Archives by Day

October 2018

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Funcom
Developer: The Bearded Ladies Consulting
Release Date: Dec. 4, 2018


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 21, 2018 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a tactical adventure game featuring a deep storyline set on a post-human Earth, which combines strategy and the turn-based tactical combat of ‘XCOM’ with real-time exploration and stealth gameplay.

Sometimes, a game wears its inspiration on its sleeve. A single glace at Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden shows that it has a lot in common with the modern reboot of XCOM. This isn't anything the developers are trying to hide or pretend doesn't exist. Rather, the X-COM-style gameplay is used as a framework for this title, which is based on a popular '80s-era, Swedish pen-and-paper RPG of the same name. It's easy for this kind of game to feel derivative — after all, how many battle royale games are there now? — but our time with Mutant Year Zero showed a game that stood well on its own merits.

Our demo at E3 2018 placed us in control of three mutants. Bormin is a sentient pig man with a lot of natural strength and toughness. Dux is a duck-man with a sniper rifle and the ability to fly to otherwise inaccessible locations. Selma is a human woman who can manipulate plants to grapple enemies and hold them in place. We're told that mutations are the biggest defining feature of characters, and the mutations you get can seriously influence how the characters play. The trio is sent to scout a location called the Bone Yard, which is inhabited by evil nasties.

When compared to XCOM, the biggest feature of Mutant Year Zero is that you're not engaging in pre-defined battlefields. Before fights, you're given an open area to explore. You can find secrets, including loot and weapons, by poking around. You also can run into enemies. Rather than being instantly spotted, you can stealthily scout the battlefield and find enemy locations, as well as the position your own troops.

The coolest aspect of this is that stealth becomes a lot more viable and interesting than even in X-COM 2. By scouting out your enemy's location, you can choose when and how to engage. In our demo, it was a terrible idea to go in with guns blazing because enemies were plentiful and strong compared to our three-person team. While it would've been theoretically possible to win, it would've been a struggle. Indeed, my first attempt at taking down the Bone Yard met with rapid defeat.

Instead, I discovered that it's far wiser to take the stealthy route to gradually thin out the odds. Dux and Selma are both equipped with silent weapons (a crossbow and pistol, respectively), and if they kill an enemy before their turn, that prevents the rest of the map from being alerted. Neither weapon was particularly strong, so I had to limit myself to enemies who could be killed in one turn. There were plenty of weaker foes to be culled.

Culling enemies provide breathing room, but as it is with X-COM, the environment matters a lot. When I finally went after one of the high-priority foes (a med-bot), I discovered that I was too exposed and got caught in the crossfire from the surviving enemies. Another failure. My next attempt went far more smoothly. I snuck around, cleared out the chaff, and divided up my heroes. Dux went high, and Selma went behind cover before I used Bormin to engage the enemy's psychic leader. A single round wasn't quite enough to take him down, but it dropped him so low that he was easy to clean out. Since he was down and we now had a strong position to start from, the fight went from overwhelming to manageable.

More than anything else in the demo, that's what makes Mutant Year Zero stand out. The XCOM tactical gameplay was standard for the genre, but the amount of control you have over when and where to engage makes players feel more in control in Mutant than in XCOM. The tactical gameplay is fun, but even more fun is figuring out how to engage, position my soldiers, and use stealth to my advantage before the real fight begins.

We only got a snippet of gameplay, but what we saw was a lot of fun. We spent more time sneaking and plotting than in firefights, but this was very much a case of anticipation making the action better. Seeing the careful plotting pay off added a sense of satisfaction and immersion that's missing from XCOM. If the whole game lives up to the demo, then Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden will be a must-play for any fans of tactical-RPG shooters. The game will be released "when it's done" for the PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

More articles about Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
blog comments powered by Disqus