Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden aims to bring players into an interesting journey alongside an anthropomorphic duck named Dux and boar, known as Bormin in a post-apocalyptic world. Will it succeed in delivering an interesting run, or will it fall flat?
The game begins as Dux and Bormin are out scavenging for supplies to help the Ark, the last known human settlement. They return after hunting down some scrap to repair objects within the Ark and are advised that Hammon, a man whose journey’s have also become somewhat vital to the Ark’s survival, has gone missing, and are promptly sent on their way. Dux, of course, isn’t too happy with the situation, but Bormin, although admitting he doesn’t want to undergo this journey, states that they have to in order to help the settlement survive, and promptly tells the duck to shut up.
What follows is a journey that sees the duo recruiting three other mutants. The first is Selma, who was on Hammon’s team, and they proceed to encounter the other two later in the game and learn that Eden, a place everybody thought was just a fantasy, may indeed exist after all, and this is what Hammon had decided to seek out. “If Hammon says Eden exists, then it exists,” one bluntly puts it during their search.
The story unfortunately feels like it ends a bit too early with a revelation that is hinted at throughout the game via different journals and books you can find, but holds up well as being a believable reason for the group to continue their journey.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden’s gameplay can essentially be split into a few different phases. The first can be considered open exploration, in which you freely move through the map, scavenging for scrap (which is used as currency), weapon parts (utilized to upgrade your weapons), and artifacts (utilized to unlock various buffs, such as increasing the time it takes for a downed character to die or cutting down on shop prices). The duo really have no clue as to what the artifacts are; One humorous example would be when the duo find a radio, which Dux believes is a bomb, having heard it called a “boom box”. This lasts until you spot an enemy, after which exploration turns into a sneaking phase. It should be noted that these two phases could be considered one and the same, but I’m listing them as two different ones as you don’t really have to be careful until you spot an enemy.
During the sneaking phase, you typically turn off your flashlight, reducing the area that your foes can see and making it easier to move about undetected. You can leave your light on if you plan to stay further away, or if you want to run in, guns blazing. That said, this is typically a very bad idea, as the enemy can, in most situations, quickly group together and overwhelm you. The game even explains this in one of the first areas, telling you to turn off your flashlight to sneak by a group of two enemies when you are first returning to the Ark. If you decide to ignore this advice and engage the duo, then you will quickly be killed, as each one is level 40 or 50, while Bormin and Dux are far, far weaker.
Higher level enemies are not the only reason you would want to sneak, however, as there are also quite a few others in the map, usually, that respond when one of their friends yell out. This can quickly escalate a seemingly simple three-on-two battle into a three-on-six, with the enemy deciding to focus and take out your trio of mutants one at a time. If, however, you sneak around, you can get a feel of how many foes are there, and, if one strays, quickly move in to take down the stray with silent attacks, making any further encounter slightly easier. It’s typically recommended to take enemies down one at a time in this manner as you can be outgunned in battle, particularly if a Shaman, an enemy that can blow a horn to summon more enemies, is around.
Sneaking is also helped as you can split up or stay together, and hide behind things. Unfortunately, this is one area that the game seems to fail at, as you can be right in front of an enemy…. but if you’d hit the button to hide, even if you still appear to be in plain sight, it will not see you or react. This doesn’t really make sense, but it can be used to your advantage, allowing you to place your characters in an enemy’s patrol path and wait until it is close enough for you to have 100% accuracy before ambushing.
Once you begin battle, the third phase begins. The combat is standard turn-based fare, with each character having two points to use. Certain actions, such as attacking, will immediately end the character’s turn, making it a good idea to reload, if nothing else, before firing at one of the enemies, so that you don’t waste any chance. Each character also has his or her own set of unique skills that can prove to be quite useful; Bormin, for example, can dash in and knock an enemy down for a couple of turns, once you unlock that mutation, while another can control the mind of an enemy, turning him into a temporary ally.
There is quite a bit of information given to you during combat as well; You see lines of sight, accuracy percentages, the amount of cover, and visibility all on the screen at once. Even with all of this, however, the user interface never feels cluttered.
Some may wonder why to fight at all since many encounters can be avoided. The answer is simple; Experience. If you opt to avoid all optional encounters, then when you step into a mandatory fight you can be in serious trouble, unable to take or deal out as much damage as needed, or use mutations that can otherwise save your life.
The combat feels rather solid, but I did have issues with a couple of crashes during battle, the camera deciding the focus point was way off-screen. Thankfully the latter was during a quick fight, and was fixed by the time I engaged another foe, but it was annoying to manually move the camera so far just to move my character. The crashes could have been much, much worse, but weren’t that annoying due to two things: 1. the game auto-saves regularly, and 2. even when it doesn’t, you can (unless playing on Iron Mutant mode) save at any point you desire.
Graphics and audio
Graphics and audio were both decent, setting the atmosphere up quite nicely.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden can be quite difficult at first and, if you don’t play wisely, you can be put in some intense situations and be tempted to restart. With perseverance and strategy, however, you can overcome these initial issues. It also feels slow at first, but can become rather addicting if you enjoy tactical role-playing games, with extremely polished gameplay and interesting characters making up for the flaws (including an end that felt a bit too abrupt) within to make an interesting game with plenty to offer. If you dislike the genre then you may want to pass it by, otherwise it’s a fun way to spend your time.
Final Score: 9/10