Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a tactical game with some real-time stealth thrown in for good measure. Learn more about it in our Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden review!
In Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden from The Bearded Ladies and Funcom, you will take control of a group of stalkers (that’s the name for the members of your resistance group) who are out trying to stay alive in a post-human world where mankind has been eradicated thanks to nuclear wars, climate changes, and viral epidemics. You will get to explore abandoned cities with items and structures that, while normal to us, to the characters in the game they come from an era long gone, back when the “Ancients” roamed the planet.
The game does something interesting in that it presents players real-time exploration sections as well as turn-based tactical combat, which certainly sets it apart from other releases in its genre. Because of this, you have two control setups. During real-time sections, you move with the left analog stick and move the camera around with the right one, interact with the X button, turn your flashlight on and off with the Circle button, can hide with the Triangle button, and use the Square button for planning an ambush – each character is controlled individually then so that you can place them in the best position possible before you start your attack. Your inventory is accessed by pressing the touchpad.
As for the tactical combat section, you will move the cursor with the left analog stick and change the camera with the right one. Actions are selected by pressing left and right on the D-Pad, so that you can select between walking (or sprinting if you want to spend both of your action points), attacking, using a grenade, using a med kit, reloading, or a mutation. You can switch weapons with the Square button, and you can make a character go into Overwatch mode by pressing the Triangle button, which will make it attack any enemy foolish enough to come within its surrounding area.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden offers you three difficulty settings. Normal is what you’d call Easy in other games, as it’s for less experienced gamers since enemies do less damage, stalkers regenerate all health after combat, and skill cooldowns are also reset. Hard is for players with some experience with tactical games since enemies deal more damage, stalkers regenerate 50% health after combat and skill cooldowns are not reset, so you need to plan things right. As for Very Hard, which does its name justice, it ’s for players who eat tactical games for breakfast since enemies deal considerable damage, health is not regenerated after combat and skill cooldown will not reset once combat is over. Oh, and the higher the difficulty, the more skulls and bones that are added to the difficulty selection screen. Characters will also look more battle-hardened, with eye patches and torn clothes.
And as if things were not challenging enough as is, on top of the three difficulty settings there’s also the Iron Mutant modifier option. What exactly does activating Iron Mutant do? Well, along with showcasing some mighty flames in the difficulty selection screen, Iron Mutant introduces permadeath into the equation, as well as prohibiting you from using manual saves, which means that the game will autosave after every combat turn. One mistake is usually enough to send your party into a one-way ride to Death Valley, so adding the Iron Mutant modifier on top of that is certainly interesting.
During exploration sections, you will need to use your flashlight to light your path so that you can find scraps and items, as well as position your characters so that you can make the most of their positions once you start combat. If your flashlight is on, you will get to walk faster since you can see where you’re going, but this will also increase the alert aura of your enemies so they will be able to spot you before you can get into position. Stealth is important for when you know you’re going into a fight, but it’s even more important when you have to sneak past enemies that have a red skull on them since it means they’re too high level for you, and they will completely slaughter your party.
Sneaking around can also help you stay alive for longer since you can pick out enemies separately with your silent weapons if you do it right. Once you’re in a fight, you need to make good use to cover. Low cover will grant you a 25% boost to your defense, but if you manage to have full cover, your defense bonus will climb up to 75%. The same applies to your enemies, which is why you will need to find a way to flank their cover position so that you can cancel the defense bonus. Each of your actions has a set number of uses, so if, for example, you fire your starting weapon twice, you’ll need to reload it before you can use it again.
Once you obtain enough experience points to level up, each of the mutants in your party will gain Mutant Points. Mutant Points can be used for either unlocking powerful combat mutations or for improving a stalkers stats, such as its movement range (a valuable asset for combat) or its health (ditto). Mutations are split into major mutations, minor mutations or passive mutations. As for the stat boosts you activate, they are permanent and will always boost that character. Mutations include a skill that draws attention to a character for one turn, one for rushing the enemy and destroying any cover in your way as you rush forward, one for getting a 100% chance of a critical while lowering your accuracy, or one that gives you the ability to fly – you know, the usual.
You must collect as much scrap as possible, since it acts as the in-game currency. You can use scrap to purchase items at Indra’s shop and grab things such as hand grenades, Molotov cocktails, smoke grenades, med kits, as well as weapons that can be of great use for your cause. Ancient artifacts should also be collected since you can exchange them in the Ark for artifact points to gain valuable things such as increasing bleedout time by two turns, unlocking an extra grenade slot for each party member, receiving a 20% discount at Indra’s store, adding extra damage to your Molotov cocktails, improving how many hit points you recover per medkit used, increasing weapon damage by one, and more.
And then there are the broken weapons you might find during your journey which can be broken down for weapon parts, which can then be used to upgrade your weapons. You can improve a weapon’s damage, critical damage, critical percentage, total available ammo, and range by leveling up a weapon after exchanging a lot of weapon parts. You can also improve them by using attachments in their scope and damage output slots, so that you can, for example, deal fire damage with your scoped crossbow which can hit enemies from a longer distance.
The game, as expected, includes a full trophy list with a Platinum trophy at the end of the road. There are miscellaneous trophies for unlocking all mutations in each character’s skill tree, improving all upgradable weapons, collecting 50% and all artifacts, defeating 50 zone dogs, defeating 40 ghouls, defeating 40 mechanical enemies, using an assortment of special skills on 10 enemies, killing a teammate (for shame!), adding new characters to your party, reaching story-related milestones, and completing the game. There is also a pair of trophies that are probably going to get in your quest to unlocking the Platinum: one for completing the game on Hard with Iron Mutant active, and another for doing that but without any of party members dying along the way. Good luck with those!
If you want a good looking and challenging tactical game with a twist, as well as solid voice acting and an interesting story, then Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a game that is going to scratch all of those itches. I was surprised by the high quality of the game, as well as by its addictive gameplay cycle. Will you visit that extra area on the north side in hopes of finding an artifact or two to unlock some extra boosts? Or perhaps you should call it a day and go back to the Ark to level up a weapon or two so that you can deal that extra point of damage that will make a world of difference? Choose wisely!
This Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy provided by Funcom.