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Review

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden Review - Nintendo Switch And Seeds Of Evil Update

  • First Released Dec 4, 2018
    released
  • Reviewed Aug 1, 2019
  • PC

Bringing home the bacon.

Mutant Year Zero took me by surprise. When you tap the space bar to switch from the real-time exploration mode to the turn-based tactical mode, it's not considered activating combat. You're not entering into battle. The word “Fight!” doesn't leap out of the centre of the screen. Instead, the space bar is labeled “Ambush” and, while pressing it does indeed initiate a turn-based XCOM-style encounter, the semantics make all the difference.

Road to Eden is all about using stealth to thoroughly scout dangers ahead, then applying that knowledge to maneuver your squad into position for the perfect ambush. Do your research and plan well, and you can take out your target without them (or their cohorts) even realizing what has happened. Proceed without caution and you'll soon be bleeding out, your impatience severely punished. Approached properly, Mutant Year Zero isn't a difficult game; it’s a tight, cohesive tactical masterclass that rewards the diligent player.

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Road to Eden depicts a post-apocalyptic Scandinavia where resources are scarce and knowledge of what the world used to be is even harder to come by. Stalkers are sent from the Ark, one of the few remaining hubs of human civilization, into the Zone to scavenge for scrap and fend off the bandits, ghouls, feral dogs and worse that now occupy the ruined towns and suburbs. Everyone, even those safe in the Ark, has been touched by mutation. But Dux and Bormin, the two starting playable stalkers, are different; they're mutated animals, a duck and a boar, respectively.

At first glance, there's a lot you can do to customize each stalker and gear them up to specialize in certain fields, letting you mix and match your active squad based on the task at hand. The limited number of weapons and sheer expense of upgrades means you're forced to make tough choices. Should you spend literally all your weapon parts on the close-quarters effectiveness of Bormin's scattergun, or are you better served improving the ranged potency of Dux's crossbow? You can only afford one right now and, since there's no capacity for grinding, it may be some time before you can afford the other.

Sometimes the decisions are easier. Up against robots? You'll want at least one stalker, probably two, with an effective EMP attack. Up against dogs? You'll want at least one stalker, probably two, with crowd control abilities to prevent their melee rush. If you've done your scouting properly, you'll know what's coming and know which stalkers to swap in and out before you tap that spacebar. But don't tap that spacebar just yet. You're not quite ready.

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The Zone is divided into a couple dozen maps networked across southwest Sweden. They're not especially large--bigger than an XCOM map, but hardly sprawling--and typically centered on an identifiable feature: a scrapyard, a school, a subway station, a fast food restaurant, and so on. When you first enter an area you're in exploration mode and free to walk around in real time. When you spot an enemy you can enter stealth mode by switching off your flashlight, thus slightly reducing your visibility but also greatly reducing the distance at which the enemy will spot you. You're still moving around in real time, just slower and more discreetly.

The tension is ratcheted up during this pre-combat exploration phase, as you're tip-toeing into hostile territory, identifying how many enemies await you, what types they are, what levels they are, whether they're patrolling, where those patrol routes take them, where their vision cones intersect, and so on. You've noticed one enemy's patrol route takes him away from the others. You hit F to split up your party and guide them individually into position. Bormin has his back to a tree, Dux is on the roof of a nearby building, and Selma is crouched behind a rock at the end of the unsuspecting enemy's patrol route. He's there now. Time to hit the spacebar.

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It's all about the ambush. It's about analyzing each scenario in the exploration phase and identifying which enemies you can eliminate, one by one, without alerting others. But pulling off a series of clean hits isn't always possible. Inevitably something will go wrong--you'll miss that 75% chance shot you were counting on or fail to do quite enough damage before the enemy gets its turn and calls out for reinforcements--and suddenly the whole area is on alert and you're scrambling to improvise a new plan. In these moments of high chaos, when the rug is pulled out from under you, this is where the game really shines.

