Video games can do magical things, they can take you to worlds that feel like they were specially made for you. The ability to escape to a tailor-made world has always been the biggest attraction video games offer. I have been gaming for decades now, and what really catches me by surprise is when a game feels like it exists without you. When you enter a world where you truly feel like a visitor, your presence in this world feels insignificant. I recently had this experience with ANNO: Mutationem; at first the world felt foreign, the characters almost to complex. With time I began to understand that this game can be as complex or as simple as you want. Unfortunately though, the game is not without its faults – and some of them are too big to overlook.

Many thanks to Lightning Games for the review code

GENETIC MUTATIONEM
One of the biggest issues for myself and many other people is the story of the game. Don’t misunderstand me; the plot is really interesting, and even the dialogue goes beyond your average video game writing. I can hear some of you saying “so what’s the problem?” Well, the main storyline takes a backseat to the next shiny thing the game has to offer: there are a lot of events, activities and deep side quests. If you are truly playing for the main story, it can be incredibly hard to maintain interest or even remember plot points. I believe that the main obstacle to an engaging story is the pacing; at times you can go hours following the main quest with only a small acknowledgment of why you should care about your ultimate goal. The real catch-22 is that the characters (including NPCs) and world has so much depth, it overshadows the main story. The story itself has you, Ann Flores chasing down your missing brother. You have a very rare illness that can cause you to hallucinate and sometimes even lose consciousness. Your brother is positive they have a cure for your illness, but along his campaign he disappears. Ann, working as a mercenary of sorts, has the skills and connections to track him down. The story itself has a lot to offer, but I believe that reminding the player more often about the story would have gone a long way.

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I SAID ANNO, NO, NO
The gameplay is also a bit of a mixed bag, as the combat is quick and responsive, being a little bit more intuitive than your run of the mill action game. You have three weapons: a katana of sorts, a giant sword and a gun. Each weapon has its purpose. Your main weapon is the katana, but when you run into enemies with armor you have to use the giant sword to break the armor. There are also quite a few flying enemies and combos where your gun serves a purpose, with this weapon being the weakest. While in combat the controls are excellent; although when you’re not fighting enemies, the controls seem loose and sloppy. My biggest issue with the controls is they contingent on your location, meaning that there are designated areas where combat will happen. Not only does this really break immersion but it also tips you off as to when you are going to run into enemies. Ultimately my biggest issues was that I couldn’t jump whenever I wanted to, which was just weird. I can understand why you can’t attack civilians or dodge for no apparent reason, but the jump aspect also lets you know how limited you are in a lot of areas.

The star of the show for me is definitely the atmosphere: as I mentioned this world feels completely independent from the player. Going as deep as many of the NPCs, who seem to have their own personalities and backstories. The cities are vibrant and full of life, and it’s almost impossible to find a street void of activity. The game really mimics a real city, with a lot of shops, clubs and activities. One of the other bright spots of this game is its navigation as they supply a beacon, directing you to your next destination. For me, this actually game me the confidence to explore these hectic cities without the fear of getting lost. Most side quests are easily found by a yellow dot on your map, and usually start with an event that demands your attention. They even try to keep you glued to this world by dressing up the loading screens with either Ann driving, or footage of a news anchor reading the latest headlines.
 
I feel like this game does a lot of things right, and I would even go as far to say it’s a hidden gem. Most of this games biggest enemies are itself. It should be applauded that they created this busy and complex world. With that being said, it shouldn’t overshadow the main story. In many ways it feels like as they developed the game, they themselves forgot about the main story. It would also be nice to have more of a reference, as I could see many players benefiting from knowing more about this world and its characters. Something I haven’t mentioned is the art style; some may actually be put off by it. I personally think it was genius to use this art style as it’s ultimately less taxing and allows the game to have great performance.
 

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Ultimately I would score this game very highly, and would advise fans of the genre to pick it up. People who are on the fence about getting the game, yet are into action adventure or RPGs will really like this game.