Exposed to a mysterious mutagen, the bodies of large numbers of Dark Sector inhabitants have begun to gruesomely distort from the mutant syndrome - as have your own…
Mutant Syndrome is the second mission expansion pack for Escape the Dark Sector. It tackles with new mutant enemies and the key new mechanic revolves around your crewmen mutating and the benefits/penalties that come along with it. On top of this it expands on the base game contents with more encounters, new mutation item cards and a new boss. Similar to the first Mission Pack.
It does however deviate in that it also adds three new crewmen, complete with die that have a new variant of symbol on the facing which gives them a versatile and varied role from your standard crew.
The main new additions to the game are the crewmembers and the mutation power. The three new crewmen vary from your core crew in that they are aliens rather than humans and as such have a unique die face. The mixed double. A terrifying result that counts as a double in two different stats and also has the benefit of acting as a block result in melee. This gives the new crewmembers a very versatile role to play and can really be a benefit with some of the encounters and combats.
The mutations come through the new mutation item cards. These are automatically equipped to the drawing player and they roll the new mutation die to see how it affects them. These mutations can have powerful one-time use effects or if you roll badly they may be a hindrance that occupies valuable inventory room. They can however be removed between encounters at the cost of some hp or removed via some other means (e.g. the medic drone in the first mission pack).
There is finally the new boss to talk about. The Mutanoid is a bizarre and twisted amalgam that looks like it stepped out of a John Carpenter film and gains random abilities every turn based on the mutation die as he rapidly mutates. It is another tough fight but the new mutations and crewmen can give you a slight edge against them.
The encounter cards add to the core element of the game and are all based around the concept of mutation ranging from radioactive waste spills, to mutant hunters and newly mutating threats.
Some of these encounters have unique interactions with the new mutation cards. For instance, the mutant hunter will target the crew member with the most current mutations. There are also some new regular items cards albeit few in number but these can be shuffled into the core deck and used without any issue. The art is blistering as to be expected from the Dark Sector franchise and is suitably gruesome with some fairly horrific looking mutants to square off against.
It really helps to sell the dark and grim atmosphere of the game and half the pleasure of gaining new encounters it to see the artwork that take prevalence on the cards themselves. The other components are also of high quality and fit within the theme of the game
This is a solid expansion that adds a fun new mechanic as well as expanding on the core loop found in the Dark Sector. The theme is strong and well conveyed and the quality is excellent as always with these games.
The one reservation I have is that this expansion can ramp up the difficulty and losing inventory slots can be a punishing restriction. But I believe this expansion is best kept back for the first few playthroughs if you are completely new to the game. The first mission pack seems a lot more suitable for an initial expansion pick but Mutant Syndrome definitely mixes up a playthrough and although not as agency giving as the first expansion it does mix up the game in an exciting and thematic way.