If there’s one thing I can say about Mutant Year Zero, it is the best mutated duck and pig dress up game that I have played in a long time.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a tactical strategy game with real time stealth elements. Developed by Bearded Ladies Consulting and published by Funcom, Mutant Year Zero was released December 4, 2018 with very high praise.
You play as a group of Stalkers, protectors of the last known settlement, the Ark. Venturing out into the post-apocalyptic wasteland known as ‘The Zone’, you are tasked with finding another Stalker, Hammon, who has gone missing with his team in search of the fabled Eden.
Mutant Year Zero unapologetically borrows gameplay elements from the XCOM series, citing it as one of their inspirations for their game. Bearded Ladies Consulting don’t just rip things like the combat and call it a day, but rather modify it and make it their own, with the original template still shining through.
The combat is in classic tactical strategy game style where each person has a specific number of actions they can take in a turn, with some of these actions ending the turn early. Hit percentages go up and down by quarterly percentages, so if you only have a 50% chance to hit, you move closer to get a better shot, then you’ll have 75% or 100% chance to hit.
There is full and half cover, but it can be difficult to tell what is cover and what isn’t. Occasionally, I’ve found it confusing why some sections of something like a crashed plane are considered cover while others aren’t.
Stealth is done in real time instead of turned based like it was in XCOM 2. With this system, you can ambush enemies who have separated from their friends and take them out silently, making combat with the other enemies easier. You could also avoid your enemies all together and sneak through to the next area, but when doing this, you may miss out on loot.
You can have three people in your squad that you can switch out with other mutants you meet along your journey. Each character has a different set of abilities, which are referred to as mutations that make them well suited for different kinds of enemies and combat.
Weapons, upgrades, and armor are found in chests throughout the world than the games, which is a nice change from the research-based upgrades of games like XCOM.
Along with finding weapons, upgrades, and armor out in the Zone, you will also find scrap, weapons parts, and artifacts. Weapon parts are used to upgrade weapons to the next level, increasing regular and critical damage. Scrap is used to purchase things like grenades and med-kits. Artifacts are used to buy squad wide upgrades that affect every member of your group, things like increased critical hit chance against a certain type of enemy or more healing from med-kits.
I had a lot of fun with the time I spent with Mutant Year Zero, but did get annoyed by two things in particular.
Firstly, I don’t like the quarterly hit chance system. It feels as though all the careful planning that goes into positioning your characters is wasted when there is still a 25% chance you may miss because the enemy is behind low cover.
Secondly, it’s hard to appreciate the work I’m sure went into designing the areas when there is a heavy fog that makes finding your way around difficult. Since everything looks very similar when shrouded in fog, it’s hard to tell if you’ve explored some sections of the area or not, meaning you either end up looping around a lot, exploring areas you’ve already picked clean, or you miss some sections of the area entirely.
With my issues aside, there were many things I loved about Mutant Year Zero.
The characters speak up about the situation they find themselves in or the world around them. Sometimes it’s a small quip from an individual, usually the one you’re controlling, other times it’s a conversation between two or three of the characters. These moments help us connect with the characters and flesh them out.
While their personalities are somewhat cookie cutter and almost cliche, the voice acting and how the characters play off each other make it very easy to look this over and enjoy.
I also enjoyed the fact that you would occasionally spot some enemies that were too hard for you at the moment, but could come back and take care of later. This gives you a sort of personal sidequest in your mind, this thing that you’re building up to come back to later.
If you can look past the quarterly hit chance system or at least grit your teeth and bare it, then you will enjoy Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden.