Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden – bored thoughts

I finished Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden up last night after basically mainlining the game for the past few days. Absolutely loved it. I played on normal, which was probably just a touch to easy at times – especially as you learn some of the methods on how to stack attacks or cheese the EMP weapon mod/abilities for the later encounters. Even then though if things went sideways they could escalate really quickly, making for those classic panicked encounters where you are running from fire to fire, scrambling to keep everyone alive. After coming off of Ashen and BELOW – this relatively smooth progressive difficulty curve was so very welcome.

The combat really just sang for me. The mutant abilities were fun to play with, and gave each character a different enough feel that I enjoyed using them all depending on the situation. Although, after I got Farrow I pretty much just stuck with Dux, Bormin and her. The combo of being able to open with a guarantee critical with her and Dux, then if needed either finish off with Bormin – or use Hogrush to knock the enemy out and go another round – was just too powerful (and fun!). I wonder if some hardcore tactical strategy people would find it lacking, but for me it was just the right level of unfolding complexity.

The exploration aspects were interesting, although I would have liked more dialogue commenting on the world – as the times it does pop up I thought it added so much more color to the game. More dialogue in general would have been nice – I honestly enjoyed Dux and Bormin’s banter when it happened, and the rare time all three team members chatted it was generally gold. For a game whose style initially turned me way off, I basically turned completely around on it after just a few minutes.

But really, the game’s silver bullet is the stealth/hidden mechanics. They add this great wrinkle to the tactics. Obviously with the way you approach each encounter, but also encouraging scouting ahead to see just what else and who else is around. More than once I’d press on past a solo enemy, or a duo, and find that just out of ear shot would be a medical robot who would have rushed in and alerted everyone. Or that there was an great vantage point ahead where I could get some height on the encounter. It felt like such a natural extension of the tactical combat you know, because what’s more tactical than knowledge of the battlefield, along with dividing and conquering. The rush I initially felt after finishing my first section without alerting anyone was honestly a high point in games this year for me.

It’s not a perfect game – there are some technical issues on the Xbox issue. The frame rate seems unstable with the odd hitch here and there, sometimes sightlines for enemies make no sense, the audio lines would often immediately repeat, and at one point near the end the game just started to blare out static in random patterns. And as I mentioned, at times it does seem the game (on normal) is a tad too easy, but the developers right up front say that Normal is not the intended way to play. Later on as you are hunting to scrap and gun parts to upgrade stuff, revisiting older areas can be a bit of slog due to the general slow nature of the characters and how hard it can be to pick out the shiny bits you are looking for since so many of the world’s surfaces are reflective and shiny as well.

But honestly, those are mostly nitpicks – or things that are easily overlooked. Would I have liked a better, more stable frame rate? Sure, of course. Does it actually impact the gameplay at all? No. And what is here, is something that felt really very special. Fingers crossed this does well enough for some DLC, and a sequel – as I feel like there are a lot of ideas here that could be blown out even bigger, or refined even more to deliver something even better.

Highly recommended, it’s a great game.

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