Published on August 18th, 2019 | by Zorbz
REVIEW – Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
REVIEWED BY: SNRUB
Summary: Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a turn-based tactical shooter based on a presumably complex table-top game. It also takes inspiration from games like XCOM while adding stealth-based twists and layers, which means you will either find it very satisfying, or very frustrating.
Concept: You play as Bormin the Boar and Dux the Duck, with a crossbow and shotgun, and a couple of additional characters you meet along the way (you can swap them out and control up to 3 characters). It’s a post-apocalyptic setting with mutant scavengers, against what feels like the rest of the world whose brains have gone rotten because of the war or something. It’s really not clear. You = good guys. Everyone else = crazy jerks. That’s all you need to know, really.
You’re on a rescue mission, but resources are scarce and enemies are tough, which means making decisions on whether to engage in combat, attempting to stealth-kill lone enemies, or skipping battles until you reach a higher level or collect more scrap metal. Grinding. Like a dog in heat, dragging itself along the carpet.
The screenshots here are taken directly from Ver. 2.0.22675 on Switch. Hideous.
Graphics: (Played on Switch) aside from a deceptively impressive pre-rendered cutscene as the game loads, this is easily the worst-looking game I have ever played on Switch. Whether it was in handheld-mode or docked at 1080p on the big-screen, text was too blurry to read, environments were jagged and pixelated and visual detail was washed-out. Bottom line: if you’re going to try this game get it on literally anything else but Switch.
I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to get my eyes tested or if the developers had some sort of contempt for handheld gaming or the Switch in general. Even some in-game menus retain a cursor you need to awkwardly navigate over buttons. I guess they just want you to play on PC instead but good grief was someone forcing them to it on this console? It’s not supposed to look like this.
Gameplay: You can sneak between sections of the game, or fast-travel to areas previously explored, returning to “The Ark” (a series of shops on a menu screen) to spend your nuts and bolts or dead iPods for minor weapon upgrades or perks, and you will be returning to these 3 shops and the mysterious “elder” who rambles a lot.
Some might say this game is “tough”, but once you get the hang of what to upgrade and why, you’re still pretty screwed – even the easiest difficulty skimps out on money (scrap) for upgrades. You’re usually outnumbered, and out-gunned, so the turn-based combat combines a bit of luck, and a bit of forward planning on where to get the drop on enemies while reducing their returning fire.
To even the odds you can stealth-kill single targets, but if you get unlucky they’ll alert the other enemies meaning you might have to constantly re-load to a previously saved version of the game if you didn’t mean to engage in combat… or just watch the inevitable death play out like a train-crash in slow, turn-based motion. There’s no option to run from battles once they start, other than quitting the game in a fit of rage of course.
Sound: The sound mix is bad. Characters voices will go from quiet to loud, recorded at a different times perhaps which breaks any immersion it might have otherwise offered. Characters often shout after a stealth kill for some reason, which just makes me anxiously say “shhh!” like a grumpy old man in the theatre.
I tried testing my Dolby Atmos setup with Mutant Year Zero but it was wasted on this game as there is not much ambient music or noise. The voice actors were definitely the right choice for casting, and do the best they can but they are under-utilised, poorly directed, and often spoke too slowly without having anything interesting to say.
Awesomeness: There’s definitely a demographic for this game (maybe you!) but I learned the hard way after many hours with this game that this genre is just not for me. I’ve never played XCOM before, but if it’s anything like this I probably would rather punch myself in the groin than let another “tactical turn based game” do it for me.
What people like about this game is the punishing difficulty, no free rides, proper challenge that requires careful planning to gain progress. Taking down a number of large enemies and luring them into a path to take out one-by-one can be both satisfying and relieving once combat ends, and making sure you’re able to fight/defend against different types of enemies adds to the challenge, too between organic, mechanical and mind-control enemies.
Final Word: What I look for in a game is fun, and this didn’t feel like fun. I spent many hours back-tracking looking for every piece of scrap metal for every tiny bump to my weapons stats just to progress. It felt more grind-based than skill-based… but it’s a game about scavengers, and I was definitely scavenging for upgrades, so what the heck was I expecting? The game said I shouldn’t even bother playing second part “Seeds of Evil” because apparently I wasn’t good enough.
Anyway, if you liked XCOM you’ll probably like Mutant Year Zero (that’s the sales pitch on Steam at least) – and the game is available on Xbox Gamepass where you can at least see what the hell is going on, but if you have an itchy trigger finger or want an immersive or faster-paced story, or you only have a Switch, maybe skip this one.
Out of 5 Bugs!