due to range and elevation.
To further bolster your combat capabilities, you have consumables. These take the form of medkits, grenades, turret codes, and remote explosives. Medkits and grenades are self-explanatory, but turret codes and remote explosives are where some of the nuances come in. Occasionally, a map will generate with NAC turrets. During exploration, you can override these turrets with turret codes. Then, when you enter combat, you can spend an action to activate any turrets you've overridden. The turret will then kill anything within its firing arc, alerting anyone that survives, if anyone survives. Remote explosives likewise must be set up before combat. Enemies won't notice them on the ground, and activating them will kill anyone within the blast radius. They will also alert anyone nearby.
War Never Changes
While this is all fine and good, it does tend to get a bit repetitive after a while. Particularly in later levels, as enemies gain more health and shielding, your options for stealth become more and more limited. While there is something satisfying about seeing a slow-mo shot of your sniper killing an enemy through their cover, there are only so many variations of that sequence that will hold your interest. Further, the farther into an act you go, the fewer consumables you have at your disposal. Maps, predominantly, are stagnant. While missions will frequently occur on different maps, you'll still find yourself retreading old ground and wandering around the same military bases and bombed-out houses. Consumables also don't respawn between missions, but instead between acts. If you're too cavalier with your medkits or grenades early on, you won't have any for the later, tougher missions. This makes the drawn-out engagements a liability and ultimately led me to save-scumming encounters until I got them just right.
That said, I can't really complain about the game too much. Ultimately, it runs fine. I encountered no bugs or glitches, and overall just had a good time. The only thing I can think of is that the story is very generic and predictable. Without going into too much detail, suffice to say I was able to predict the third act twist long before it happened. Granted, they do telegraph it early on, but ultimately it wasn't the story that I stayed for.
The Verdict: Good
If you're a more mechanics-focused gamer and enjoy stealth tactical gameplay, you're sure to enjoy Corruption 2029. Those looking for a more engaging narrative would do well to look elsewhere.