ANNO: Mutationem


Review by · April 3, 2022

For many residing in ANNO: Mutationem‘s futuristic Skopp City, war and the Mechanika Virus seem to be only lingering memories, though their effects are still visible in the areas surrounding the technological paradise. Just below the pristine streets, corruption and unrest come in the form of shady corporations, lawless crime syndicates, and clandestine operations that toy with the very future of the world. Ann Flores is a young woman working at an investigative agency in Skopp City, using a mechanized disease that causes her to essentially go berserk to get through tough obstacles on the job.

In true action RPG fashion, what starts as a pretty routine day for Ann quickly gets much more complicated when she discovers her brother Ryan is missing and might have gotten himself into trouble with a local gang while trying to find a way to help cure her of her disease. Ryan’s trail leads to even bigger threats and conspiracies than some run-of-the-mill street thugs, and soon Ann and her hacker friend and co-worker Ayane find themselves at the center of an adventure that threatens the very fabric of reality itself.

The first couple of hours of gameplay set the stage for ANNO: Mutationem‘s futuristic story. Those hoping for a solid narrative will not be disappointed with what the title offers, as the premise and world is well fleshed out and explored through story cinemas, character dialogue, and aside reveals in the forms of messages and news postings. The world building for ANNO is impressive, and even things like ambient NPC conversations you can listen in on helps to breathe life into Skopp City and its distinctive neighboring locales.

A colorful town screenshot from ANNO: Mutationem.
Harbour Town is one of the areas you can access via the world map.

Players take control of Ann as she and Ayane travel throughout the game’s surprisingly large world map, following mission objectives that are helpfully noted should you need a reminder about what you’re supposed to do at any given point. Ann can check emails, interact with NPCs or objects of interest, visit shops, craft weapons at certain vendors, create certain items of her own if she has the prerequisite materials needed, hack her way through locked doors and passcode-guarded computers, drive her car to different map areas, collect resources she can sell or dismantle for crafting parts, or partake in numerous mini-games and side-quests. You can help out Ann’s sister Nakamura with the family bar by mixing drinks in a surprisingly addicting timed mini-game, or even play an old arcade version of something that bears more than just a passing resemblance to Pong. There’s also combat tournaments to take part in that applies the game’s fighting system to what amounts to a single round fighting game format. Considering that some might see the game as being on the shorter side of the spectrum, the wealth of extra content it provides for players is truly impressive.

Combat segments play a vital role in ANNO, happening on a side-scrolling field with platforming elements. The playstyle leans very much into action RPG territory, with players stringing together various combos with different weapons: twin blades (super speedy with a lot of versatility), light blades (fast weapons that pack a bit more punch), heavy swords (slower moving but much more powerful), or ranged weapons. You can further augment Ann’s weapons by equipping chips to them that boost specific stats.  Chips are acquired throughout the game as well as through crafting. Combat and platforming has a bit of a Metroidvania influence, with Ann acquiring new abilities such as being able to double jump or perform mid-air dashes as she advances through the game’s plot. The second an ability opens up, you know a dungeon will be expecting you to utilize it in some way from there on out.

Ann equips the multiple weapon types to her person and can switch between them fluidly with just the press of a button. Ranged weapons have a helpful autolocking feature that ensures you’ll hit something every time you use them, though I must admit to being more partial to the melee combat since I didn’t have to worry about ammo. There is a robust skill tree that allows you to further improve Ann’s repertoire: as she defeats opponents, Ann acquires Grombitz points. Gain enough of them, and you can unlock further combos and helpful passive abilities. Grom points, which are acquired from boss battles specifically, are put towards raising Ann’s stats in a separate statistic skill tree. Want to be able to carry more items into battle, increase Ann’s max health points, or just have her be a defensive or offensive powerhouse? Utilizing Grom and Grombitz points effectively can help you tailor combat all the more to your personal preferences.

A combat screenshot from ANNO: Mutationem.
Combat is fast, frantic, and fun!

Regular fights and boss battles are hectic affairs, with each enemy type having a strategy that you must uncover through repeated exposure. Some enemies have an armor stat that you must whittle down first to significantly damage their health. Doing so often opens up a special instant kill move, but you only have a limited amount of time to perform this move, so be sure to keep a lookout for the prompt. Later on in the game, Ann also acquires the ability to transform into a more powerful form temporarily that restores her health and gives you access to some truly devastating moves. Finding the right moments to use this ability in any given fight can really turn the tide.

Boss fight stages in particular often have environmental considerations, too. For instance, there is one where you’re essentially fighting on a seesaw over a poison lake. In one fight you have to protect generators from receiving too much damage from mutant slugs, and in another you have to dodge a piece of scaffolding that is being swung through the battle. In one memorable fight, you have to use a construction mech to attack a horde of biohazard creatures! There are often areas in dungeons that’ll test your platforming abilities more than your combat ones. Some of the more memorable (and sometimes stress-inducing) areas include trying to get through puzzles of moving instant death lasers or one instance where you have to navigate an obstacle course while being pursued by an interdimensional horror ball.

