HomeNewsANNO: Mutationem Review - Get Cyber-Punked?

    ANNO: Mutationem Review – Get Cyber-Punked?

    Developed By: ThinkingStars

    Published By: Lightning Games

    Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 & PC

    Reviewed On: PlayStation 4


    ANNO: Mutationem is a cool name and by cool, even the trailer makes me drool in terms of pixelated graphics in a cyberpunk setting—though in a very low-res pixel art in high definition—promises a cyberpunk-themed platformer in the vein of Ghost in the Shell or Blade Runner in a pristine environment. Imagine a ‘what if’ game that blends the mood and gameplay of Ghost in the Shell animation with Blade Runner, other the merits of both these titles–in PlayStation 2 art style. ANNO: Mutationem will appeal to anime fans and cyberpunk lovers alike, but will it fill a void in my heart for a unique touch of cyberpunk?. The only thing ANNO: Mutationem seems to have touched is giving me a gruesome migraine, and it’s been a bit of a struggle to get through it, let me tell you why.

    Animation, Graphics, and Songs are a delight

    In ANNO: Mutationem, the music echoes the theme of the Blade Runner soundtrack, creating a nice undercurrent for the game, that has a somber electronic eerie mood. The voice-overs are decently done with multiple ranges of languages options although sometimes the lines themselves deviate from the subtitles.

    The art style and graphics of this game were the reason I was so drawn to it in the first place; the pixelated art with cameras turning seamlessly from 2D and 3D as I venture around the city streets. In addition to that, the streets are littered with surreal designed NPC characters going about their daily activities as if the art director said let’s go ham with the NPC design, which is its strongest suit – no two characters are alike, with corn heads, pedestrians, robots, waifus, and even drain heads, like something straight out of an artist’s sketchbook. During the camera pan around a dungeon, there was a rare game-breaking bug (image below) that caused my character to become stuck outside the path.

    As for the 2D combat, I like the variety of enemies and boss designs too, but I’m not as fond of their locomotion animation and AI designs. The movement was extremely awkward and clunky like they would walk abnormally and turn around to attack you or repeatedly strike the same area without you around. While at times when I attacked via a light or heavy sword; the enemies flinch, but more often than not, they would unflinchingly continue if they wanted to attack me. It can be easy sometimes to beat the same boss, but it can also be extremely difficult at the same time because of the clunkiness that creates a sense of randomness. This always makes me feel panic-stricken as I am not only observing the enemy’s attack pattern but also the clunkiness overall that makes their attack patterns inconsistent.

    Plus the main character has a very odd hitbox, especially not hitting in close range, and at times less responsive buttons such as a block button that hinders my experience even further. It came to a point that makes me feel like I am playing a browser-based game.

    While the designs of the environments are richly detailed with various pristine beautiful junks, scraps, neon ads, anime, and people as portrayed consistently by the trailers. When I reached certain platforming vast areas, there were instances where the frame rates dropped drastically.

    Gameplay – This goes downhill from here

    While the cameras turn over from 2D to 3D seamlessly from one area to the next – unbeknownst to me, certain mechanics within the game, such as jumping, crafting items, and even changing weapons on the fly, are only applicable as long as you are utilizing the correct camera mode such as 2D sidescrolling. This makes the game action feels limited as opposed to its amazing interchangeable camera.

    With the 2D platform for combat and platforming, the main character can block/parry, use guns, wield heavy big swords, and swing light swords to charge attacks and perform mild variations of combo attacks. The later combo attacks learned via the talent tree such as Jujutsu or even the Hadouken (from Street Fighter) style motion type of directional input is difficult to pull off because the button inputs aren’t as responsive as expected. The platforming aspects are decent, with a few enjoyable challenges such as laser puzzle elements.

    Quick Tips: I do recommend highly getting the Melee Knee Strike via talent tree first as this is the simplest, most workable attack on most bosses that pierces shield and get away quickly from harm.

    A Save Point is a pool device that allows players to heal, teleport, save games and change talents. However, the talent tree can be accessed via the Options menu at any time, so it goes to show that the UI is not well thought out as a whole. Even more, so that some talents are less useful compared to the rest of the pack such as successful lockpicking to gain credits.

    Dying in this game felt very punishing because of the long loading times. Everything from moving into new areas to elevators and teleporting requires a long loading screen. As you play longer, your patience wears thin like a pinata that’s been whacked a few times.

