One of Funcom’s most interesting and original titles yet, mainly thanks to its premise and visual style. We’ve been eagerly anticipating Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden for a while now, so we were thrilled to finally play it. It’s out now on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC – and we tested the Xbox One version.
Although the existence of Mutant: Year Zero was known for a while, our interest didn’t really spark until E3 and Gamescom this year. At the latter event, I got to play a hands-on demo of a good chunk of the game after a colleague recommended I try out what The Bearded Ladies has come up with. Initially, that meant getting over my own misconception that this was going to be another MMO, since it was going to be published by Funcom and that was about all I knew at that point. Sorry for the typecasting guys!
Perhaps my ignorance worked wonders though, because I was extremely pleasantly surprised. Mutant Year Zero is a mix of XBOX-like tactical gameplay mixed with team-based stealth RPG action. It’s also a crazy combination of post-apocalyptic fantasy and protagonists that may act and sound human, but are actually giant mutations of familiar animals – including a giant duck with a sniper rifle. Not following the “aliens vs humans” approach of XCOM, Mutant Year Zero has a setup with characters you instantly want to know more about.
Although my description above might sound like the game has the potential to be a little silly and frivolous, it is anything but. The atmosphere is often dark, the tone grim and the attitude and violence are very much of the “in your face” variety at times. Everything fits well with the main characters though, which is a duo that quickly makes more friends.
Since you’re after someone who went missing from safety of your camp (the Ark), exploration in enemy territory plays a large part in your adventure. In almost classic RTS style, clearing a stage means you gain a friendly area on the world map as well – but sneaking around initially is crucial as you prepare for (or avoid) combat.
Confrontation doesn’t happen right away, but starts when you engage the enemy (preferably taking them by surprise) or they notice you sneaking about. Everything prior to the combat portion is in real time, and allows for a great amount of careful positioning as you set up your ideal position before engaging. It’s immensely satisfying to steer clear of an enemy’s gaze and then attack, knowing that your superior position will almost guarantee you an easy win. Get caught, and you might struggle to come out alive.
Getting caught also means you’ll probably use up more ammo and supplies, forcing you to look for replacements in the surrounding area – which in turns means you risk exposing yourself once more. It pays to prepare, and very often finding a height difference is a big help. If the scenery doesn’t allow for it, then you can also create the same advantage by developing your characters in a certain way – getting semi-functional wings allows you to briefly levitate and get a shot in from behind cover or from a higher vantage point.
Enemies alert each other to your presence as well, which means you’d better finish them off before they can call in reinforcements if you want a kill without using up too many of your rare supplies. All of these mechanics made the game feel more, well… dynamic than most turn-based affairs tend to be. There are different enemy types that require different tactics, new characters and skills are gradually introduced over time, and the setting remains intriguing throughout the adventure.
I really enjoyed my time with Mutant Year Zero because of this, but its strong character-driven narrative ends sooner than you want it to – which is where the comparison to a game like XCOM 2 doesn’t help in terms of the amount of content on offer here. The structure of the game isn’t necessarily mission-based like XCOM and this doesn’t help replayability, but I had a blast during my playthrough and I’m wondering about and hoping for more Mutant-content down the road – to Eden or anywhere else.