When the opportunity to play Mutant Year Zero Road to Eden came across my desk, I was thrilled and hyped to dive straight in.
I hurriedly entered the key and began the download. As I watched the progress bar bump along I turned to my bookshelf and had a flick through the RPG books.
This was going to be amazing.
Mutant Year Zero Review
I was nervous about the adaption of my favourite RPG system but those nerves were soon put to rest. I fired up the stream and dove in headfirst, blindly learning the controls with an audience watching me as I rattled on and ‘fanboyed’ over the aesthetic and ‘feel’ of the game.
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Taking a quick pause to get the crowd as familiar with the world’s setting as I am, it appears that the dev team over at The Bearded Ladies Consulting (yes that is their real developer name) really did their homework.
Everything from the ruined vehicles, to collapsed advertising and road signs, felt properly placed and Scandinavian. As the original tabletop writing team, Fria Ligan (Free League) Publishing is Swedish, this game carried that same art style.
Mutant isn’t trying to be Fallout, it isn’t trying to be Mad Max and it isn’t trying to be Stalker, yet it feels like a perfectly blended cocktail of all those things.
Bormin and Dux – Partners in Crime
The game starts with two animal mutants on screen, a large mutant boar-man called Bormin and a mutant duck-man called Dux. It would seem that animal names in the apocalyptic future are about as creative as tradies’ naming their dogs in today’s age.
But that aside, the game drops you into the action as the two ‘Stalkers’ explore the wastes for scrap and supplies for their home, known as the ‘Ark’.
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Every mutant has a job. Gearheads make stuff, Fixers sell stuff, and Chroniclers know how to read and write and all that nerd shit. Stalkers are responsible for combing the wastes for supplies, food and artefacts.
This is the focus of the Road to Eden game and while I would have liked more Ark development and RPG dialogue options, having a home-base serve as a quest hub and marketplace suited me fine.
Mutant Year Zero handles world exploration differently from a game like Fallout. Each area of the map is broken into sectors. A sector is a major landmark or destination such as a crashed helicopter or mass grave site. Typically there are a few enemies and a wealth of scrap and other tech to get your hands on.
Trawling for Tech
The sectors aren’t huge and you can’t just go get lost exploring the zone like some other post-apocalypse RPGs. This can lead to the world feeling a little small or empty. Especially as twisting thorny roots or rivers block the edges of each sector.
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It’s clear which way you’re meant to go.
This also has the added impact of making it impossible to grind out some extra experience before a big fight. There are no random fights or enemy respawns as you wander the zone, aside from those you’re meant to come across. And some of those fights are definitely stacked against you.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”The only way to survive in the wilds is to be smart” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/perfectpullquote]
Your team of stalkers is limited to three. You’ll come across new characters that have varying skills and abilities as well as intense new mutant powers. Luckily you can hot-swap your stalkers in and out without a fuss to make the right team for the upcoming battle, which really plays into the stealth-recon aspect of the game.
The only way to survive in the wilds is to be smart, plan ahead, get info on the enemy and figure out how to dissect their team before the barrel through yours.
Because you are always outnumbered, sometimes three or even four to one. And you had better be lucky because the RNG in these firefights is stacked against you too!
Once combat starts the gameplay goes from real-time to turn-based. Combat is an action point based strategy shooter similar to XCOM. Dart to cover [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”The combat isn’t bad or unenjoyable, it’s just stacked against you” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/perfectpullquote]
and get the perfect angle on your enemy, let the game roll the dice as you hustle for position on a destructible map.
Thought that tree was good cover? Well, a ghoul Pyro with a NFL Pro Quarterback arm has different ideas as he lines up a Molotov. What I mean to say is the combat is hard, and I don’t just mean like pass the controller to your older brother so he can beat the boss hard.
The interface needs a bit of work, as it’s nearly impossible to tell which side of the rock you are going to crouch near or how much cover it gives you. There are more enemies than you, they have more health than you but do about the same damage and there’s no action confirm button.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=” The Bearded Ladies Consulting has produced a dynamite apocalyptic RPG experience.” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/perfectpullquote]I’ve lost count of the amount of times I accidently sent poor Bormin rushing into an open courtyard to get pumped full of scrap gun sized holes because I bumped the space bar. The combat isn’t bad or unenjoyable, it’s just stacked against you.
The world feels dangerous, the ghouls loudly scream their intention to cut you as they sprint through the forest with a hatchet… Like I said, authentic Scandinavian feel.
A Bit of Audible Goodness
The sound engineering and voice acting is superb in Mutant YearZero. Characters argue over the function of various artefacts they find, based on their appearance.
My favourite has to be the small rectangle device that is obviously a fruit tester because there’s a picture of an apple on it, but it also has a secondary function of playing music.
For such a relatively small studio, The Bearded Ladies Consulting has produced a dynamite apocalyptic RPG experience. Definitely the best one to come out in the last few months anyway, if you catch my meaning.
My biggest criticism of Mutant is that it’s not very long and the lack of freedom to explore outside of the prescribed path, but the developers have done an absolutely brilliant job with the game that is there.
Breaking the recent trend of sitting in early-access for years and then forgetting about it, The Bearded Ladies Consulting set out to capture the emotion of the hit table-top RPG Mutant Year Zero and has succeeded in doing so.
What’s even sweeter is you get a PDF of the Core Rulebook with the Deluxe edition on Steam. The game runs like a dream and looks fantastic, even an old lump of cheese computer can run it on high with a decent frame rate. It’s been optimised to deliver a fantastic performance regardless of your hardware.
Mutant Year Zero Road to Eden is a fun, engaging experience, great to pick up and play for seasoned RPG veterans or newer fans of the genre. I’d encourage everyone to give it a shot, and it is perhaps one of my personal games of the year releases.
But I’m giving it a good old mutated 9 thumbs up!
Mutant Year Zero was reviewed on PC using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Mutant Year Zero - Road to Eden
Looks and sounds fantastic - 9.7/10
Different take on the post-apocalypse - 10/10
Better than Fallout 76 by a million percent - 9.9/10
Combat Controls are frustrating - 6.5/10
A misclick means loading your last save and starting again because that mutant is now dead - 6/10
The characteristion is great - 10/10