The tactical combat engine borrows a lot from Firaxis' revival of XCOM and offers as much depth alongside a presentation that ensures all critical information is clearly communicated at all times. And you need to be well-informed, because most of the time--outside of the odd simple skirmish that introduces a new element--there's an awful lot to think about. Enemy variety is key; there are basic brutes who charge you in melee, snipers who hunker down on overwatch, shamen who can call in reinforcements, and medbots who can revive enemies, pyros who flush you out with molotovs, and that's just the early stages. Later, there are high-HP tanks who can ram your cover, priests who can buff fellow enemies or deliver chain lightning attacks, giant dogs who can knock you over and maul you for multiple turns, while others possess mind control powers and more. Tackling groups of enemies drawn from several of these types can be hugely challenging, even when you've culled their numbers with some decisive early stealth takedowns.

The stakes are high, especially on the harder difficulty settings. Your stalkers' health will be measured in single and low-double digits for much of the game, meaning it only takes a couple of direct hits to put them down. Similarly, your weapons can only fire once, twice, or if you're lucky, three times before you need to use up valuable action points to reload. These limited resources echo the post-apocalyptic themes of scarcity and survival while also raising moment-to-moment tactical considerations in combat.

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Juggling all the demands of combat, from patiently surveying the field beforehand through to learning how to best counter each enemy type and improvising a new strategy when it all goes horribly wrong, make for an immensely satisfying tactical experience. But as enjoyable as the predefined encounters on offer over the course of Road to Eden's mostly linear story are, it's still a linear story. On a new playthrough, that same map will still feature the same enemies standing in the same spots or running the same patrol routes. Outside of testing yourself against the hardest difficulty and a permadeath mode (assuming you don't opt for these first time through), there's not a lot of replay value to be found.

It's a shame, because the combat engine is so robust I would love to continue pitting myself against some sort of randomly generated map long after completing the main story. Mutant Year Zero's clever focus on stealth and pre-combat preparation reward your diligence, its turn-based combat encounters are complex, and they help bolster its all-encompassing post-apocalyptic atmosphere. It is a superb tactical combat campaign that you shouldn't let sneak past.

[Update, 08/01/2019: Mutant Year Zero: Deluxe Edition is now out on Nintendo Switch, and it includes new expansion, Seeds Of Evil. While this version runs smoothly, it exhibits poor visual fidelity compared to its console and PC counterparts. Whether in handheld or docked mode, a low resolution and blurry overall look reduce the luster of post-apocalyptic Sweden. It also makes scavenging areas for scrap and weapon parts--essential to keeping your Stalkers well-equipped, and already difficult items to spot--a lot harder.

The Seeds Of Evil expansion, also available on other platforms, expands the game's story past the somewhat abrupt ending of Road To Eden. Additional map areas and new enemy archetypes introduce challenging new scenarios; a new character, additional weapons, and upgraded perks give you more options to consider as you plan your ambushes. Seeds of Evil also adds a system that will occasionally repopulate existing map areas with enemies and items, which effectively adds a continual stream of optional encounters and mitigates the base game's issues with replayability. These new additions feel like a natural continuation the game's already robust tactical offering, both in terms of its plot and difficulty scaling, and comes recommended.]

Back To Top
The Good
The clever pre-combat phase rewards the shrewd player and amplifies your tactical options
The robust tactical engine is well-supported by varied enemy types and distinctive character abilities
Immaculate presentation means no vital information can be overlooked
The Bad
Lack of randomized encounters to encourage repeat playthroughs is a shame
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

David Wildgoose was hilariously nicknamed Tame Duck during his early school days. His affinity for the waterfowl star of this game should in no way be interpreted as a conflict of interest. But it may explain why Dux received all the medkits in his Iron Man run.
102 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for twztid13
twztid13

It's hard to believe the Switch version deserves the same score given the note about the shortcomings at the end of the review. It's pretty misleading to look up switch version & see it got a 9, then read on & it's a PC review (Switch doesn't have a space bar, so that's the first clue). Waste of time if you're looking for a switch review.

Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

I Played this on Xbox One X on Game pass day one. Pretty ordinary game. The gameplay has Nothing to make it stand out from the crowd.

A bit of humour but that's it. Nowhere near as good as Xcom 2 just play that instead.

Maybe you have to be really into the crazy animal vibe the game is going for but it just come across as a poor mans Xcom for the most part.

So many get this title mixed up with Biomutant too i've noticed.

Avatar image for Nightmare350
Nightmare350

Really enjoyed this game on PC, until it became to difficult to progress, I forget what lvl, but it was around when you started fighting the robotic enemies, mid 20's i think. Maybe i'll give it another go. I beat all xcom games fyi.

Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

@Nightmare350: Really unbalanced game. I just found it all too samey without that one more go appeal of the Xcom games.

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velcroboy

Fantastic game. I absolutely love it. The atmosphere/environment is lush. The game play is fun. The story is solid. The new expansion is off to a great start. I really hope there's a lot more to come in the series.

Avatar image for aiat_gamer
aiat_gamer

It has horrible stuttering on the version in xbox game pass on pc, makes it impossible to play.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

The stealth mechanism sometimes has laughable holes.

Here, take a look at this screenshot I made (and the file name that I labeled it with). Make a guess at how comical it seems (other than the muddy graphics settings).

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

The furry and beaky themes are a lot less prominent than you would expect.

Dux and Bormin consider themselves to be abominations in their dialogues and monologues, for one. Only the fox lady has some cringe-worthy utterances in the English version of the voice-acting. ("I am a beautiful weapon," before she lands a critical hit. So much cringe.)

The only times when they actually acknowledge that their animal appearance is significant are in scenes about animals being eaten.

If you are looking for furry stuff in this game, this isn't it; you are better off watching Zootopia again. If you are averse to furry shit, there is little of it, unless you like the macabre expressions of this theme.

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bobbo888

@Gelugon_baat: Furry stuff is one of the lamest things in the universe.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@bobbo888: Yeah, I understand. At its lamest, it's just swapping human heads for animal heads, or even more superficial swapping, like human noses for animal nostrils. *Pffffttt*. Lazy-ass.

Not to mention the issue of animals standing on hind legs that aren't mean for standing on two legs.

Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

@Gelugon_baat: Just looking for a gimmick i guess as there are just far too many strategy games around. I'll stand by if you are into weird animals you might get something out of it but the game is a 6 at most. A 9 is totally ridiculous as there are just so many problems with this game.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@deviltaz35: Yup, it's a gimmick. The "mutants" with animal features have their appearances designed that way just for the sake of making them look like anthros. Their animal appearances are only occasionally referred to. (There are mutants without animal features, by the way.)

There are many problems with the game indeed. The bonkers graphics-scaling system for one.

No chance-to-hit bullshit though. Percentage RNG rolls are only for crits and secondary effects.

Avatar image for 5tu88sy
5tu88sy

Looks like a kids game, no thx

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Nightmare350

@5tu88sy: well it plays like xcom, fun

Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

@Nightmare350: Just not as good still it's free on Gamepass. I didn't get much more than a few hours out of it personally and just thought it was rather forgettable. I can't believe this was rated a 9. Xcom 2 smashes this game into the stratosphere in every way.

Avatar image for itchyflop
itchyflop

@5tu88sy: its not, far from it.

I welcome the diverse character modelling.

You should try it, its very challenging even on normal mode.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@5tu88sy: The furries and the beaky sure give that impression, huh?

Avatar image for Oren76
Oren76

Hmmm, looks cool, but a super short main quest with no replay value. Make it open world, and co-op....and you have a winner.

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velcroboy

@Oren76: concidering the game was released on a smaller budget, it's really amazing how good it is. Its definitely worth the asking price.

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santinegrete

Zootopia Xcom, I'm interested!

Avatar image for mpl911
mpl911

Has anyone actually seen this out on physical sale on the xbox One in the UK? Can't find it anywhere...

I know it's up on the MS store but really wanted a physical copy...

Avatar image for itchyflop
itchyflop

@mpl911: xbox one version can be found here (limited stock though so be quick) :

https://www.365games.co.uk/xbox-one-games/mutant-year-zero-road-to-eden-deluxe-edition-xbox-one-game?gclid=cj0kcqjwvo_qbrdqarisae-bsh_qo1inzhokprn92-pppehrkvqlvckjupqapzp1urexsyoh_obbio4aavp-ealw_wcb

Avatar image for Speranza318
Speranza318

Nicely reviewed, I have it myself and it's been a lot of fun so far.

Avatar image for liquiddaylight
LiquidDaylight

Looks like a lot of fun. XCOM 2 meets Divinity OS 2. Going to have to give it a go methinks.

Avatar image for MigGui
MigGui

Found out about this game through a Facebook ad. It's probably the first time in history that a Facebook ad works out.

Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

Looks a bit lacklustre on xbox one x due to zero enhancements so far at least. However it is a fun game . I am sure it looks much better on PC.

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santinegrete

@deviltaz35: it is also included in gamepass. That took me by surprise :O

Avatar image for BassMan
BassMan

They lost me at turn-based.

Avatar image for Nightmare350
Nightmare350

@BassMan: You didn't like xcom? give it a try

Avatar image for santinegrete
santinegrete

@BassMan: I don't blame you. Only the best turn based games can grab the attention of action gamers.

Avatar image for Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

@BassMan: You must be young.

Avatar image for BassMan
BassMan

@Pierce_Sparrow: I wish I was young again. I remember playing X-COM back in the day when it came out and I couldn't move my soldiers because I was out of "time units". I was like... WTF is this garbage? Never been a fan of turn based.

Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

@BassMan: ..

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ogremalfeitor

@deviltaz35: so is it a bit like divinity original sin 2 in the way it switches to turn based when a fight starts?

Avatar image for BassMan
BassMan

@deviltaz35: The game looks good outside of the turn-based combat. I really dislike turn based gameplay though and I won't even consider playing the game because of it.

Avatar image for MigGui
MigGui

@BassMan: well, considering it is a turn-based strategy game in the veins of XCOM, wasteland and shadowrun, I'd say 1) the genre has a very solid pool of players; and 2) you should read what is the genre of a game you're checking before starting to read the review.

For me it is the other way around: I absolutely loathe real-time shooters, and love turn-based strategy games. That probably means I'll stick with Mutant Year Zero and you'll stick with your battlefields and calls of duties, and everyone's happy.

Avatar image for speed45823
speed45823

The review's tagline : Duck for cover

Reviewed by : David Wildgoose

I quacked myself laughing. Nice review.

Avatar image for davidwildgoose
davidwildgoose

@speed45823: Did you read my bio at the foot of the review?

Avatar image for speed45823
speed45823

@davidwildgoose: LOL yea. Looking forward to Kingdom Hearts III review :P

Avatar image for Yams1980
Yams1980

hes got first dibs on all duck or goose related game content to review. it must be nice to be him.

when they make a Ducktales open world rpg, this guy will review it.

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Uncle_Rell

@speed45823: lol thank you, fine Sir! You really just made my long day in the office come to a laughing end, just what I needed!

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PETERAKO

@speed45823: im giggling like an idiot xD

Avatar image for ecs35
ecs35

Wow...this looks really fun. I especially like the whole ambush aspect and switch from real time to turn based. Xcom 2 I thought was extremely difficult but in this one it seems you can manage the difficulty by being smart about how you approach things and best of all you don't seem to be timed.

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MisterVulpes

@ecs35:

This is harder than Xcom 2. Like, much harder.

Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

@mistervulpes: Really? So far i have found it much easier lol . Only playing on normal so far though.

Avatar image for velcroboy
velcroboy

@deviltaz35: I've been playing on hard and it's a pretty decent challenge.

Avatar image for mistervulpes
MisterVulpes

@deviltaz35: I’ve been playing one up from normal, I dunno. I’ve been scavenging high level areas, gaining the high ground before fights and picking off people before the main group but with each ‘story’ group of enemies I’ll get through by the skin of my teeth and the next lot will just wreck me.

I think the medbots are BS. You’re already outgunned without the enemy ability to have unlimited resurrections.

Avatar image for michaeldark
michaeldark

Where did this come from? And it's really good? That's a pleasant surprise.

Online
Avatar image for xantufrog
xantufrog

This looks awesome! I hadn't heard of it before

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Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden More Info

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  • First Released Dec 4, 2018
    released
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    7.5
    Average Rating11 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
    Developed by:
    High Voltage Software, The Bearded Ladies Consulting
    Published by:
    Funcom
    Genre(s):
    Turn-Based, Strategy
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood, Strong Language, Violence