‘Cyberpunk’ has turned into a tiny dirty word in games lately following a certain game’s widely-publicised rough launch. However, video gaming and the cyberpunk aesthetic have gone together for almost so long as the medium has existed. From SNES-era titles like Shadowrun and Hideo Kojimas wildly underappreciated Snatcher and Policenauts; for this where we find games like Astral Chain, VA-11 HALL-A, and yes Cyberpunk 2077. Actually, it’s so common in games that it becomes harder and harder to be wow-ed by the aesthetic. Not surprisingly, ANNO: Mutationem pulled us in immediately.
ANNO (no regards to the favorite city building simulator of exactly the same name) can be an action-RPG that comes thanks to indie developer ThinkingStars together with Sonys China Hero Project. After launching on Playstation platforms and PC in March, it creates its solution to Nintendos hybrid with a near-flawless conversion, only disappointed by some long load times and the casual frame rate dip.
Through the entire 12-or-so-hour campaign, you undertake the role of Ann Flores, a woman surviving in Skopp City. Ann is suffering from a mysterious illness called entangelitis, which in turn causes her to black out and go berserk, attacking everything in her sight and being impervious to damage. She soon realizes that her brother, Ryan, went missing looking for N540, a medicine that may suppress the consequences of her disease. However, during his search he got associated with a band of thugs named Factio Pugini. So, Ann sets out to get Ryan and, possibly, the cure on her behalf disease.
On her behalf journey Ann is supported by her not-explicitly-stated-but-sure-seems-like girlfriend Ayane, who’s projecting her image through a little robot. She chimes in constantly through the entire game even though initially we thought she could become annoying, she finished up being among our favourite characters during the period of the journey. The partnership between her and Ann carries a lot of the plot, helped tremendously by great voice performances from Suzie Yeung and Lizzie Freeman.
The narrative mystery is interesting and keeps you on your own toes. A secret organisation by the name of the Consortium is introduced via cutscenes randomly spliced between area load screens. Initially, it looks like nonsense, evoking memories of Kingdom Hearts incoherent Organisation XIII rambling, nonetheless it does all get together in a satisfying way towards the finish of the overall game. Not the very best start, then, nonetheless it wraps itself up well in the long run.
Between your gorgeous sprite work and its own usage of voxels, ANNO is really a treat to check out. The gameplay is put into two styles, with 2D side-scrolling and exploratory segments where you traverse through 3D environments together with your 2D character. The depth in these areas is impressive, from how dense the cities feel to little details like the way the light pierces during your blinds in the intro.
The investigation-focused exploration segments mainly contain speaking with people and finding items, and the 2D sections are where in fact the combat occurs. The majority of the overall game has you switching between these styles constantly. Dungeons will swap between perspectives from room to room, which may be just a little jarring in places, but is effective generally.
Combat takes inspiration from games like Devil May Cry (or at the very least a 2D undertake it) with a method that targets both melee and gunplay. While your initial kit is basic, by using an art tree and unlockable weapons, you soon have a good inventory of moves and gear to experiment with. Generally, combat isn’t particularly challenging; barring the odd death occasionally, we only really struggled with one specific difficulty spike close to the game’s finale.
Theres a litany of sidequests it is possible to take on round the game’s five city areas. These jobs range between being your common or garden go place, hit guy, get thing quests to part-time bartending. The very best of the include engaging investigations like searching a flat to find in which a suspect has disappeared to, or learning who’s throwing trash off the balcony in a higher rise.
ANNO wears its inspirations on its sleeve, and fans of Neon Genesis Evangelion will without doubt grab references from the 1st cutscene; you can find visuals that feel directly lifted from Hideaki Annos 1995 anime. The overall game also owes lots of its visual design to Ghost in the Shell, and Blade Runner, and also the SCP Foundations influence on the Consortium.
ANNO: Mutationem tells a solid tale using its core mystery, strengthened by beautiful visuals and satisfying combat. While its inspirations certainly are a little on-the-nose, developer ThinkingStars manages to carve out its space in the Cyberpunk genre. Some long loads and minor balancing issues take the shine off just a little, but it’s still a remarkably impressive effort from the small indie team who has generated a global that feels as immersive as any 60 AAA RPG.