    Snacks, medicines, grenades, healing stimpacks, and more – each of these items beneficially provides resilience, piercing, healing, and attack buff for a limited time – so using it at the right time may benefit you the most in combat. When swarmed by hordes of enemies, using and crafting items with the directional buttons in real-time can be frantic and distracting, but funnily enough, you can pause time with the R3 analog stick to switch weapons on the fly—although there aren’t many weapons to switch to—ideally these items and weapon functions could be combined at the same time and items crafted on the fly while time freezes instead of having to go into a separate options menu just to be safe.

    Storytelling is barely just touching the surface

    The story begins with a dream of an explosion, an Evangelion cross figure, and a girl waking up in a cold, deserted place, only to be woken up in an apartment, without an explanation as to who she is – is she a mercenary? soldier? does she have a life? zit none. The protagonist, Ann Flores, in a sporty outfit, wakes up with a parcel calling her name and finds out it’s her robot companion, Ayane – they’ve always been best friends without any explanation or background. Simply put, the story didn’t introduce itself throughout, so I am just filling in the blanks based on my Peter Pans imagination. Also, Ann Flores has a complicated long-named disease (Entangible or something) and there’s a secret organization with a boss named Loki, or Absalom, well, I can deal with that.

    But everyone else in the game is just named K, C, or I. I never figured out their names—maybe I missed an email, memo, or datapad that explained further, but by the time it showed up I had already lost interest. Basically, naming conventions (including the Latin title) and storytelling is a matter of touching base without following up any further on the why’s – like when a kid tells you there are flying cars, people, mages, warriors, showing you his newly found friends and dragons—but then forgets where the story comes from once the initial enthusiasm wears off.

    Compared to the main questline, the side quests are even more disjointed, pointless, and out-of-touch, while some of them attempt to emulate Yakuza’s storytelling style but end up using it in a one-and-done sort of way. Similarly, one such sidequest is a murder case that felt more like a door-to-door salesman checkup scripted event that opens an interdimensional door rather than solving the crime clues piece by piece. Side content doesn’t give players the resources needed to upgrade or purchase items, leaving the player feeling underpowered for encounters.

    What I Liked

    Art And Environment – Nothing can go wrong if you wanted to feed your eyes as what is presented in the trailer, serene pixelated art style with pristine neon-filled concrete environments, a plethora of NPC designs, and switching cameras seamlessly between 2D and 3D perspectives.

    Sounds – Blade Runner type of synthesizer music with decent voice acting.

    What I Wished Was Better

    Gameplay – Beat-em-up combat is fun at times, but it is often outweighed by clunky animation, limited hitboxes, and odd AI actions.

    Convoluted UI – Using and crafting items mid-combat should pause the action like cycling through weapons because hordes of enemies will often leave you no time to do both. The talent tree is accessible anywhere in the game but pointlessly added to save points.

    Story and sidequest – Touching base on these aspects almost always causes the plot to go astray with no follow-ups. Side quest in general doesn’t provide the resources needed for upgrading the items or purchasing upgrades which felt rather fruitless.

    Long Loading Screens – The punishment for dying a lot is having to sit through long loading screens as well as moving through the elevators and new areas.

    Game breaking bug – There is a rare occurrence where the main character gets trapped outside a platform as the camera pans and frame rates drop in vast areas while some enemy encounters present no HP bar.

    I Got Cyber-Punked

    I desperately want the game to be great, but ANNO: Mutationem is a chore to play on PlayStation 4. Imagine purchasing and eating a salad for its beautiful packaging, bacon strips, and ranch dressing; only to realize that the bacon is the only glistening duct tape holding everything together, namely the bacon representing the pixel graphics characters’ design and environment. When you tasted everything else, you realize that the clunkiness, long loading times, and contents of storytelling makes it rather stale. It is not recommended to play ANNO: Mutationem on PlayStation 4, and perhaps be a better experience on other consoles. Anno: Mutationem is a product of an ambitious team with a strong self-sense of identity but the game just doesn’t live up to its full potential. Hopefully, further patches in the future can fix give it a better experience.

    Final Score – 5/10

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    He is actually very shy, introvert but no choice, have to go out to buy games. He likes food and food likes him. He somehow manage to find a job with the right time accommodate to gaming. He has a very short attention span, therefore has to finish a game fast or else a simple pun can distract him for the entire day. Yes a Pun, he loves puns as much as he loves games; easily distracted, whichever comes next.


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