When you begin your journey in Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden you get the sense right away this isn’t a copy and paste post-apocalypse game. You start off with Dux the wise cracking duck and Bormin the stern boar. The pair venture out into the “Zone” which is basically the remnants of a world humans once roamed. They are making their way back to the “Ark” but you soon find out why the Zone is not the place for a leisurely stroll. Out there in amongst the rubble the Ghouls rule and they want nothing to do with the mutants. Come across a ghoul and you just might be in for a fight.
The game uses this time as sort of a tutorial to introduce you to the mechanics of the game. I am no stranger to turn-based combat games but this was a really great way to get you started. Not only do we get tactical turn-based combat though, this game gives us real time exploration as well across one amazing looking game. I had no problems exploring throughout the zone with how great MYZ looks. Once you get a few fights in under your belt you arrive at the Ark and this is pretty much your central hub.
Here you will find all that you need in order to become the best stalker possible. There is Delta’s Fix Pit where you can upgrade your gun by way of weapon parts that you find out in the zone. Then there is Pripp’s Place where you can upgrade certain skills like carry an extra throw able by way of artifacts. These artifacts are also found out in the zone and consist of human gadgets like the Defibrillator which of course is described as a relaxation device. Yes the humor is on point in this game and there is no shortage of it.
Right across the way you have Iridia’s Shop a place to purchase items such as med kits, grenades and scopes for your weapons. Overlooking all of this of course is the Elder. He is the one that basically guides the mutants and gives you little tidbits throughout the game of how things went wrong for the humans. Once you have ventured out and discovered more areas of the zone you will want to come back for a visit often. Don’t worry there is fast travel in MYZ.
Out here you will find a world long gone but with traces of what once was. Buildings that hardly resemble themselves, vehicles, houses with children’s play sets out front and an environment over grown with plant life. Not such a bad thing right? Wrong. In the zone there lurks Ghouls, crazed robots and some other monstrosities I won’t spoil. Each area in the zone is broken down into a single location that branches off into more locations. You can bring up the zone map but there is nothing to guide you around in the locations. You will need to explore these locations as much as possible and scavenge whatever you can find. The items you find will be used as your currency to upgrade and purchase things so make sure you look around.
The free roam out in the zone is done perfect and I thoroughly enjoyed creeping through old buildings or climbing up ladders to search on top of trains. It works very well and you will be amazed how beautiful the surroundings can be in a destroyed world. As I said before, explore, because not only will you get dialogue that furthers the storyline but you will also discover items like Stalker notes. These can be anything from advice to avoid certain areas or a funny note about how the humans used things such as refrigerators. A piece of advice though, when an area says the level is too high for you, that means stay away. Some areas have very high level enemies and while you can sneak around them, if you are caught it is game over.
You start off with Dux and Bormin but the list of characters doesn’t end there as you soon run into Selma. If you followed the game you probably know there are more but I don’t want to ruin their discovery for others so I’ll leave at that. Each mutant is outfitted with two weapons, grenade slots, helmet, armor, and a backpack. You get a variety of weapons from short range, long range, silent and each weapon can be equipped with things like scopes and attachments. Of course it wouldn’t be a fitting game if the characters didn’t level up and once they do you can spend those points on mutations. This is your mutant’s abilities so to speak and their stats. The mutations consist of abilities like extra stealth while moving between cover and shock damage. The stats will provide you with extra HP or even “move +2 spaces” during combat. Put it all together and you can upgrade HP, movement, armor and throwing distance.
The character models in MYZ are gorgeous. Yes I said that about mutated animals that are supposed to look rough and tough. From Bormin’s tusks to the duck bill on Dux it is incredible the detail. The gear they wear is also a treat on the eyes. Equip some heavy duty armor that absorbs fire and you will look like a straight up bad ass. No joke, try it out. Seeing your mutant stroll along with a weapon on his back and a top hat on just seems fitting in this game. Each character has their own temperament about them and it’s an added bonus to the amazing looking mutants. Get ready for some wise cracking animals and sometimes foul mouthed.
