Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden Review

Posted December 13, 2018 by Kyle Simcox in Video Games

Developer: Bearded Ladies Consulting

Publisher: Funcom

Release Date: December 4th, 2018

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One

In a world where life as we know has been wiped out by a plague and nuclear holocaust, you play as a group of mutant’s known as Stalkers. By relying on their mutations, the Stalkers go out into the Zone and scavenge what the can while protecting the last safe haven on Earth called the Ark from the Ghouls. The story starts out with Bormin and Dux, two Stalkers returning to the Ark with their salvage in hand when they’re given the task to find someone named Hammon, a man who is convinced that a place known as “Eden” exists and has gone off in search of it’s location. The story is decently told but it’s biggest fault is that it ends rather abruptly. Those who take their time though, will find themselves immersed in a world that wants to tell it’s story as it’s filled with lore for players to piece together.

The game’s combat is inspired by games like X-Com but tries to do something a little different with the established formula by blending in adventure and RPG elements as well. Instead of being mission based, players will take their squad of Stalkers and are free to explore the zones they discover to scavenge for supplies and find new gear all the while doing battle with any ghouls who might be in the area. Moving about a zone takes place in real time and when you engage the enemy in combat, the turned based combat begins. While you’re to approach any situation in the way you see fit, the game encourages you to use a more stealthy approach and is(in my humble opinion of course) the most rewarding way to play the game.

Ghouls like their Bormin extra crispy.

Combat in Mutant Year Zero can be frantic if you just rush headlong into battle with your guns blazing but a more stealthy approach allows you to get the drop on the enemy. In most engagements, the enemies will outnumber you. Ghouls like the Shaman can summon reinforcements and the Pyro can flush you out of cover with molotov cocktails while Butchers will hound you by getting up close and personal. If you rely on stealth however, you can stalk straggling Ghouls who break free from their pals and pick them off, one by one, evening the odds or strategically place your units for better positioning in the forthcoming firefight. Some encounters can even be skipped all together. When you are engaged in full blown firefights, you’ll need to keep constant watch of your surroundings as enemies flank and flush you out of cover as you make sure you can fight back. Guns need to be reloaded often, enemies need to be within range and your positioning can affect your line of sight and chances of landing a hit. My biggest issue is that like X-Com, it’s a game that requires almost everything to go right and that inspires just a little too much save scumming because something absolutely will go wrong. It’s just a matter of when and if it’s worth it.

Killing enemies will grant you experience and level up your characters. Your Stalkers can earn new abilities(which can be charged by killing enemies) and perks by leveling up. While the combat is great fun all around, exploring the zones feels a bit more problematic. Each zone is connected to one another via branching paths and while there is a way to find each exit, there isn’t any sort of mini-map to go off of and your squads walks particularly slow. The exclusion of a sprint feature doesn’t help navigating the cluttered post-apocalypse either. Thankfully, once you’ve been to a zone you can fast travel back and forth by using your zone maps. You’ll need salvage and weapon parts to buy equipment and upgrade your guns. Each character can equip two pieces of armor and a primary and secondary weapon and you come across plenty of gear among chests in the wilderness. There are also pieces of old world tech you can grab that can be traded back at the Ark for permanent stat boosts and other benefits. Those things alone make the problems with traversal seem minuscule and will certainly encourage the players to explore and seek out those rewards.

The Ark is where you’ll buy new gear and upgrade the old.

Each zone looks magnificent and the attention to detail is great. Collectibles in the environment have a glow about them that make them easier to pick out and find among the remnants of the old world. The sound effects are okay though and Selma has a rather odd looking character model. I’m also not really a fan of cut scenes that are just still images with voice overs. What I particularly like though is Bormin and Dux’s relationship. The two have this fun, passive aggressive friendship where they berate each other in conversation but congratulate each other on a Ghoul well killed. Your squad only grows as you play the game and new members sign on like Selma(the woman from the trailer), the two you start out with do a phenomenal job and just have a great relationship with one another.

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a fabulous turn-based tactical adventure. Despite a few missteps with how traversal is handled and the story’s rather abrupt ending, the game play makes for an incredibly good time even if it is a little too reliant on save scumming. It can be just as intimidating as X-Com but it’s easier difficulties will almost certainly look a lot more inviting to anyone who wants to get into the genre. The best part is, even the easiest difficulty still offers the player a challenging experience and honestly? That’s what makes it so great.

About the Author

Kyle Simcox