I was able to put several hours into Anno: Mutationem. However, the camera made me sick to the point that I had to stop playing it. In this case, that’s a bummer, because this game is awesome. It’s jam-packed with typical cyberpunk conventions. Some of the narrative elements are a bit silly, but between the visuals and the game structure, the game has a lot to offer. But the question stands: is it worth it?
Anno: Mutationem puts you in control of a woman named Ann Flores, who is some kind of cyberpunk mercenary or something. She has a combat suit, fights with swords and a gun, and is partnered with some weird cybernetic scientist guy that lives under an antique shop. The plot concerns Ann’s brother, Ryan, going missing, and her quest to find him. Naturally, he’s into something pretty serious, and Ann finds herself caught up in some events of major consequence.
The story here is solid. All major narrative sequences are fully voice-acted in English, Chinese, and Japanese. The English dub is suspiciously good, although the acting often doesn’t match up with the written dialogue that shows up alongside it. As you play the game, you’ll spend time with a cast of characters that includes a hyper Japanese girl who constantly chirps at Ann’s side, as well as Ann’s sister Nakamura (which is a family name, not a given name, but whatever). Ann’s dad is also a robot. He went with one of those full body-part replacement shebangs, I’m guessing. Ann also has the rather clumsily named disease Entangleitis, which is nothing like Entitilitus, probably.
From 2D to 3D
Anno: Mutationem is made up of 3D worlds inhabited by animated sprites. The worlds are visually dense and colorful. Cities that you travel to with Ann’s car are bright and brimming with detail and personality. They feel like mostly typical cyberpunk cities, but the visuals here are sumptuous. The sprites are also worthy of praise. This is one of the best “sprites in a 3D world” games I’ve had the pleasure of gluing myself to, that’s for sure.
Gameplay is divided between combat and everything else. While doing everything else, you control Ann from a fixed perspective as her sprite moves through 3D spaces. Here, you can explore, take on sidequests, shop, and talk to people. When you enter combat, however, Anno: Mutationem locks you to a 2D plane. The part of the game I played had more 3D navigation than combat, but that’s all well and good. Ann equips light and heavy melee weapons, plus a gun. You can buy more with money you get, but there are also tons of items to find.
Some items are used for crafting, some you should sell, and others are consumable. You can also equip your weapons with a couple of types of add-ons. No matter how you swing it, this is a full-featured game that doesn’t really feel like it skimps on details. You’ll also unlock skills with a couple of different sorts of currency, which grant Ann new attacks or improved abilities. Everything is laid out well. Additionally, navigation is a cinch, as your destination is detailed by a red blip on your mini-map. You can also look at a larger map. Sidequests can be kind of hard to figure out at times, though.
Fight ’em ’til you can’t
Combat feels fairly tight and responsive. In addition to light and heavy attacks, Ann can fire her guns, dodge, block, and parry if you block at just the right time. You can unlock a skill that lets Ann use a quick counterattack whenever you parry, as well. Another skill lets you basically teleport slash. Hitting enemies feels somewhat meaty, and you can even use launchers to go up into the air with your foes and continue to hammer away. Every aspect of Anno: Mutationem feels well thought-out in that regard.
While the early part of the game is geared towards walking around town, there is plenty of in-depth spelunking involved as well. After getting past the introductory section, Ann has to go underground, which leads to a whole lot of fighting and a boss battle. This fight was intensely aggravating for me, as the boss gets a new move when it’s almost dead. This move, of course, grabs you and sucks the life out of you until you die. If it hits you, you have to do the whole boss battle again. It’s the only thing I absolutely despised in my experience with the game.
On top of that, you also had to defend machinery from fodder while fighting the boss. I’m mostly just mad about that grab that it uses at the end, though. Anything that can one-shot you towards the end of a long, drawn-out boss fight is bad, pure and simple. Aside from that, though, I enjoyed the combat and am looking forward to seeing more of it when I work up the nerve to make myself sick for another day or so. The game’s supposed to take eight-to-12 hours to get through, too, so it’s no teeny-tiny affair.
As long as the game’s camera during the 3D sections doesn’t make you as ill as it makes me, then Anno: Mutationem is absolutely worth it. It’s beautiful, and has a lot in the way of game systems. There’s solid world-building at work, as well as enjoyable combat. I’m sure there are more one-hit kill bosses lying in wait, though, so that’s certainly something to be wary of. There’s even a little bartender minigame where you can mix drinks on a time limit at the Flores family bar for cash. You even have to change into a special outfit just to do it. I’m not sure why I’m choosing to close this on that note, but you can’t stop me.