I feel like the world still doesn’t have enough great real time strategy games that really try to break the mold anymore. Usually when we get a new RTS, we know what to expect from it, unit management, some upgrade system and huge battles. This formula, for me at least, was broken up when I first played XCOM 2, which is one of the best strategy games I have played to date. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a strategy game that exists in the same vein as XCOM 2. Having the game sold to me with this premise drew me in immediately. With an extremely high learning curve, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden does enough to break the mold to keep my attention as a stand out title in the genre.
From here on out, we are going to refer to the game as Mutant Year Zero. Mutant Year Zero is based on the pencil and paper game of the same title. The game is produced in the Unreal 4 Engine, which unfortunately is blatantly obvious when you get into the game. Maybe this is because I have developed in UE4 before, but the animations on characters’ faces don’t match when they are talking. This isn’t a huge crutch though, because the banter between the two main characters is comedic and smart. Dux and Bormin are the two characters that you start the game off with. You take control of your characters in real time on each map. During your journey they will banter back and forth with each other. This dialogue continues as you add more characters to your team.
Speaking of controlling your characters, this is where Mutant Year Zero veers off and breaks the mold of the genre a little bit. Each mission you are dropped into a map with a set of objectives to complete. You can either take control of your whole team as a unit, or break off each unit or group and move them where you need to. This allows you to plan your attacks before you make them. Mutant Year Zero implements a unique stealth system that allows you to track your enemies movement and set up your plans before you enact on them. It became ever present that stealth was a huge part of this game. Calculating your next move before it happened was paramount in making sure you come out on top. Remember that steep learning curve I talked about? Yeah this is where it comes into play.
Combat is absolutely unforgiving if you aren’t ready for it. Get ready to save your game often, because death comes quick. There are even three difficulty levels as well as an Ironman mode that doesn’t let you save your game. I couldn’t’ imagine playing this game on anything other than Normal. After the stealth phase, you enter the combat phase where it changes from real world time to tactical combat, just like in XCOM 2. As soon as you are spotted out of stealth, the game immediately alerts every enemy of your exact location. By the third battle in the game, half of the enemies in the battle I started were obscenely higher level than I was. If you have every played XCOM then this battle scene probably looks very familiar. They almost have the same choices in combat like Overwatch, Shoot, Move, etc. Each character in Mutant Year Zero has special abilities that sets them apart from one another. Being mutants, they have mutations that sort of specializes them into different roles. Dux is able to fly into the air to gain a vantage point whereas Bormin can charge through walls and into enemies.
The story told through Mutant Year Zero isn’t necessarily anything to write home about. The story is told through a few different mediums in the game. You learn a lot from playing through the missions as well as getting 2D hand drawn cutscenes that explain story every so often. I particularly like these as they break up the monotony of the game itself. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden has all of the things that make great strategy games, while mixing in nice stealth and RPG elements. The forgetful story is valiantly carried by great dialogue exchanges and hand drawn cutscenes. Though I wouldn’t directly recommend this title to casual strategy game players or newbies, I can safely say that if you are looking for a challenge from this genre, then Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a title that you need to check out. There is nothing more satisfying than taking down a whole camp of enemies after a well thought out plan. Some small fixes can really make Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden stick out as a great in this genre!
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Review statement: This game was supplied by the developer for the sake of this review.