Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden made me realise that it’s been a while since I’ve played a turn-based strategy game. It’s a genre I like and remember enjoying quite a bit, but for some reason haven’t delved too much into it in a few years now. Mutant Year Zero fits into the genre well and for what it is, it feels quite good.
At first, when I watched the trailer of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, I was expecting a post-apocalyptic FPS game. In fact, I had watched several gameplay videos before trying it myself, however, and realized that wasn’t the case. When I showed some friends the game, they shrugged it off and commented about how they don’t like those types of games. But then again these are the types of people who think that first-person shooters are the only games available.
I myself prefer something with a little more thought in it. I like survival, I like RPG, I like strategy games… and yes, I do often enjoy shooters.
The trailer then had not done justice to Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, that’s not to say the trailer was bad, it wasn’t, but it left me with the impression the game fit into an entirely different genre, that does change your perception.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a post-apocalyptic strategy RPG. You play the role of a team of ‘stalkers.’ These are mutants whose job is to explore the wasteland looking for resources that ‘the Ark’ (your home base) needs to stay alive. As your team levels up, they can acquire new abilities. You can collect weapon upgrades or different armours that might grant some special abilities which will affect how you play a certain character (maybe with this item you’ll charge in more, or with that one you’ll look for the high-ground more often). And of course, there will be medkits or different types of grenades you can find to help you out.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is single-player and very heavily story based. The story itself and the gameplay are excellent, and as I play through the game, I found I was enjoying myself greatly. Although I don’t like leaving enemies un-killed. So far, I’ve found that I’ve had to sneak past a few encounters that were just un-winnable. I’m uncertain if I can return later to finish them off properly.
I’m only part way through the story, but so far, I have to say I am really enjoying Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden and highly recommend it if you like this style of game. Now for the nitty-gritty.
I think this game would make for an excellent open-world game. Have the Ark be your safe-zone/base of operations. From there you should be able to explore the world to your heart’s content, bringing back supplies to keep things running and everyone alive. Maybe with the main story either featuring prominently or even as an afterthought, depending on where you want to focus your energies. Different areas of the map would naturally be off-limits due to enemy strength, the map could even have level recommendations before you choose to head to a zone, but nothing artificial should prevent you from going there if you want to challenge yourself.
Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen so far, the game itself is very linear. As you level up you unlock areas of the world to explore. You can’t go to an area that you aren’t a high enough level for. This is likely due to the story. You can’t explore areas that are needed for the plot later. However, in today’s age of large open-world games, go anywhere, do anything, this feels artificially limiting. It takes a little effort to scale back my expectations to wrap my head around being told where to go and when.
The levels themselves are similarly limiting. They are completely enclosed, with an entry point and one or more exit points. You need to navigate through the level as you see fit. However, the levels themselves aren’t particularly big, nor do they allow a lot of variation on how to navigate them. This leads to levels feeling a little ‘on rails,’ even though they technically aren’t, particularly when you are forced through choke points for plot purposes.
Now this isn’t to say that this is bad. It’s a design choice, one which goes against a style of gameplay (open-world) which I particularly like. If you don’t mind being led through the game so you can focus more on the story and plot rather than exploring, then you probably won’t find this a big deal.
So far I’m enjoying the RPG aspects a lot. The leveling up of the characters is intuitive and fun, with a clear feeling of progress as your character gets stronger. It’s well balanced and doesn’t progress too quickly or slowly as you go through the game.
The upgrade mechanic for the weapons seems good too, requiring you to find or buy weapon upgrades that affect how it performs without making it overpowered. I’m a bit of a min-maxer, so I try to focus my character progression and weapon upgrades to complement each other.
One of the little details I like most is when you apply a certain upgrade or piece of armour to your character, you’ll see them wearing or using that item in the actual game (not just on the character screen).
The graphics are particularly good. With strategy games I often expect anything other than the characters and enemies to be static images, and I often don’t expect the best level of detail, however, I was impressed with what I saw. The graphics are smooth and clear. The lights and shadows flow naturally and really add to the ambience. Along with the excellent quality for the intro movie and trailers, I am pleased with the graphics in general. That’s why I was taken aback by the absolutely horrendous facial animations in the cut-scenes.
Now I don’t mean the narration that happens over the pictures which advance the plot. That’s fine and a clear design choice that works well for the game. I’m talking about when you see a character animated and talking. It’s hard to describe, the facial features don’t flow, and the whole thing feels choppy and unnatural. It would have been better to do away with it altogether and simply leave the audio playing over a stylistic static image again. I mean when you see it, it’s so jarring that I couldn’t just overlook it and not bring it up. Is it a game breaking issue? No, not even close. But it’s hard to overlook when everything else seemed to be so good.
Overall, I recommend the game if you like Strategy RPGs. The graphics are nice, and the gameplay is fun and intuitive. The only thing I’d have liked to see different is a more open world, feeling like you can go anywhere and do anything rather than being told where to go, when to go there and what to do. But at least a great story makes up for it.
Strategy RPG at its finest
- Gameplay - 84%84%
- Graphics - 88%88%
- Sound - 91%91%
- Longevity - 81%81%
- Value - 76%76%