|Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden|
|Developer||The Bearded Ladies|
|release date||December 2018|
|Genre||Turn-based tactics, RPG|
At one time, the Firaxis Games studio successfully revived the XCOM series, bringing tactical games to a modern level and returning interest in the genre to a wide audience. The success of the dilogy led to the emergence of followers. In 2018, several projects with similar game mechanics were released at once — Phantom Doctrine, BattleTech and Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden. The last game was the debut of The Bearded Ladies studio and a pleasant surprise for fans of such games.
Mutant Year Zero takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. Human civilization has successfully reached the final point of development with a total catastrophe and degeneration. Mutants have appeared in the vastness of an extinct world, who are now fighting for life and collecting valuable artifacts from the past. Many of them have become stalkers who regularly go to the local «zone» for swag.
We start with a team of two characters — an overgrown boar with a shotgun and a drake with a crossbow. These awkward companions turn out to be very charismatic personalities, skillfully playing their roles during small dialogues. The characters are lively and interesting, and their comments in an attempt to unravel the purpose of simple things from the past are quite funny.
The whole adventure is built on movement between small locations. Penetrating into a new territory, the heroes are looking for a passage to a new zone, gradually approaching the task point on the global map. Each zone offers something new, changing the surroundings, opponents and even climatic conditions. And with the complete absence of an open world in the game, there is a sense of exploration and travel to uncharted lands.
At the locations, we are looking for supplies and useful items, simultaneously clearing them from various opponents. But enemies often turn out to be stronger, blocking the passage to the next zone. Sometimes skirmishes can be avoided using stealth, but sometimes you have to look for other ways or return to base to upgrade your weapons a bit.
Turn-based battles are built according to familiar basic rules. This is a field lined with squares, limited action points, which make it necessary to correctly combine a shot and movement, plus the use of environmental features. At first, it all comes down to the right tactics for the distribution of targets and the correct use of available shelters. Gradually, the conditions become more complicated, it is required to take into account more nuances, not forgetting to skillfully combine special abilities.
Before the start of the battle, you can play saboteur, waiting for the gaping enemy. The game encourages stealth ambushes in order to first eliminate those who separated from the main group, and then get involved in a shootout with the main enemy squad. Therefore, stealth organically complements the gameplay, and in stealth mode it is easier to navigate thanks to the highlighted zones of the enemy’s attention. Silent kills are possible with special silent weapons or silencers. But if during the first move it was not possible to demolish the entire health bar, then the victim will quickly call for help.
The characters do not have a clear specialization, but their abilities determine the effectiveness of various types of weapons and determine tactics in battle. Therefore, from the very beginning, the drake plays the role of a sniper, and the boar acts as a bully. The sniper performs better from a high position, has a greater range of movement and better accuracy at long range. The war boar is good at hitting shotguns while hiding behind cover, and can make dashes to knock back enemies. After pumping, the drake will learn to soar over the field in order to overtake any target. There will be other characters with unique abilities, such as summoning entangling vines that paralyze opponents. Along the way, we keep an eye on the weapon, reloading it in time, and trying to effectively use grenades in areas.
In a group of enemies, a motley company is always selected. Some tend to close combat, others use long-range weapons, someone calls for help or heals teammates, demanding to concentrate the main fire on themselves. Therefore, we need a little preliminary reconnaissance and an attempt to carefully clear out distant fighters along the outskirts. Otherwise, there may be unpleasant surprises when an unrelated group of combat robots comes running to the noise of the battle with the raiders. And the medical bot hiding in the shadows will also pretty ruffle your nerves with its attempts to reanimate the fallen bandits. Explosions and heavy weapons destroy many objects in the environment. This presents challenges, but also benefits. For example, one successful grenade can collapse the roof, burying a couple of unsuccessful bandits or cut off a powerful enemy for a couple of moves. The game constantly throws up something new, bringing new enemies into the arena and forcing you to look for new tactical approaches.
During the game, several characters will join us, but only three fighters will operate in the squad. Each can be pumped by investing development points in increasing the main characteristics or in new mutations. The set of the latter cannot be called large, but they are all critically important for combat operations. These are both unique features (like the same hovering over the arena), as well as upgrades with increased damage to specific targets and bonuses to critical hits.
The items in the game are also not enough, but each is useful in its own way. Any body armor and any helmet that increases performance will come in handy. The ammunition of the weapon is not limited, although reloading forces you to accurately calculate the order of actions. Only grenades are accounted for, and they even need to be correctly assigned to free cells. The laying out of grenades determines the order of use in battle, and this can be very important. In addition to the usual fragmentation grenades, there are smoke, electromagnetic and Molotov cocktails. The grenade effect itself may be small, but the side effects help a lot, because you can set fire to the enemy, knock back, and in the case of an electromagnetic grenade, you paralyze the robots.
Any weapon can be pumped by hanging upgrades on it. To do this, you need to return to the base called the Ark. Here, supplies are bought for trash, useful artifacts are converted into improving some characteristics, and a special master will install body kits on the barrel. The base itself looks simple, you only need to click on active points, moving to different screens.
There are no elements of global planning and base development in the spirit of XCOM. And the game itself is not about large-scale action. This is a story about a group of mutant scouts who methodically clean up different regions during attacks and look for useful artifacts. At the same time, the research part is simple, however, like stealth and many other components. But together they form an interconnected thoughtful system. The same can be said about the world — much in it is indicated by common strokes, but something original and interesting comes out of this.
Visually, Mutant Year Zero: looks nice thanks to good detail and lighting. Distant plans skillfully hide behind the fog. Juicy explosions and other effects make battles bright and colorful.
As in many modern games, it can be recommended to reduce the quality of anti-aliasing to achieve a sharper picture.
The game uses the Unreal Engine 4 engine. And although everything takes place in isometrics with limited visibility, the system requirements for the game are quite high. Therefore, comparative testing of different AMD and NVIDIA video cards was carried out. Our standard test bench is used. A certain sequence of actions was repeated with a run and a brief shootout at one of the first locations «Outpost».
The maximum graphics quality is set, the limitation of 60 fps is removed through editing the configuration file.
At a resolution of 1920×1080, the budget GeForce GTX 1050 Ti video adapter shows a small fps, but with a slight decrease in the settings, you can play normally. Complete comfort will be provided by solutions of the GeForce GTX 1060 and Radeon RX 580 level. It is worth noting the impressive lead between the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti and the GeForce GTX 1060. As for video memory, 2 GB is enough in Full HD.
At 2560×1440, the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti and the Radeon RX Vega 64 do just fine, and the results are not much different.
Pretty poor results in 4K. In this mode, only the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti will allow you to comfortably play, on the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti you will have to slightly lower the quality or increase the frequencies. The new Radeon VII looks extremely weak. And all AMD solutions here are noticeably inferior to their analogs from NVIDIA.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is an interesting atmospheric game that combines tactical combat, stealth and role-playing well. In the presence of many familiar elements, the game looks very original. And if you do not expect the scope and epicness of XCOM, then Mutant Year Zero will certainly please you.