Title: Anno: Mutationem
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Lightning Games
Complexity is often erroneously synonymized with being complicated. Yet, to be complex is to have many moving parts, nothing to necessarily indicate any difficulty or trouble. ANNO: Mutationem brings in and weaves through complexity with finesse and sophistication that provided me with an immense amount of joy and awe.
This cyberpunk action-adventure tells the story of Ann Flores, a combat expert who is on the hunt for answers as to what happened to her missing brother. Alongside Ann is her hacker companion, Ayane, who acts as a boisterous and optimistic contrast to Ann’s cold, hardened self. In fact, a lot of the characters add significant diversity to the narrative, building the surrounding world with intricacy. They perfectly set the scene for the type of dystopian environment the Metropolis is.
This futuristic society is chock-full of mysteries and wonder, giving you the motivation to explore and discover what secrets and beliefs manufacture the setting’s power structures and social dynamics. You have the freedom to interact with all sorts of people and events, heightening your sense of immersion in this world. You start to question how this society runs and what forces control the paradigms that run the city.
Rather than just talking to every NPC to gain information, various methods are present to keep you engaged and involved. You can be a bartender at your sister’s bar, you can hunt down criminals, you can take on challenges, etc. Nevertheless, I felt the urge to continue interacting with everyone to see what else there was to offer. Even if it isn’t an activity, I’d still come upon enticing information and context about this society.
When it comes to the main story, it plays like a mystery. As Ann, you’re hoping to find more clues that link to your missing brother. But there are other unsolved mysteries that permeate Ann’s life. She has an unexplained condition known as Entanglelitis, and her past remains unknown. As you’re finding the links to where your brother may be, you start to uncover what led this society to become the way it is. You also discover past events that shed light on your present status and condition.
While these narrative events unfold in an intriguing manner, there are some moments where it feels a bit unpolished. Nothing is ever inadequate, but a bit more substance could have pushed the details to their full potential. Luckily, having a futuristic dystopian setting gives more room to expand the limits of what makes up reality. Unfortunately, there are just a couple of times where those expansions felt a tad unfitting for the narrative as a whole.
To sync with the world-building is the gameplay elements of platforming, combat, and exploration. Platforming and combat typically go hand-in-hand as you’re exploring the various areas. You’ll come upon a mixture of enemies, ranging from humans to robots to mutated creatures. You’ll even face off against bosses in some epic and profound fights. These combat and platforming scenes are scattered effectively throughout the game, giving your story a good pace.
For the action-filled fights, you have various weapons and skills to upgrade and customize. You can also upgrade Ann’s stats and moves, giving you some choice to your combat style. Each enemy you encounter has varied attack patterns and defenses, so you’re consistently on your toes for each new area. For some of these areas, platforming may be required to progress forward.
While the platforming and combat is fun, it doesn’t feel incredibly smooth. There are certain moments where it feels a bit sluggish and heavy. That being said, it still holds up reasonably well, and I’ve never encountered moments of frustration. If you ever come upon areas or bosses that give you a lot of trouble, the availability of free exploration allows you to do other quests and upgrade your arsenal to be more prepared.
The main story of the game will take roughly 10-12 hours to complete, but there are some side quests to increase the time by a few more hours. While a couple of those quests may be simple, most of them are quite compelling and offer additional insight into the workings of this dystopian world. There aren’t that many side quests to do in the first place; I’d recommend doing all of them to complete what ANNO has to offer.
Not only did the quests help with the immersion, but the music and sound kept me engrossed in this captivating setting. The soundtrack is full of electronic music and intense action beats. There are even a few 8-bit references sewn throughout the game. With sound, there are cutscenes and certain lines that are voice-acted, each of them all sounding natural and terrific.
If complexity lined the structure of ANNO, inspiration was the groundwork. Woven throughout the game are clear references and influences from numerous sources. The 2D-3D styles have an old PS-era feel to them but with crisper graphics and textures. One of the areas known as Margaritia is inspired by Southern Europe.
The dark story that contrasts with the neon lights are reminiscent of other dystopian classics, such as Blade Runner. There are even references to other games that fit the themes of the world. These details wonderfully add to the enjoyment of the game.
The key component I wanted to save for last was the art and aesthetics. It’s safe to say that this is one of the best pixel-art games that I’ve ever seen and played. There is an immeasurable amount of detail within all the environments and cityscapes. Whether it be the neon lighting, the reflections off the rainwater on the ground, or the character facial expressions, there’s so much your eyes will want to keep staring at. To add to this, the seamless transitions between the 2D and 3D perspective is mesmerizing.
Not only is the pixel art exceptional, but the aesthetics and variety are nothing short of extraordinary. This isn’t a lengthy game, but ANNO has a lot to show you. You can go from a bright and colorful, bustling scene of downtown to a deserted, somber slum to a creepy and off-putting underground sewer system. The plethora of variety is overwhelmingly satisfying. If the narrative and mechanics weren’t enough to push you to explore, the environments and aesthetics absolutely will.
ANNO: Mutationem is an exciting and welcome addition to the world of cyberpunk gaming. The amount it presents within the short timeframe is astonishing. There’s always something to keep you attentive, whether it be the gorgeous pixel art, the enjoyable boss fights, or the deep narrative. Yet, ANNO does well to not overstay its welcome and instead presents a beautiful experience that engulfs you into a different reality.
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