I didn’t know a lot about Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden. Saying that might even be an understatement, in-retrospect. I can remember seeing a teaser trailer for Mutant Year Zero and immediately knowing it was something I was interested in, however. An apocalyptic setting with a twist, and I don’t know who I’d be if I ever missed the chance to play as a talking duck. I was surprised when the title showed up on the Microsoft Store in early-December, because I didn’t know it was that far along in-development and I didn’t remember hearing a release date. I was even more surprised when I found out it was added to Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription-service on-launch.
I hadn’t bothered with a Game Pass subscription in over a year, and so, it was a cool coincidence I decided to renew it right as Mutant Year Zero was added. I was a little skeptical when I finally beheld Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden and the sum of its parts. I had only seen a teaser trailer, and so, I didn’t know the slightest about its game-play mechanics or how it’d work. When I saw actual game-play footage, an immediate comparison I made was with XCOM, a series I’d never been able to get into like some have. Suffice to say, turn-based strategy role-playing video-games aren’t usually my cup of tea. Regardless, I stuck with Mutant Year Zero. After a couple weeks, I have completely played through the campaign, and feel ready to share my thoughts over it.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden was developed by The Bearded Ladies and published by Funcom, it was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in December 2018, and is based on the tabetop role-playing game Mutant Year Zero. As suggested, the setting in Mutant Year Zero is apocalyptic. After the Earth more-or-less died out because of all-out war and the inability to replenish natural resources, the remainder of living life-forms were forced to make due with whatever scraps they could scavenge. Acting as our two main-protagonists, a mutated hog named Hammond and a mutated duck named Dux band together, traveling further out from their sanctuary, aptly named The Ark, than ever before, in-search of answers and in-search of the mysterious Eden. Mutant Year Zero’s genre will no doubt be familiar to some, but remains relatively niche in the gaming world. Scouting throughout the wasteland, the player is able to traverse different sections, most of which are crawling with enemies. Although certain obstacles might appear unmatchable at first, as you progress, you’ll find tactical ways to clear areas and defeat enemies. As you roam an area, you have the choice to go in guns blazing for an all-out war, sneak beyond enemies to save them for a later date, or, if you have a silent weapon or have enough distance between other groups, you can break enemies off and eliminate them incrementally. Throughout levels, you’ll be able to discover items usable in combat, like weaponry, or items that can be traded for special weapon-upgrades, or scrap that can be cashed in for med-kits or something else you might need.
Although exploration is limited and rudimentary, it’s a welcome inclusion that allows you to take in the scenery, bolstered by budgeted, but aesthetically appeasing visuals. I think the visual presentation is actually one of the key-factors for why I was able to stick with Mutant Year Zero for the long-haul, whereas other video-games of the same ilk lose me much earlier because they don’t have a distinct visual presence. The character models and the desolate, dreary environments were a highlight for me.
The technical weak-points are visible in various ways, but, thankfully, aren’t damning on any account. I encountered several smaller glitches, such as being able to fall into a mountain of blackness, losing your characters in a limbo of sorts, and larger glitches like crashes and sound-related hiccups (sometimes enemy audio would repeat, overlapping itself with the same line, and sometimes I would hear loud static in areas for no discernible reason). None of them were game-breaking or problems that deeply hurt my experience.
The game-play is fun and straightforward, with rounds taking an extensive amount of time or only brief intervals, depending on which tactic you decide to approach with.
Although I could have done without some of the gimmicky adversaries, like the Tank who bulldozers over to one of your characters and incapacitates them for several turns, and would’ve preferred longer, more robust stretches of back in fourth. It isn’t the inclusion of the gimmicky adversaries, because I like how they force you to change up your strategies, but they felt overexposed.
The best moments in Mutant Year Zero are definitely the senses of accomplishment after surviving a massive onslaught of enemies, besting a section you’d previously been afraid to even attempt.
The animation during battles is mostly well-executed, but, once more, there are a few mentionable criticisms – certain characters who join your team spout lines loudly and repetitively, so much so I lowered the volume of the voice-characters to compensate. Also, certain shots miss enemies. This makes sense in many instances. A shotgun shouldn’t be able to snipe an enemy and depending on structural integrity, and this and that, most guns shouldn’t be able to pierce cover. However, a problem prevalent in my experience showed shots with no chance to hit their target even if they were in melee distance, likely because they’re right in-front of a doorway or something else, which is wrongly perceived as a barrier.
The story-line takes a backseat to the game-play on all accounts, told through dialogue in-game that is at times cringe-worthy (there’s an obsession with saying “what the duck” or other animal-related puns) or through cut-scenes, which are comprised of still-images with voices overlaying them. In this respect, it simply doesn’t do a whole lot.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden isn’t without its fumbles, whether it be technical or for coming up short in some key areas, but it does succeed at offering a fun, enjoyable turn-based strategy-game, that was able to keep me entertained from beginning to end. Regardless of what I might think could have done better, that no doubt means something in its favor.
Placement on the List: The Decents