HIGH The characters/world are great, the stealth angle on tactics feels fresh…
LOW …for the first half of the game.
WTF The extreme lack of mission variety.
If I had to choose one word to describe Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, it would be… disappointment.
I was excited for this title ever since the first trailer — I’m a big fan of post-apocalyptic scenarios and turn-based tactics, and of course it’s impossible to avoid falling in love with a mutant duck rocking both ‘tude and a sniper rifle. Sadly, the devs got off to a strong start with the first half of MYZ‘s campaign but weren’t able to maintain that momentum until the end. Although I don’t disagree with anything that Steven brought up in his main review, I’m much less accepting of its shortcomings.
To give credit where it’s due, the tone of MYZ is right on the mark. The duck and boar were great to spend time with, and their incidental dialogue out in the field was great — the chitchat and musings about the dying ruin they called home was wonderful, and the rest of the cast helped get the worldbuilding done, if perhaps being a bit less memorable. Although I’d never call it a story-heavy title, there was more than enough personality and charm to satisfy.
I’m also a huge fan of MYZ‘s concept. Taking these furry and feathered soldiers on a suicidal quest through a ruined, reclaimed world was great, and gave the devs plenty of opportunities to flex their considerable environmental storytelling muscles. So many small details were perfectly dialed in — I would frequently just stare at things like cars stranded on flat tires and overgrown with grasses and trees, or crumbling buildings that suggest a life long gone.
MYZ isn’t just great at tone and aesthetics, either — the turn-based tactics genre has been fairly static for a while, but these devs brought a fresh and interesting idea to the table. Being able to sneak around and eliminate enemies silently before getting into open battle is an inspired twist and a great thing, but it’s not enough to build an entire game on. In his review, Steven said that MYZ feels underdeveloped, and especially in this aspect, I fully agree. While it was exciting to assassinate stragglers for the first couple of hours, things quickly settled into a routine of repetition and boredom before it was even half over.
In every area, it’s the same thing — first scout the enemies that separate themselves from the group, tackle them with a knockdown, and then have the rest of my party shoot them with silent weapons until they were dead. I repeated this multiple times with every opponent who was able to be singled out, and then finally tackled the unavoidable group skirmish at the end of every zone. It was just wash, rinse, and repeat in every location, every time, and it went on without variation for several hours.
The problems here are multiple — first, the stealth kills are great, but they’re not really optional, they’re required. Players who rush into any map will be immediately overwhelmed if they don’t thin the herd first, and this quickly drains all novelty from a genuinely novel mechanic.
Compounding this is that nearly every mission plays identically. In my time with MYZ, I found only one sidequest and one NPC (not counting characters that can be recruited) and there’s basically nothing else to see or do in the world except for engaging in cookie-cutter battles all the way through. Changing things up, adding surprises, offering different challenges or more diverse mission goals — any of these things would have gone a long way towards keeping MYZ feeling fresher for longer.
The skill tree is also incredibly disappointing, with multiple characters having the exact same skills and each character only being able to equip three skills (total) at any one time, despite unlocking many more. The devs call these skills “mutations” but that doesn’t jibe with having to switch powers around all the time, and it limits the options a player has — what I ended up doing was starting a map, finding out which power would be most useful, exiting, re-spec’ing, and then coming back in. I would have preferred each mutant develop their own unique powers and then keep all their mutations active in order to give more tactical options and flexibility.
It was also incredibly disappointing to see that the team is never allowed to have more than three active members at once, despite the group eventually having a total of five members. With such a small force, intricate tactics and complex strategies are basically impossible. As such, it’s back to the same process of singling out stragglers since it’s the most efficient, and MYZ is certainly on the difficult side — the first few hours are brutal, and there aren’t many resources to go around. With no way to reclaim misspent skill points or cash, making a mistake in allocation can cause headaches for a good long while afterwards.
I wanted to love Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden and there’s a lot to love here, but it just doesn’t feel ready for primetime. There’s not enough mission diversity, the mechanics aren’t deep enough, and despite how appealing the characters and world were, I was painfully bored with repeating the same tactics over and over by the campaign’s mid-point and I couldn’t force myself through to the end – it was too much of a tedious slog.
Although it’s got some serious shortcomings, I would strongly encourage the developers to keep going in the direction that they’re going and to deepen and enhance what they’ve already built — this piece of work is absolutely headed in the right direction, it just hasn’t reached its destination yet.
Disclosures: This game is developed by The Bearded Ladies and published by Funcom. It is currently available on PC, PS4, XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 25 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: This is rated M by the ESRB for Violence, Fowl Language, Strong Language, Suspicious iPods, and Blood. While there is nothing purely “human” anymore in the game, many human-like figures get gunned down through the course of the story. There is nothing overly gory in the game, but it does have its fair share of blood and many instances of cursing throughout.
Colorblind Modes: There no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game is subtitled throughout with the same color font. The font size cannot be changed. Of special concern is that with stealth being important in some parts of the game, one of the ways MYZ notifies the player of enemies ahead is by characters talking with one another. While their dialog is also subtitled it can be delayed from their actual speech. The few seconds I’ve seen this take can mean the difference between spotting the patrol or stumbling into and alerting them.
Remappable Controls: The game is fully remappable with a mouse and keyboard on PC.