Mutant Year Zero: Road To Eden – review

  • Format: PS4 (version reviewed), PC, Xbone
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Funcom
  • Developer: The Bearded Ladies Consulting
  • Players: 1
  • Site: https://www.mutantyearzero.com/#1
  • Game code provided by PR

Although the first characters you meet (and, indeed, control) are a talking duck named Dux and a talking boar named Bormin, this isn’t a kids’ game. There are rude words and everything. And while it seems lazy to say ‘it’s like X-Com’, it is a bit, so… let’s go with that.

The game takes place in the aftermath of a nuclear war so completely devastating, details of life before the apocalypse have been almost completely lost, and pre-Brexit (sorry, pre-apocalypse) people are known as the mysterious “Ancients”. This is effectively played for deadpan laughs from time to time, as the purposes of items and buildings are completely misunderstood by good guys and bad guys alike. Generally the story is played straight, but this is a game that never has its tongue too far from the inside of its cheek.

Our feathered friend and his porky chum live in the Ark, a grubby and ramshackle – but safe – construct that shelters many of those left living from the harsh remains of the Earth. Somebody essential to the smooth running of the Ark soon goes missing, and this is potentially connected to the legend of a place containing secrets of the past, known as Eden. Good a reason as any for you and a parade of enemies to politely take turns shooting each other in the face.

Those 100% hit chance notifications are rare, trust us.

So, this is – and we may have already given the game away here – a game with turn-based combat. Each character can perform two actions per turn, although firing a weapon ends the turn even if it’s the first thing they do. You’ll need to move characters around for the best balance between cover and hit probability on your enemies, as well as choose your moments for reloading and healing wisely. So far, so similar to a whole bunch of other games. But there’s more to it here.

Gameplay outside of combat is real-time. While exploring the environments for weapons, armour, and the two types of currency is extremely important, deciding how, where, and when you initiate combat is vital to progress. If one of your party stumbles into an enemy’s field of vision, combat begins whether you like it or not, and you lose all control of the situation. Caution is advised.

Even on the lowest available difficulty, stealth is essential to success. Each area is full of enemies, and in some situations, taking them all on at once makes for a virtually impossible task. The best idea therefore is to identify those with patrol patterns that isolate them, and take them out without their friends noticing. Rinse and repeat as many times as possible to thin out the numbers. That’s not as simple as it sounds, though. You’ll need to take into account enemy HP relative to the current damage output of your weapons, the fact that you’ll almost certainly have to stick to your (weaker) silent kit, maximising your hit probability, incapacitating the enemy so they don’t alert others at the end of your turn… planning an ambush of a single enemy often requires more thought than launching a full-on assault.

A giant talking duck. In a top hat. With a rifle. There is literally nothing to dislike about this.

When engaging multiple enemies is unavoidable, there’s still plenty to think about. Your first strike is often the most important one. Do you go for the Tank, which will take the most hits to go down? Or the Med Bot, with the irritating habit of resurrecting fallen enemies? Best concentrate on the Shaman, perhaps, who will summon extra minions as soon as he’s spooked. Or maybe you’ve progressed far enough to encounter the leaders who can temporarily control the mind of one of your crew…

Your characters are mutants (clue’s in the name) and as you level up, you’ll earn points which can be spent on mutations. We found Bormin’s Hog Rush – which knocks a single enemy out for a few turns – to be invaluable, especially when taking down a single tough enemy silently. Dux’s Moth Wings send him flying into the air, giving him a better view of foes on the battlefield. Magnus’s Puppeteer ability, meanwhile – if it succeeds – gives you control of a bad guy for a few turns (though frustratingly, you are unable to attack a controlled enemy).

This is a game that demands you think, and as a result, each hard-won victory is immensely satisfying. Still, there are a few irritations. You’ll have a total of five mutants in your group eventually, for example, yet your active party is forever limited to three. As a result, there’s one character we never once brought into combat, as they didn’t offer anything that wasn’t already available via somebody else.

Enemies don’t respawn. After each battle, everybody you killed stays dead (assuming you won, of course). By the end of the game therefore, you have a posse of buffed-up mutants, piles of in-game cash, very powerful guns, a fully opened map… and absolutely no reason to carry on playing. The toughest fight in the game is optional, but it’s also entirely possible for you to accidentally (and irreversibly) lock it out of the game. It’s an experience begging for a New Game Plus mode, and we hope one is added down the line.

Some of the acting is dodgy (we’re looking at you, Elder), it’s a little buggy (entering a new area almost always makes the sound glitch for a few seconds), the difficulty is very uneven (things generally start off very tough and get much easier, rather than the other way around), and the ending could’ve done with a bit of work (it provides more questions than answers, and feels incomplete). Yet we thoroughly enjoyed our time in this ruined world, and would happily go back if we got that New Game Plus we wanted.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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