Whoever thought that the Summer releases would slow down in August, think again! With Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, publisher Funcom and developer Bearded Ladies are delivering a damn cool game that can best be seen and played.
From the announcement I had my eyes on Mutant Year Zero. In terms of look and feel you can describe the game as the result of a wild night, let’s say a threesome, with lots of alcohol and drugs between Fallout 1, Fallout 2 and XCOM. The game contains a fascinating, very successful, mix of real-time exploration, stealth, RPG elements and turn-based combat. But for the correctness: Mutant Year Zero is based on the Swedish pen and paper RPG of the same name from 2014.
In a post-apocalyptic world plagued by natural disasters, deadly diseases (Red Plague) and nuclear disasters, almost nothing remains of humanity. Those who survived have withdrawn to a floating outpost called The Ark, where one Elder waves the scepter. Those who did not make it are rotting or are mutated in to Ghouls, mutilated beings who are after everything and everyone, and in particular the residents of The Ark. It is in this anything but pleasant and fun game world that I have to bring an ultimate search and rescue mission to a successful conclusion.
A duck and pig as characters?
Fortunately I am not alone. I get help from Stalkers, mutated beings, who, commissioned by Ark leader The Elder, call the outside world, The Zone, in search of useful materials to keep the last bit of humanity alive.
I would like to introduce you to the boar Bormin (tank), the duck Dux (sniper), the Huntress Selma (silent) and devious fox Farrow (shotgun). Each of them has their own unique weapons, mutations and abilities, but more about that later. Nice here is that each character has its own characteristics, and has comments on the others. Which means that sometimes a smile appears on my face when I hear them giving remarks on each other.
Combat is a bitch, but a good one
The turn-based combat is spicy, at times even very spicy. But the feeling when I managed to win a battle was one of great satisfaction: FUCK YEAH! In this way I always faced a force majeure, with better weapons than myself, and I had to use different tactics every time to defeat the Ghouls.
In battle you have two action points that allow you to move your squad (three units) across the battlefield, entering Overwatch, reload, heal or attack. If I approached Stealthy enough, keep an eye on that red / white circle, then I can ambush and I get priority at the start of a fight. If I was discovered, the opponent was allowed to make a first move. And I had to collect passively.
It was always a matter of choosing a good position that offered me a good overview of the opposition, if possible, an advantage in the fight (high ground or in buildings) and provided me with sufficient cover.
At the bottom of the screen you will see the available options and if you aim your weapon at an opponent, you will see how much chance you have of hitting it, criticizing it and how many bars you eat away from its health bar in the event of a hit. (Until your character misses grrrrr) All this is portrayed very nicely, well-arranged and user-friendly. The camera works well with you and will never obstruct the overview.
Are you planning to fight, always scout the environment, estimate the opposition, try to eliminate isolated units first and take into account the builds / possibilities of your boys. Now if you read allof this then you might say that this sounds like the setup of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, and it is! But it isn’t perfectly like it either.
Mutant Year Zero contains a (limited) RPG system. By eliminating opponents, you earn XP that will raise the entire team’s level. You can then use the earned points to assign Mutations (passive perks) or active Abilities. On your adventure you also collect scrap (money), weapon parts (to upgrade your weapons), artifacts (recognizable utensils from a bygone era), gear, notes and other useful items. So, just like in any other RPG, you can pimp your character in terms of gear, weapons and stats. Each Stalker can carry two weapons, two grenades / molotovs, has a backpack to collect loot, and can wear a helmet and armor. In The Ark I can upgrade my weapons / gear / mods (Delta’s Fix Pit), or buy new ones (Irridia’s Shop) and hand in my Artifacts and purchase extra slots or other benefits (Pripp’s Place).
Audio and visuals
In terms of graphics and audio, there is nothing to criticize. The voice actors do a good job, also with the Ghouls, the ambient sounds and the music contribute to the atmosphere and the sound effects in the battles are good.
The environments look like you would expect from a post-apocalyptic landscape. Car wrecks overgrown with grass and rust, ruins, crashed helicopters, tunnels with stacked corpses, abandoned tent camps and other features that you recognize from disaster films. In all of this, it is particularly striking how much detail has been incorporated into the various environmental elements, the characters and the folders.
There could have been a bit more variety in the type of opponent, but that does not alter the fact that I have bitten my teeth often enough on those damn Ghouls, robots, cult members and named mobs. I have climbed the steep learning curve by falling, getting up, learning, trying and above all a lot of saving.
In addition, the RPG system could also be a little more extensive and there could be a bit more variety in terms of gear and weaponry. The possibilities are available, so it is a shame that the team did not fully exploit it.
Mutant Year Zero is a title that is worthy of your attention if you are a lover of the genre. The Switch release is 45 euros/dollars, which isn’t a cheap price, but you should definitely not ignore the game that is good for about 15 to 20 hours of fun. The unique characters and setting, the spicy combat and the fascinating mix of gameplay elements will more than once bring both a smile on your face and a curse on your tongue. The fact that it could all be a little more is proof that the bearded ladies have made me want more. Their ideas are good and the foundations have been laid, I hope the team will continue along this line and continue to support the game (or its successor).
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a game that should be on your to play list if you are a lover of the strategy RPG genre.