ANNO: Mutationem is a challenging game in terms of its combat and platforming elements; however, none of these challenges are insurmountable. Often, simply upgrading your gear whenever possible can very well make all the difference in battle. True, it might take you a few times to finally figure out just what to do and how to implement that strategy, but you’ll often have a bit of a “Hurrah!” moment when you triumph at last. Combat and platforming are fast, fluid, and — most importantly — fun! Unless I never felt rushed or too insanely stressed out while playing even if I had to continue a fair bit. The game helpfully auto saves frequently and provides numerous spots to manually save as an added boon in this regard.

A skill tree screenshot from ANNO: Mutationem.
Ann’s skill tree is quite robust.

Aside from traveling by foot or car, special teleportation spots sporadically placed throughout the various areas also allow for fast travel. This saves quite a bit of hassle when needing to upgrade equipment, restock supplies, or complete various side quests. At first, your backpack allows you to only carry five items at a time; however, the item limit can be increased using Grom points. Cycling through equipped items simply uses a quick press of the controller’s directional buttons and is easy enough to do even though the number of items you can ultimately equip can seem a bit unwieldy.

The biggest issue I had with the gameplay was that the controls themselves could be a little finicky. It was easy to overreach during platform segments if you pressed just so on a button, and cycling your healing items and other usable items could be a bit distracting in hectic fights, making it easy to accidentally end up selecting the wrong item. It’s not enough to ever become overly-detrimental to enjoyment of the game, but it can be annoying in the heat of the moment.

ANNO: Mutationem‘s eye-catching graphics and visual style are very reminiscent of anime. The game utilizes 2D sprites on a 3D plane, which is absolutely beautiful in motion and sets the title apart. The setting and character designs are fitting for the cyberpunk aesthetic the designers were going for, and I loved the contrast between the bright and dark elements of the graphics. Even the way certain scenes are angled and presented helps further tell the story and convey emotion, and I also love the expressive character thought bubbles that were sometimes used overhead to help showcase a character’s reactions.

A dialogue screenshot from ANNO: Mutationem.
Yes, there is a cyborg corgi barkeep. He is awesome.

The music and voice acting for ANNO are both excellent. The score in particular really helps capture the sense of a dystopian cyberpunk setting wonderfully, and dungeon area tracks help keep you motivated during the exploration and battle segments of the game. The English language voice acting is pretty fitting and helps to further enhance the plot. The actors for Ryan, Ann, and Ayane were standouts amongst the cast, though a certain scene involving Ann’s father Holz harassing “Santa Claus” was made all the more priceless by his voice actor’s impeccable delivery. The script and localization was written rather well for the most part, too, with very little typos or grammatical errors to speak of. The only odd thing was that the voice acting often enough didn’t exactly match up to what the subtitles were saying, but it was relatively close enough in spirit that it was only a minor annoyance when it happened.

The characters in ANNO: Mutationem are quite colorful and interesting, with Ann being a particular standout as far as video game protagonists go and Ayane being a bright ray of sunshine even in really dire situations when it was sorely needed. Their very strong bond was a narrative highlight. I wish the other cast members had been explored more though, as several were quite interesting in their own rights. Ann’s family are great examples of this, as is Ann and Ayane’s mysterious boss Raymond or the doctor who helps keep Ann’s berserk tendencies in check. There’s a talking mechanized corgi barkeep that I would loved to have seen more of, a man who lives in the sewers, helpful/not-so-helpful alley cats, and there are even two interesting VA-11 HALL-A cameos. A mysterious woman in a fox mask who seems to only appear for Ann, merchants with corn for their heads, and all sorts of shady scientists with their own backstories could’ve easily been explored more as well. I greatly enjoyed the plot and build-up of ANNO: Mutationem but I got the sense at times, particularly towards the later stages of the game, that it was only scratching the surface of the full story and hinting at more. It doesn’t feel like an incomplete game, but it feels like it could have been even longer. Though that might just be a testament to how much I ultimately ended up enjoying the time I spent playing the game, I can also imagine others having the same impression.

The fact that there are multiple ports to play ANNO on is also in its favor. It should be noted that I played the game on a base PS4, and so long as I kept the game updated I didn’t have any troubles save for an occasional long loading time. Overall, it is a solid cyberpunk adventure with a surprising amount of content that I can wholeheartedly recommend for those who enjoy the genre. ANNO: Mutationem was very much a blast to play from the very beginning through to the end credits. I certainly hope that we’ll get to see more of its fun world and characters in the future, as the game left me feeling like there should be more to come!


Engrossing cyberpunk tale with some colorful characters, wealth of content, gorgeous visuals, excellent atmospheric music, challenging and engaging combat, and platforming elements.


Controls can be finicky at times, voice acting and script don't always match, story feels too short, occasional long loading times on PS4, players should always be sure to keep the game updated.

Bottom Line

ANNO: Mutationem is a brief-yet-solid cyberpunk adventure game with robust RPG elements.

Overall Score 86
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Audra Bowling

Audra Bowling

Audra Bowling is a reviewer for RPGFan. She is a lover of RPGs, Visual Novels, and Fighting Games. Once she gets onto a subject she truly feels strongly about, like her favorite games, she can ramble on and on endlessly. Coffee helps keep her world going round.