Developed by Chinese based studio, ThinkingStars comes cyberpunk-themed action game ANNO: Mutationem (which has nothing to do with Ubisoft’s ANNO series by-the-way). The game released on PS4, PS5 and PC, but is it any good?
First things first, you play as Ann Flores within various cities that are teeming with life and exceptionally colourful futuristic visuals. The game uses a pixel-art style for the characters using more detailed backgrounds and props. The game’s opening allows you to explore quite freely where there are people to talk to, shops to buy weapons, ROM upgrades and even a clothes shop (although you can’t afford most things at the game’s start). There are also buildings you can enter such as book store, pharmacy and even a burger joint, to-name-but-a-few. The game also sports four main populated areas alongside more confined underground spaces where most of the fighting action takes place. Players can undertake various side-missions in the cities, and there is even an arena where you can duke it out against some tough opponents later on in the story.
The main gameplay hook, aside from exploration and mini-games like bartending are based around Ann’s combat skills. We are not going to spoil the story here aside from mentioning that Ann’s motivation is focused on finding her lost brother. Players can have access to quick swords, double blades, a slower broadsword and ranged weapons such as pistols, missile launcher and some kind of fusion weapon. Each weapon is upgradeable and players can add modifying chips for stat bonuses. Ann’s attacking is also upgradeable via the CROM system (basically a skill tree) which gives her extra moves, backpack space and much more to boot.
The actual fighting is a mixed-bag, because it’s too easy to miss your opponent and strike the air because they moved or you’re facing the wrong way. Some sort of auto-lock-on might have alleviated this problem. That said, you can perform combos but it’s a little bit “button mashy”, as some enemies are bullet sponges with a replenishing shield bar and additional health bar to cut through. As you would expect, there are lesser enemies which Ann can cut down very quickly, sub bosses and main bosses to contend with. There is quite a bit of variety, but most enemies use the same attack patterns. There are frustrating moments against some of the characters, especially the final boss where you are unable to purchase healing items because you’re locked out of being able to speak to one of corn head vendors. Yes, that’s right…corn head vendors who appear throughout the game in convenient places. Some enemies they decided did not need a health-bar for some reason which is an odd design choice.
The worse part of the game, is a reliance on platform sections which really slows the progression and just feels a bit cheap and not needed. Some laser moments towards the end of the game are puzzle-like and unnecessary. One hacking section had us stuck for some time, trying to figure the solution, and this was tied to story progression. Still, overall the game is an enjoyable romp which offers 15+ hours of gameplay. Some more combat outside in the cities would have been nice to have, as an opening chase sequence is pretty awesome with the city skyline in the background.
Audio is worth mentioning as the game features a pretty cool soundtrack. However, some of the voice acting feels a little too melodramatic. It’s good there are voices though aside from Ayane, your side-kick who sports a funky robotic voice which might begin to grate after a while.
So, is ANNO: Mutationem any good and worth playing. We’re going to say yes it is, despite some moments which don’t gel so well with the overall feel of the game. You do get your monies worth, and the visuals are spectacular at times. If you like cyberpunk themes, then this ambitious game should be in your library.
Score 7.5/10 – review code supplied by publisher.