The world ended somewhere between a plague and many nukes. Pockets of civilisation still exist but mostly it’s all one giant irradiated wasteland. In this new world it’s mutants who keep hope alive, braving The Zone and bringing back the scrap and resources needed to survive. This is Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a tactical RPG, starring a group of mutants from the Ark. Some of them are anthropomorphised animals, a Hog, a Fox and a Duck, and the others are mostly human but with horns or psychic abilities. These characters set out first to recover materials for their home and then on a long rescue mission, discovering a dangerous plot by a mad cult along the way. The game is based on the tabletop RPG of the same name, published by Modiphius.
Now to the review.
Stalker’s Creed: A straight up firefight is never a good idea in Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden. Enemies are tough, they have lots of health and most importantly, they tend to severely outnumber your small group. Stealth is key for Stalkers, and taking out enemies one by one by intercepting their patrols and thinning their numbers. This means all maps in Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden are full of tense situations where if you’re not careful and stealthy, you’ll bite off more than you can chew, especially once robots and psychics come into play.
Party Chat: The best part of Mutant Year Zero’s characters is that they talk to one another. They don’t have long and meaningful conversations about their hopes and dreams but they will discuss current events and warn one another of impending danger. For the most part these are just notifications to the player but they do add a bit of charm to the Stalkers under your controls.
Air Miles: One thing I discovered early on in my Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden playthrough for this review is that once you’ve reached a zone for the first time, you can travel to and from as you please, which is incredibly helpful to level your characters up if you need to and to acquire upgrades to make some of your ambushes easier to pull off.
Irradiated Comedians: Ghouls are hilarious, at least they were to me. They’re savage, cruel and cannibalistic but they’re both so earnest in their speech and so over the top that it’s impossible not to love them. It gets even better when the Cult comes into play, as the psychic members have some hilarious conversations with the regular Ghouls, especially around the proper use of the “sacred mushrooms.” Hearing a Ghoul describe a mushroom trip was phenomenal.
The Few, the Outnumbered: Your party size maximum is 3…out of 5 characters. In a game where you’re constantly surrounded by enemies and always outnumbered and outgunned, the decision to leave the party at such a small size is baffling. Even more when there are large segments of content between meeting new members. It ends up making more sense to take the three members you know how to play with instead of the others. With only 5 characters, I would’ve made the party that size. Would have made the Forbidden City level feel a little less unfair.
Useless Levelling: As you fight enemies and finish encounters you level up and gain skill points to spend on mutations, but unlike your enemies, which tend to have higher amounts of health with higher levels (and nothing else, really), your characters gain no other benefit to levelling up beyond the skill point and the mutations themselves, which, with some clear exceptions, don’t make that much of a difference and characters have too many of them in common, robbing them of their uniqueness. Upgrading guns has a greater effect, especially with the silent ones.
Economy Woes: Everything in Mutant Year Zero is incredibly expensive. Upgrades require weapon parts but it takes an inordinate amount of grinding—clearing out entire maps of enemies—to have enough of these to improve a gun once. And it’s nearly impossible to buy weapons and armour with scrap. Worse still is that the store never really sells anything you don’t already have, so it’s good for restocking on med-kits and grenades but not to acquire something new, fun or engaging, something worth the scrap investment.
The Short Road to Eden: Even considering map grinding, for resources or levels—especially with the sudden level jumps the maps experience between objectives—this is a very short campaign, with only a couple of main missions across maps where you can pretty much skip all encounters other than those required to advance.
Tactical Noob: You can pick off enemies with stealth ambushes but you have no way of creating new opportunities, no way of being proactive about your stalking. If enemies don’t have patrols, you can’t create distractions to make them split the party. Armor is extremely powerful and robot enemies tend to have it in spades, yet there are no options to shred or pierce it. So even with EMP grenades to disable robots, defeating them takes ages. Also, you fail to stealth ambush kill an enemy and everyone and their uncles will know where you are, no matter how far away from the main group the stragglers are.