E3 2018: Mutant Year Zero Hands-on

My very first appointment of E3 this year was a game I’d only heard of in passing: Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden. Because of the “mutant” leading the title, I had a weird association going on in my head that kept making me want to think this was related to Mutant Football League. Fortunately, since I don’t play many sports games, it is not. Far from it.

Mutant Year Zero is based on a Swedish tabletop RPG, originally from the 1980’s. According to the developers at E3, the tabletop RPG was hugely popular in Sweden over the years and they wanted to show their love for it by working on a video game. As the name implies, both RPGs are set in a world where mutants, weird hybrid animal-human beings, rule most of the post apocalyptic world.

At its heart, Mutant is a grid-based tactical RPG but the developers have thrown in some unique gameplay elements as well. A big one is how the game gets into battles. Rather than drop you straight into the turn based portion, Mutant starts out as a stealth game. Your characters can freely roam around the map without the grids, avoiding enemy detection and getting into position. Once spotted, or once the player starts an ambush, that’s when things get tactical.

The tactical portion seemed pretty standard for the genre. Move characters around, pick actions, and wait to see how the enemies respond on their turn. Mutant‘s characters each have some special abilities to help them out in battle. For example, Dux, a duck mutant, can fly up into the air for a short time, letting him get sight of enemies behind cover so he can snipe them. Enemies can have some special abilities too, such as a heal bot capable of resurrecting dead enemies.

The demo I played was very difficult. Granted, I was being dropped into a mission that was a few hours in but there was still a lot to take account of. I ended up giving it three attempts and that really showed how the stealth could be used to change how the encounter felt. One time I just ran straight in with guns blazing, while another time I stealthed my part to the back area to try to go straight for the strong boss-enemy. Though neither approach ended up working out for me, they did feel like different ways to tackle an encounter.

Overall, I was very impressed with Mutant Year Zero. The strategy RPG game is well implemented with some nice flourishes on the side. And the world of mutants seems interesting, as the developers described your party’s home: the Ark. Mutant Year Zero is launching later this year and it’s one I’ll be looking into when it does.

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

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