Mutant Year Zero Hands-On Preview: Road To Eden, The Tactical Adventure I've Always Wanted

I didn't complete the demo at E3 2018, but I definitely can't wait to return to the world The Bearded Ladies team is building.

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Mutant Year Zero: Road To Eden immediately caught my eye a few months back with the adoption of combat similar to XCOM and other popular turn-based tactical games. It kept my interest with its unique characters and the addition of an explorable world as opposed to a jump-in-jump-out mission format. I stepped into my E3 2018 appointment to play intrigued and I walked away hooked.

An easy way to captivate me with tactical experiences is to say "no one at this event has completed our demo." Apparently, the slice of Mutant Year Zero the press was given involved one of the tougher moments in the game. I wasn't given a lot of story context, but I knew that I needed to rescue someone. The only suggestions given before starting was to try isolating enemies and beware the med bot.

One of the reasons Mutant Year Zero stands out is the exploration that is coupled with the tactical combat. When I started, I had full control of three characters and I moved around a wooded area with a flashlight. I could also turn it off, making it difficult to see what resources I could grab in the area but also making it difficult for patrols to see me coming.

My first enemy encounter went down without a hitch. Two of my characters had silenced weapons, so I snuck up to a patrol after watching his walking pattern while leaving the third character further away just in case another patrol got close. I was able to see a circle that represented the enemy's awareness, so I positioned my two characters within firing range and took him out with two moves. No enemies were alerted, I collected some scattered resources, and moved on to the next space. This is where things took a turn.

The next patrol was closer to my third character that hung back, so I positioned the other two and got ready to attack. An additional note: it seems like there aren't any limits to how far you can spread your units out. This will offer up a lot of options for engagements and, since you can leave characters hidden, there's a lot of risk and reward there along with the potential to lure enemies into traps.

I missed with my first silenced attack, hit with the second, but I didn't know what would happen if I let the enemy survive the first wave of attacks. Hoping that enemy characters were too far out of earshot, I took the enemy down with a final, un-silenced attack. That was a mistake.

The building we were fighting outside of was full of enemies and they rushed us immediately. The rhythm of Mutant Year Zero's tactical combat was very familiar to me, but there was a lot more healing needed than usual. I went into this mission not knowing if permadeath was a thing and didn't take the time to ask, so I played as safe as possible. Unfortunately, the enemy pyros kept tossing Molotov cocktails at one of my characters and he went down.

Up until this point, I was only thinking within the confines of early XCOM play: Rifles, grenades, and healing items. In a moment of desperation, I activated one of the mutations while allowed one of my characters to fly above a vehicle to shoot an enemy hunkered down on the other side. These mutations are a key part of the Mutant Year Zero formula and I used them to my advantage to barely survive the conflict. Luckily, my fallen comrade rose from death at the end of the fight. Thus, I learned it pays to engage with as few enemies at a time as you can.

After gathering my thoughts, I attempted to sneak up on one more enemy before moving deeper into the enemy compound and failed miserably. This drew the attention of all of the remaining enemies and the final bout was officially on. There were a handful of standard enemies tossing their molotovs but the two most dangerous foes were the med bot, who could resurrect any enemy unit, and the fanatic leader.

The bot ran pretty far away from the fight at the start, which I was thankful for initially. I started taking out the smaller units while the leader kept his distance. He didn't damage any of us, but I also didn't learn what his abilities were...until it was too late. After a while, I was down to just the med bot and leader. The bot resurrected one enemy, but I immediately took him back down. This also ended up getting one of my characters in the range of the leader which ended up being my downfall. His attack was an electric one that not only did a lot of damage, it connected to any other characters in the range of the one he attacked initially. I was taken down in two turns without an ounce of a chance to retaliate. 

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden felt really fun in this small slice. The free exploration adds a layer I wasn't fully aware I needed in a tactical turn-based game but it fit. The three characters I played with, the duck, pig, and young lady seen in the trailer, were interesting and brought different things to the fight. There were defensive mutations that hardened skin, crowd-control ones that rooted enemies in place, and the mothwings I used earlier in the demo. There are more players to unlock and a mutation tree to work through as you progress, as discussed in the interview above with Mark Parker of The Bearded Ladies, and I can't wait to see what else is in store with this unique game. Stay tuned to Shacknews for more.

News Editor

Charles Singletary Jr keeps the updates flowing as the News Editor, breaking stories while investigating the biggest topics in gaming and technology. He's pretty active on Twitter, so feel free to reach out to him @The_CSJR. Got a hot tip? Email him at Charles.Singletary@Shacknews.com.

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