Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden Review
Released last December by developer The Bearded Ladies Consulting and publisher Funcom, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a turn-based tactical RPG that utilizes elements of real-time stealth and an intriguing storyline to bring an experience that can only be described as a next-level XCOM. The devs draw this parallel themselves, and with the two so closely linked, one has to wonder if Mutant Year Zero can do enough to set itself apart from its own inspiration. Let’s dive in and find out!
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is based off of the tabletop game, Mutant Year Zero. As I am unfamiliar with the original game I cannot speak to its authenticity but from what I have read from others, the setting and lore remain very true to the tabletop version, which is always a relief for games that are adapted from older formats.
Upon starting the game for the first time, you find yourself immediately thrown into the action and in control of two lovable misfit mutant stalkers, Bormin and Dux. This is the basis of your squad, which you will add to later, whom you control as you navigate the dangers of The Zone.
The various controls and mechanics are explained to you in a hasty, as-they-come-up fashion, which is a bit of an issue for me. I personally learn best when I get a true-blue tutorial that gives me a solid foundation for gameplay and mechanics. Nevertheless, the game does explain everything that you and your opponents are doing, just in a less structured manner.
One thing that becomes immediately evident is how seamlessly Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden combines its real-time stealth and exploration with its turn-based tactical combat. It is quite a rewarding balance between free-roaming around the various sectors of The Zone to gather scrap, weapon parts and artifacts (used to purchase and upgrade your equipment and unlock special team-wide abilities) and maneuvering around your opponents to isolate and silently take down as many as possible before engaging in full-scale combat.
The fact that it provides a distinct advantage to use your characters intelligently in this real-time roaming gameplay creates a real need to stop and analyze the situation before executing your plan to perfection. It is not a stretch to say this game marries Hitman with XCOM, which should not come as a surprise seeing as how the developers have clearly stated XCOM was the inspiration for this game and it was worked on by several members of the Hitman team.
As you work your way through The Zone, tackling groups of enemies along the way, you will notice that the unique style of this game allows for a much richer development of storyline than the likes of XCOM, which only tells its own story through cutscenes that exist almost exclusively outside of gameplay. MYZ: Road to Eden, however, has plenty of opportunities to share its story with you while you search the vast wastelands around you, often through the discovery of left-behind documents and mementos.
While the upgrading system may not be as in-depth as other tactical turn-based games like XCOM, it still features a host of weaponry, attachments and armor to equip, as well as offering mutations that are uniquely available by character. These mutations can drastically change your playstyle, so do not underestimate them!
While there are multiple difficulty settings to choose, from time to time you may still find yourself up against a wall where you are trying and failing the same combat scenario over and over. The devs themselves have some words of wisdom for those of us stuck in these situations. Take it slow, start silent and isolate enemies, take cover in combat, return to the Ark often (for upgrades) and check EVERY corner of the Zone for enemies and equipment, to improve both your characters and the gear they use.
This game is one of the most elegantly-crafted tactical turn-based games I have had the pleasure to enjoy. The seamless integration with real-time roaming and positioning offers a truly unique blend of gameplay that will keep you coming back for more. If you are even a moderate fan of games like XCOM and are open to trying something new, you will NOT be disappointed with Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden.