It was only a month ago when I went on record to say that I do not like turn based RPG games when I reviewed Cthulhu Tactics, so why did I try out another game along those lines? Well, as much as I thought that game could have done a lot better as far as a whole, I didn’t dislike the game. It was a lot more enjoyable than some previous titles that I have played over the years. The question to myself was simple.. could my mind be changed on these games?
From the outset, you know you are in for a world of hurt when the difficulty options are Normal, Hard and Very Hard. What, no baby carrying a dirty nappy on their butt option? If I’m brutally honest, the game could have done with an easy option to help hold my hand through it. Yep, I fully admit it and I know that probably wont go down well with gamers who strive to beat games on the ultimate difficulty level, and I am one of those. That being said, when I approach a new game, especially one for review, I like to play at the simplest of levels until I can get a feel for the game and its controls. Within an hour or so I was really starting to struggle with the game as there was no way of revisiting levels to take on enemies to help level up characters. Once you have killed anyone, they are gone forever. Mutant Year Zero is one of those games that is brutally tough, even once you think you have an understanding of the game and its controls, something will come along and bite you in the ass.
So whats it all about I hear you ask. Well, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a tactical adventure game combining the turn-based combat of XCOM with story, exploration, stealth, and strategy. You take control of a team of Mutants navigating a post-human Earth – in this world of the future the earth has been ravaged by climate change, pandemics and nuclear war. Some have managed to survive and make their home in a place they call the Ark. Every inhabitant of the Ark is a mutant, except the Elder. The Elder is a guide and mentor to the mutants. He has taught them about the dangerous world outside of the Ark – the Zone. Many dangers lurk in the Zone, but some mutants called stalkers dare venture into the wasteland to
gather crucial resources. All this has been created by a team including former HITMAN leads and the designer of PAYDAY, so there’s plenty of credentials backing it.
You take control of a mutant Duck and a Hog, Dux and Bormin, who are stalkers on their way back to the Ark with much needed supplies. Taking control of the characters you can freely move them about the scenery (not being limited by moves or how far you can go with other turn based RPGs). It’s only when you encounter enemies within the environment that the turn based element kicks in. Most levels only consist of one fight scenario, so you mainly have free control of your team. Running around the environment you collect food, weapon parts, and anything else the capital city requires.
Along the way you will stumble across other mutants you can enlist on your team to make life a little easier. That coupled with upgrading your team members in various ways; health and other mutations, starts to make battles easier along the way.
As the game doesn’t solely rely on the turn based element, fights can be made easier by stealthily sneaking up on lone members of the enemy and silently picking them off, basically engaging in battles on your own terms. If you go in all guns blazing and alerting the entire squad of enemies, you will almost certainly die in the process. Think along the lines of Final Fantasy in the way the game plays and you’re there. The thing is that this isn’t the standard that everyone else seems to stick to with the genre and that’s what makes this game stand out for me.
Its a very good system which has been implemented into the game and if you don’t take full advantage of checking out enemy movements and the environment ahead of you, you will be in for a very hard time. I found Cthulhu Tactics very easy in comparison to the challenge I was given with Mutant Year Zero. There wasn’t enough in the former title to make me want to go back and play the game again whereas Mutant Year Zero is so much fun and challenging that I really loved the replay value it offers.
Enemy health bars usually triple the size of your own health, so going head on with them is usually a no no, you need to flank them from multiple sides before attacking in unison. They can only concentrate on one of you at a time giving the other team member a chance to attack and then restore the others health if needed via use of health packs which can be bought in between missions from the Ark.
Also within the Ark you can upgrade weapons via scrap that you collect within the game. Things you need to concentrate on immediately within the game otherwise you will hardly scratch enemies. I found myself getting frustrated very easily at first as I was constantly being killed and couldn’t progress within the game. I restarted my game on a few occasions until I got used to it. Bare in mind that I was still playing on the easiest level, ‘Normal’, so I dread to think how hard the top level would be, and I don’t even want to think about it if I’m honest. Luckily that when you are in the middle of a level collecting scrap, you can fast travel back to the Ark in order to upgrade, but the scrap is limited. Again, as I said above, if you are thinking you can go back into a previous level you have completed and find more and more scrap that you have already snagged, think again. Once its gone, its gone.
Every character you meet along the way comes with their own skills tree which can be upgraded by levelling up, but its not really a struggle to unlock the entire tree through the game. At first it may seem that it will never happen due to difficulty, but as soon as you start to understand how the game works, levelling up is an easy thing.
The game does have issues other than the difficulty. Each level you play has its own loading screen which seems to take forever to load. In game music seems to like to cut out for a few seconds every so often and at this point the play starts to slow as well. The game speed cant keep up as there’s obviously something loading in the background. Whether this is a different matter for physical releases, I don’t know. Unfortunately, you will be dropping in and out of levels quite frequently, so these load screens do start to take away from the pace of the game.
So.. in summary. Mutant Year Zero is a fantastic game. One which I have really enjoyed, however.. It is way to difficult for new players to get into and have fun with and those loading screens and frame rate glitches spoil what should be a great game. 7/10 for me which would have easily been higher if there weren’t the issues that were blatant.