Anno: Mutationem premiered during an episode of State of Play last year and left a pretty strong impression thanks to its stunning art direction and environmental work. Since then, it’s been quiet on the frontlines as the developers worked on delivering the final product to market. I was always impressed by the aesthetic shown in trailers but how about gameplay? Would the first game from ThinkingStars pan out and be a fun romp through a cyberpunk city?
Well, as it turns out, the China Hero Project candidate is another winner of that initiative as I’ve spent the last few days working my way through Anno: Mutationem. Set in Skopp City and taking on the role of Ann Flores, the stunning city is a wonderful rendition of a realized cyberpunk city that harkens back to Blade Runner. What really works for me and captured my attention is the detail in each area paired with the smart use of colours to set itself apart.
Anno: Mutationem features a stunning world
Ann is on a mission to find her brother while also battling a mysterious sickness — something Ann is looking to find a cure for. One thing leads to another in this case, causing Ann to unravel a mystery that will lead you to some rather interesting places. On the one hand, the setup for Anno: Mutationem is good but on the other hand, things like how Ann’s powers are influenced by her condition aren’t ever fully explored.
I would’ve appreciated a bit more exposition here but the main crux of Anno: Mutationem is the gameplay. Balancing a stellar line between 2D and 3D planes, you can swap between them depending on what you’re doing. However, what really kept me invested in addition to the combat was talking to people, exploring the city and generally finding whatever the naked eye couldn’t see.
Combat is responsive and Ann is a capable character as she deals with a variety of foes ranging from humans to robots to monsters. Using both a heavy and light attack, you mow down enemies while unlocking and upgrading Ann’s abilities with skill trees.
As things begin to unravel and Ann’s skills begin to flesh into added combos and new abilities, the versatility of the combat begins to show what the game’s been holding out on. There’s a ton of customization available too, and by the end of the game, you’ll be a nearly unstoppable force to be reckoned with.
Ann will challenge and defeat bosses, giving her currency to upgrade her base skills. In tandem, defeating regular enemies unlock new moves for Ann to use in combats and the worry for grinding isn’t of much concern I found. You’ll unlock enough to move forward without having to worry if you have the right tools to keep going.
With some pacing issues that leave room for improvement
One of my biggest issues with Anno: Mutationem is the pacing. It isn’t inheritably bad but some things aren’t explained or fleshed out enough to warrant them. Even as Ann moves from location to location — places that were interesting — my main gripe was what is the point, exactly? The game begins strong but somewhat fizzles out by the end of it. The worldbuilding needs some work but the base is there and can be improved in any potential sequel.
For instance, you’ll meet a character that appears and then vanish until further into the story without much exposition on what they are doing or where they were. Some ideas the developers decide to explore don’t work out here but the ones that do, tend to be pretty neat and worthwhile to the overall narrative.
Anno: Mutationem delivers a worthwhile experience and one that doesn’t overstay its welcome. The mix of 2D and 3D segments work in favour of the story the game is telling and the environments are packed with colour and detail. Some of the story beats don’t really pan out but don’t let that deter you from enjoying a solid action game that showcases some great ideas.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PS5