Game review: Mutant Year Zero: Seed Of Evil comes to Nintendo Switch
New Switch game Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden Deluxe Edition combines the original XCOM-esque strategy game with expansion Seed Of Evil.
While most people still only buy it for the Nintendo games, the Switch has become an unexpected champion for a number of genres and third party games you wouldn’t necessarily have expected. Some indie developers now only bother releasing their games on Switch and PC, while the format has notched up a surprisingly long list of classic 2D shooters and proven a haven for turn-based strategies. Of which this is one of the most interesting.
Mutant Year Zero is set in a post-apocalyptic world, which sounds fairly generic until you get to the bit about all the talking animals. We’re not sure the main art of anthropomorphic ducks and pigs isn’t going to put off more people than they attract but we’re certainly glad that the game didn’t just default to using aliens or ordinary soldiers for its characters. Instead, Mutant Year Zero’s world is filled with mutated animals, psychopathic humans, robots, and much more besides.
Although the story and setting is different the game owes a very obvious debt to XCOM, with combat that works along very similar lines. There is no strategy level meta game though, and instead you get to explore the world in real-time, like a top-down action adventure. But if that sounds almost relaxing let us tell you about the game’s difficulty level…
When you start Mutant Year Zero you get three difficult setting options, with the default being ‘Hard’ and the suggestion that if you’re already familiar with turn-based games you should probably start here. All three settings also get the option for permadeath, so that if any of your characters are killed they’re gone forever and cannot be revived. As big fans of XCOM we naturally plumped for hard mode and felt particularly confident in our choice once we realised just how similar the tactical interface is to Firaxis’ classic.
It’s not just that the controls are easy to get the hang of but that the basics of gameplay are actually very simple: you have a set number of action points per turn which you can spend on moving, shooting, or a few other stock abilities. Once you open fire your turn is over, so basically all you’re doing is pointing and clicking at where you want to move and who you want to shoot.
Playing the game is extremely easy, even for a complete newcomer to the genre, but playing it well is a different matter entirely. Cover is vitally important and leaving any of your characters out in the open at the end of a turn will ensure disaster. So instead you have to plan your moves so that everyone stays in cover, isn’t bunched up, but is able to cover each other and ideally flank the enemy.
You basically get to do all the things you shout at action heroes for not doing in movies and although the action is turn-based it’s all very fast paced, and often extremely tense. Especially because, as we’ve mentioned, it’s really, really hard. Or at least it is unless you learn some new tactics.
Apart from the whole talking animals shtick Mutant Year Zero’s main contribution to the genre is the idea that you can walk around as normal before a fight and through stealth either avoid battles (especially if opponents are higher level than you) or set-up an ambush and/or take out one or more before the battle starts.
This involves simply toggling a crouch button and sneaking around the visibility cones (well, circles) indicating where each enemy is looking. Get the drop on one and you’ll start a fight with a significant advantage and a clear idea of the landscape around you. That and the illusion, at least, that you’re a strategy badass.
Mutant Year Zero’s mechanics work very well but there is the issue that, given the lack of any top-level strategy element, the game begins to run out of new tricks well before its end. There are some typically tough choices to make when customising characters but there’s never the sense of constant technological improvement as there is in XCOM.
What’s also a problem is that, again unlike XCOM, there’s no random element at all, which eats into the longevity of what is already a fairly short and linear game. In that sense it helps that the Switch version is being released at the same time as the Seed Of Evil expansion, so you get both from the start. Although the expansion is rather disappointing and while it does extend the length of the game by around five hours it offers few new ideas.
Seed Of Evil does add some new snowy areas, and many parts of the map are changed to at least a small degree (there are creeping vines everywhere, as the plant life goes crazy) but most of the additions are minor, such as new skills and weapons, new plant-themed enemy variations, and a new playable characters who’s half moose.
If you’ve been waiting since the original release for Seed Of Evil then it’s a bit of a disappointment but if it’s as new to you as the rest of the game then it’s a challenging and fun bit of post-game action. Although there is also a new mode called Stalker Trials that was added for free after launch, and which we hadn’t seen before. It’s a challenge mode that makes things even harder and has its own online leaderboard, which is welcome.
In terms of performance on Switch the game is fine, although the visuals have suffered a fairly major downgrade. From a distance it’s not too bad but when you zoom in you see how blurry and ill-defined the textures have become. There’s also no attempt made to increase the text size in portable mode, which becomes almost unreadable at times.
But since the gameplay is unaffected this is still a welcome next step for anyone that enjoyed Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle but thought it was a bit too easy. Because that’s one complaint you could never level at Mutant Year Zero.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden – Deluxe Edition
In Short: More than just XCOM with talking animals, this inventive strategy game has plenty of new ideas of its own – even if Seed Of Evil does little for the existing replayability issues.
Pros: An excellent combat system that learns the lessons of XCOM and, in its use of real-time stealth, has some interesting concepts of its own. A sturdy challenge and thanks to Seed Of Evil no longer quite so short.
Cons: The lack of a meta game leaves the game running out of new ideas by the halfway point and Seed Of Evil does little to remedy that. No random element to encourage replays. Downgraded visuals.
Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC
Developer: The Bearded Ladies
Release Date: 30th July 2019
Age Rating: 16
Email [email protected], leave a comment below, and follow us on Twitter
Source: Read Full Article