ANNO: Mutationem on PC
ANNO: Mutationem throws stylized pixelated visuals, RPG elements, and action-filled gameplay into a futuristic cyberpunk setting, which sounds like it should be a hit from those descriptors alone. In reality, its high points are let down by the confusing narrative and its wild pacing, along with a number of errors that show up outside of gameplay.
The game follows Ann Flores as she attempts to learn more about a disease she lives with known as Entanglelitis so that she can eventually find a cure for it. The condition causes Ann to transform as her mood changes, leading her to attack everything around her while ignoring any harm that comes her way.
Ann is surrounded by supporting characters like her cyborg father Holtz, the sketchy doctor Alan, and hacker partner Ayane who look to help with that goal. Ann’s younger brother, Ryan, is also doing what he can to find a cure, but all of his searching gets him mixed up with some not-so-nice people, which is what really jump starts — and complicates — this adventure.
Somehow, the simple objective of finding Ann’s brother turns into a trek through the sewers and trips to multiple cities in a questline that lasts far longer than you’d expect it to, complete with many main missions that begin to feel tedious.
On top of that, the story is hard to follow and makes little sense for most of the game, despite the simple task. The main objective for the majority of ANNO: Mutationem is to find Ann’s brother, but that quest will boil down to doing favors for various, seemingly-random NPCs in exchange for information, which gets old and repetitive.
It’s a lot of “Do this for me and I’ll give you what you want,” but Ann and Ayane never fully understand what’s going on in a big picture sense outside of their next small task or errand. And I was just as lost as the main character. Lore and background info on why Ann suffers from her disease and who the big bad secret organization is gets drip fed slowly in disjointed scenes.
One minute, Ann and Ayane complete an objective to aid a community of underground machine people to get more info on Ryan, and the next, we see a scene of completely unrelated characters talking about unintroduced concepts in an unknown location.
It’s simultaneously jarring and frustrating because the world is so interesting and mysterious that it makes you want many more details than the game ever cares to provide. I’d have loved to learn more about the Mechanika Virus that turns humans into machines, Ann’s abnormal childhood, Ayane’s relationship with her, and so much more.
It feels like the game drops you right into the third act of a long plot, so it’s tough to get to know characters and care about them in time to be invested once the storyline gets crazy. New characters even get introduced in the final act of the game, which left me even more confused than I already was.
ANNO: Mutationem goes from fully cyberpunk to something so far beyond, that it becomes unbelievable. Let’s just say that once you get to the final act, you’ll either love it or hate it for all the new concepts it introduces to the world.
Though, no matter how you feel about the plot, it’s undeniable that developer ThinkingStars does an excellent job with the art direction. They use a mix of 2D and 3D along with a pixel-art style to create a visually stunning world that’s wonderful to look at and explore.
There are even first-person scenes that mix things up and show the world in a different light. And speaking of light, the neon lighting and vibrant colors work together to make every location stand out, from huge cityscapes to underground laboratories.
The vibrance translates to the gameplay during combat — another of the game’s bright spots. Ann has lightsaber-like swords for melee, guns for long-range, a dodge roll, an instant kill against enemies with depleted shields, and more. She also has access to various chips that can be equipped to weapons for stat buffs and elemental attacks, as well as a skill tree that unlocks/upgrades abilities like a parry and new combos that allow for more creativity in battle.
The fights can actually be a challenge if you’re having trouble parrying or timing dodges correctly. You can likely get by on skill alone in many cases, but if you can’t, Ann’s gear can be improved and/or replaced with better options.
There’s also crafting feature that can be used in the menu or on the fly during gameplay if you have enough materials to create the items you want. Items can even be dismantled to obtain materials for creating new gear if you’re short on money to buy expensive new equipment.
For all its notable visual and combat positives, there are also glaring errors in the smaller details outside of major gameplay moments. These problems will likely be patched in the future, but this was my experience during my playthrough.
ANNO: Mutationem is filled with a number of mistakes and issues when it comes to text. Many words will continue from one line to the next and there are a noticeable amount of typos and sentences that don’t make sense. It’s distracting to the point where I couldn’t figure out Ann’s father’s name early on because it was spelled as either Hotz or Holtz several times.
The subtitles also often don’t match what’s being said. I played in English and that issue was prevalent, but I’m not sure if that’s the case for the other languages available as well. Throughout the game, the subtitles will regularly be missing words that are voiced in dialogue, or just be completely inaccurate.
Some even more irritating bugs have characters telling you to check your map to find out where to go, only for you to have no markers to follow whatsoever. These moments lead to aimless wandering that lasts for far too long.
ANNO: Mutationem really shines — both literally and figuratively — is in its use of bright colors in a unique blend of 2D and 3D to create a living world, along with the customizable, and somewhat demanding, combat.
It also has so many great ideas when it comes to the utilization of its cyberpunk world, so it’s a shame to see that it falls flat in more than a few areas, from the distracting text errors and bugs to the jumbled plot.
As it stands, this is a tough one to recommend as long as the bugs persist, but it may be worth checking out after a patch or two to resolve the more blatant issues.
- Unique blend of 2D and 3D pixel-art makes for a great visual style.
- Combat provides a decent amount of customization options.
- Confusing plot never fully explains or dives into a number of its interesting concepts.
- Noticeable text errors and bugs throughout the game.
- Some main missions feel tedious for long stretches of time.
Mar. 16, 2022
PC, PS4, PS5