Title: Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
Developer: The Bearded Ladies
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Available On: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Official Site: http://mutantyearzero.com
Release Date: PC, PS4, Xbox One: December 4, 2018; Switch: July 30, 2019
Version Tested: Switch
Where to Buy it: Steam, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
The post-apocalyptic wasteland has been a fairly popular setting for video games, with titles like Fallout, Metro 2033, and Horizon: Zero Dawn taking center stage as some of the best examples out there. With such heavy hitters leading the charge, it takes something special and unique to stand out among the crowd; and Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden manages to do just that. While it may not be as popular or well-remembered as its genre contemporaries, there are still some things about Mutant Year Zero that should catch any gamer’s attention.
In the far-flung, war-torn future, life, as we know it today, is all but a myth. Roads and paths which once led to bustling towns now lead to structures barely standing and overtaken by nature. There’s only one person left who knows anything about life before the war — the Elder. You play as a team of Stalkers, mutants who are tasked to scavenge the wasteland for supplies to support their community in the Ark. The Elder has hired your team, made up of Bormin and Dux, to find another Stalker who’s gone missing. Through your adventure, you’ll meet more members for your team, and unravel some of the mysteries about the world at large.
Mutant Year Zero is a turn-based strategy game, similar to games like XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Battles take place on a grid, and characters have two action points per turn to use on things like movement, special abilities, or firing a weapon. After you’ve taken your turns, the enemy acts in kind, taking better positions and taking shots at your team. Each playable character has a skill tree, and the more battles your team completes, the more points you’ll get to spend on those skills. The skills in this game take the form of ‘Mutations,’ and learning them not only adds abilities you can use in combat, but some will also change the physical appearance of your characters. For instance, Dux can earn a mutation that gives him a set of moth wings to more easily take out his enemies from high ground. Mutant Year Zero is unique from other games of this genre, due to its addition of adventuring on top of combat. You’ll take your team through the wasteland, collecting currency, equipment and weapon upgrades along the way. When your team encounters a group of enemies, you have an opportunity to gain the upper hand. You can command your teammates who have silenced weapons to pick off enemies one by one, thinning their numbers and putting the encounter more in your favor. While your team initially starts off with only two members, you’ll meet others that agree with your cause and will join your ranks, offering more diversity to your squad.
Mutant Year Zero is not for the faint of heart, however. If you aren’t familiar with strategy games of this breed, the challenge will be quite high, even on the lowest difficulty setting. A single mistake in combat might lead to your entire team being wiped out, putting you back at your latest save, which for some encounters might be over an hour and a half away- as was the case when the game’s first boss took me out with an unlucky critical hit. There are quite a few difficulty options though, so if you’re an experienced XCOM player, this game definitely won’t bore you. If you aren’t experienced with the genre, however, expect to spend a lot of time restarting missions until you get it just right.
The Switch version of Mutant Year Zero comes with the DLC package Seed of Evil, a roughly 4-hour-long expansion that picks up right where the base game ends. The entire package will give you between 20 and 30 hours of gameplay, depending on how meticulously you play out each combat encounter. While a lot of that time will be spent in combat, a good portion will also be spent exploring the game’s environments to find upgrades and equipment. You’ll spend a good portion of time in the Ark as well, talking to its inhabitants and using their facilities to make your team even stronger.
Verdict: Mutant Year Zero is an interesting game with an original premise — mashing up both adventure gameplay with XCOM-style strategy. While the difficulty of the game may turn off people who are new to the genre, the unique gameplay style, and darkly humorous story might be worth the struggle. While the game isn’t perfect, it still manages to pull a few tricks from its sleeve, and anyone who’s interested in the premise should definitely give it a shot.
- Fully customizable party members
- Engaging storyline
- Deep gameplay systems
- Switch graphics a little lackluster
- Gameplay difficulty can be intimidating
- Some battles take hours with limited save options