After spending a few hours in the post-apocalyptic world of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, I slowly found myself enjoying the genre of strategy RPG’s even more, thanks to developer The Bearded Ladies stellar interpretation on it. There are so many surprises and new ways of approaching the combat that I ended up surprising myself with just how addicted I became with the title for overcoming some difficult moments.
Mutant Year Zero introduces players to a group known as ‘Stalkers’. These mutated individuals provide rations and materials to the last real civilization left, the Ark. After the creator of this structure goes missing, the Stalkers must venture out and bring him back to safety. Throughout your time playing, you will meet new characters and uncover more information about the world and their bleak situation.
Each character brings a unique personality that I found to be one of the best parts of Mutant Year Zero. Throughout the free roaming sections, the party member can talk amongst themselves about various structures and what humans would have possibly used them for. Similarly, each character has a different set of skills and load-outs that need to be understood if you hope to make it through battles. As your characters level up they will gain new skills. Weapons can be upgraded by using materials found out in the world, which can be traded at the Ark.
Gameplay stretches across multiple maps and areas that vary in different environmental themes. Each area allows you to feel explore and search throughout the fallen structures and deserted sites. However, that all changes when the enemy is spotted and the player positions and moves their units behind cover before beginning their attack.
Combat by far is the most interesting and fun feature in Mutant Year Zero. This blend of turn-based combat and real-time exploration give you the opportunity to stealthily approach fights and discover alternative ways to get through the battle. With that being said, the enemy AI is extremely aggressive and will almost always try to rush you if you’re spotted too early. This made some of the battles feel as if there were only one real way to get through them. I was left for dead multiple times in the world, but after trial and error I found my way through the more difficult battles.
Engaging in combat relies heavily on a percentage meter that shows whether or not you’re going to hit the enemy or not. I think it’s fair that Mutant Year Zero does not always give you more than 100% hit chance, but I thought it was sometimes ridiculous to see my bullets fire in all sorts of different directions, even when I’m doing things stealthily. I’m completely okay with a game systematically registering attacks as misses but it is disheartening to spend extra time to have a plan of attack just to have a bullet physically flying around a grunt to no avail.
Fortunately, Mutant Year Zero accomplishes the main goal of setting out to be a fun strategy RPG that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I constantly found myself returning to its world after dieing multiple times to discover the correct way to go about taking out certain enemies. This may also be its greatest downfall, as some fights feel too experimental in execution when all I want to be doing is engaging with the puzzle elements of strategy that demand to be played in a specific way.
Overall, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a game that blew away my expectations and delivered a surprisingly deep and great strategy gameplay system that rivals some of the heavy hitters like XCOM. There is some truly deep themes presented, while also not taking itself too seriously in other aspects, making for an experience you won’t want to put down. While the menus and lack of polish sometimes can be frustrating Mutant Year Zero should not be missed by anyone needing a strategy experience.