By now you know that MYZ is, a tactical turn-based combat game with some RPG elements. What you do not know is how well this all works together. The stealth aspect plays a major role here, you do not want to take on a group of ghouls without checking out the surroundings beforehand. Normally when you stumble upon a group you will find strategically placed ghouls or robots that are patrolling the area. You want to take these out first and as quiet as possible. Stealth weapons and moves that will cost the enemy their turn come in handy in these situations. What works so well here is being able to sneak with ease around and switch between characters. For instance I would try and place Dux at a high position because he had a long range silent weapon. Then I would place Bormin and Selma as close as possible and use their short range silent weapons. If you can move into position without being spotted then you get the upper hand and the first move is up to you. Get spotted though and you are at the disadvantage.
This works the same way with groups. Quietly position your characters and then ambush your enemies. Each character can make up to two moves unless you fire your weapon first or sprint to a location. This will end their turn and move to the next. Just like in any good turn-based game each character has HP and the weapons all do different amounts of damage. However, be out of position and it will cost you a clear shot resulting in less chance to hit or getting a critical strike. You want to be in a good position but be mindful that your cover can either be destroyed or not provide much cover at all. It’s very important to plan ahead before taking on some of the larger group of ghouls especially if there is a med bot lurking around. Those pesky bots can revive fallen enemies and you don’t need that stress. Knowing who has what equipped is also essential because you can only throw grenades and Molotov’s so far.
The combat at times can get a little clunky with camera angles not working properly and skips when trying to speed up the enemies turn. It isn’t a big deal in most cases but can be annoying at critical points in a fight. Otherwise the combat is fantastic with each turn feeling just as important as the next. Moving to high ground or taking that perfect position can turn the fight in your favor in a hurry. I even had one encounter come down to the very last move. I had one character alive and I had to make the best move possible without getting shot due to the enemy using over watch. That is a move that enables you to take a free shot at someone if you spot them running from cover to cover. I made my move and got close to the enemy. Next shot wins so my cover had to be good. I got into range and got the last shot for the kill essentially saving my fellow stalkers. It was an intense fight and I admittedly gave a fist pump in the air after winning.
The free roam part of the game is more like a scavenger hunt. You want to find as much as you can because the items you need are scarce in MYZ. At one point I even thought it was a little unfair because how could I upgrade my gun if I couldn’t find enough parts. Here you will also find weapons, armor and med kits. Yes you can purchase these items in the shop but I would be mindful of my spending. So in short, search your ass off. I didn’t mind searching though, the areas are beautifully constructed and the character movement is very fluid so to me the roaming around was just as fun as the combat. Nothing wrong with taking in the scenery of the countryside in a post-apocalypse world.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden developed by The Bearded Ladies isn’t just another post-apocalypse game. It also isn’t just another turn-based game. MYZ has the “It” factor in my opinion and that is what makes it stand out. The beautiful artwork accompanied by a stellar music selection really did hit my emotions hard. I know that might sound odd but there was something about the two aspects of the game combined that gave me the sense of real art in a game. The love and passion for this title was clear and evident around every corner. The character models, the combat, the locations, even the customization menus work so well. I fell in love with the quirky dialogue and the mysterious storyline. Although, I could have used a little bit more of the story throughout the game. I felt the lack of it hurt the pacing and slowed it down at times. However, hearing stories form the Elder or your characters talking about their experiences was always a treat. I enjoyed finding stalker notes or running into the occasional NPC. Again, not enough of these either and the lack of enemies at times did make some parts feel empty. Thank you for scavenging, yes, I have never enjoyed it so much.
With memorable characters it was hard to dislike anything about MYZ but there were a few minor issues. The audio at times sounded like a record skipping or the combat would freeze up while trying to speed up the enemies turn. I also experienced a few crashes while fast traveling but nothing that broke the game. Overall I couldn’t put the game down even with the minor issues. Nothing could stop me from getting to the next area so I could sneak my way into another fight. I thoroughly enjoyed my MYZ experience and as far as turn-based combat games goes, this one stands alongside the big titles. If you enjoy turn-based combat games then this is a must play.
Huge props to the developers for creating such a wonderful game with amazing characters.
A copy of the game was provided for review.
Rating: 9.5 out 10