I’ve been interested in this game for a very long time. Enough so that I actually wrote about it a while ago in a previous article before even owning it. Finally I got my hands on a copy and started working my way through this somewhat turn based strategy game.
From the beginning I didn’t know much about the game and I didn’t want to look anything up. A lot of games are a lot more interesting that way. Due to that decision I initially picked the wrong difficulty setting.
The lowest setting was “normal” so I thought to myself “normal is going to be way too easy then. Lets try the next setting”. While it’s obviously possible to play on other settings, it’s not as fun. The degree of struggle to defeat enemies and not lose characters is insane. On top of it all, any setting other than normal means you don’t heal between battles. With scrap (the games form of currency) and health packs being limited, healing is crucial. Especially since it seems like health packs are the only way to heal on the more difficult settings. Even heading back to the base makes no difference.
I proceeded to get fairly frustrated with the game and I did end up moving to another game to take a break from it. I’m very happy that I did it.
Once I decided to return to Mutant Year Zero started over on the easiest setting. The battles were a lot easier. The characters health regenerated after each battle. The whole things was just a lot more fun.
Although getting through some of the battles still got the better of me, it was rare. Most of the battles could be easily managed with a lot of scouting ahead of time. That was the beauty of the game. Placement and planning are easily the key behind winning or losing. Especially as you get further into Mutant Year Zero, strategy becomes more and more important.
With new characters, and new abilities to go along with them, you’re constantly looking for the best angle. Is going in guns blazing the best way to get through the map? Rarely. Is Picking off guys one by one going to move you forward the best? Kinda. Does scouting the types of enemies, selecting the best guns and mutations and then moving in for the attack from multiple angles get you there? Almost exclusively.
Getting better at the Gamestyle
While Mutant Year Zero is based around strategy, it can be easy to forget. With a variety of passive, minor, and major mutations to choose from it can be a little too much. There were some characters that I only used when I had to. Others that I swapped out of my roster early on and never added back. I found the easiest thing to do was to pick my favourites (Dux and Bormin) and work with them the most. My third spot (you can only have three characters in action at a time) alternated between two characters that had wildly different skills. With enough scouting ahead of time, choosing the right one could make my battles extremely easy.
Eventually I reached a point where picking enemies off one at a time wasn’t working for me . I wasn’t strong enough to take on the whole group without using a lot of health packs. I knew I was doing something wrong at this point.
For some reason I had completely forgotten about one of my characters abilities. An ability that allowed me to knock out an enemy for a couple of rounds while getting in cheap shots. Although I will admit that it felt a little cheap sometimes to just sit there taking shots at an unconscious enemy, it was a lot easier.
before I remembered that I could do that I had sunk a lot of scrap into upgrading weapons. trying to solve my fighting troubles. So once I put everything together properly it was a walk in the park. The game became a lot more about the story at that point with a medium amount of strategy planning coming into it. This was still a lot of fun as it helped the dynamic of play alter just enough that it didn’t feel super repetitive.
Following The Story
The story in Mutant Year Zero is interesting. While I believe it could have been flushed out a little more, I still enjoyed it. I just feel like there was a lot more possibilities for missions that could have been worked into the game.
The main storyline is tracking down Hammond. A mutant that is vital to the survival of the Ark, your home. Almost the entire game is in pursuit of finding him. With how many different areas you have to explore in search of him it really seems like a lost opportunity in creating more in depth story. I also would have liked to see some mini missions to keep things interesting. Hunting down a lost powerful weapon. Taking out an incoming group from an area that you’ve already cleared. Something to break up the monotony of “Find Hammond”.
You manage to find Hammond before the end of the game, but just barely. After finding him you learn about Eden and how to get there. It really was strange that in a game called Mutant Year Zero :Road to Eden, only 10% (at most) of the game feels like it involves Eden.
Eden itself was a disappointment as well. Mutants were made there. It's in Sweden. The Elder from the Arc was a scientist there who saved the mutants that were supposed to be "terminated". That's all that you really find out about the area before the game rolls credits. I think they could have put a lot more into the area giving more playtime after finding Hammond as well as introducing new bad guys to fight.
It ended up leaving me feeling a little disappointed and surprised when credits rolled across the screen.
Visuals and Dialogue
Mutant Year Zero was released in 2018 with the Nintendo Switch version (the version I’m playing) released in 2019.
I can’t say exactly what the graphics looked like on PC, Playstation or Xbox, but on the Switch it was pretty good. With the amount of detail in every area you go to I would highly suggest playing on the TV and not hand held. Little details in the collapsed world right down to the posters around you are fun to see. One of my favourite things from the pre-apocalypse world is the name of an area, Izza and Fala. While just a small detail it had me laughing pretty good.
"Izza and Fala" is take from an old sign on a building in the area. When you find the sign it's pretty easy to see that it once said "Pizza and Falafel" but has since broken to give the area its new name.
They really put a lot of work into the details of some things and not others. The guns that your characters are carrying are accurately displayed either in their hands or on their backs. Depending on which one they are using. The animations behind different attacks are satisfying to watch again and again. Even the destruction of the environment was done fairly well. The only big failing that I can really think of is the fact that characters mouths don’t move when they talk. They wave their hands around and will move their bodies, just not their lips. For some I be this would even go unnoticed. For me it stuck out and annoyed.
Dialogue was another thing that I really appreciated about the game.
Depending on which character you’re using at the time the response you hear to a situation might be completely different. Conversations also turn out different based on which three characters you’ve chosen to run around the map with. It’s a lot of work to put in knowing that only one of the five recorded dialogues will be used in each situation. Doing so also really helps with feeling drawn into the situation, as long as you use that character that speaks to your personality the best.
Unfortunately there were a few issues with Mutant Year Zero that I did end up finding rather frustrating. Some of them might be due to running the game on the Nintendo Switch.
Often the enemies have patrols that they make. A set route that they will go through that, will careful planning, can make picking them off a lot easier. My issue with this was that it didn’t always seem to go through. If I reloaded a scene I would find that some characters that were standing still started walking instead. Not only was it a little annoying having to do this just to see if characters were supposed to be walking or not. It also made me feel like I was borderline cheating. I know I wasn’t, but it felt that way.
Another thing that I would find frustrating once and a while was seeing through things. There were times that, because of camera angles, things that were there weren’t visible. It doesn’t sound like something major but every time that I found it an issue was because I was trying to be stealthy. It would be while I was attempting to move out of the radius of an enemy or find hiding and instead would get stuck up on something that wasn’t showing up on my screen.
The only other thing that I can say negatively about the game is that there are some slow moments. Not slow enough to lose me but I played on the Switch handheld while watching TV. I think that without the background entertainment I might have found myself taking more breaks from the game.
Overall Take away/ TLDR
Right from the beginning I was excited to get my hands on this game.
There aren’t many turn based tactical strategy games out there. It’s a concept that I’ve played very few times over the years but really allows me to get into a story. Mutant Year Zero was no exception to that.
Although I wish there was a little more depth to the story. A little more variety behind the missions. It’s still a game that I had a lot of fun playing through. Once I put it on it’s easiest setting that is.
It’s not something that everyone will enjoy. Honestly it seems like the turn based strategy games hit a very small market of people compared to the open world games out there today. I would highly suggest taking a look at some gameplay footage and see if it jumps out at you. The graphics are great. The dialogue is rather enjoyable. The storyline is uniquely captivating, although too short.
It’s especially good to play while watching something on tv.