Mutant Year Zero Has Some Stiff Competition

With release calendars packed to the rafters, it’s getting incredibly hard for developers to make their titles stand out. The turn based strategy genre is quite tightly packed, but that hasn’t stopped developers and publishers from chasing the XCOMs of the world with projects like Gears Tactics. Those heavy hitters, well, hit heavy, but there are a few scrappy projects out there that could upset the balance. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is one of those games, and I played it at E3 2018.

If you’ve ever played XCOM, you already understand about half of Mutant Year Zero. In combat situations, things are turn based and highly tactical. Each character gets 2 actions per turn, and each character/class has some kind of specialization that you’ll want to exploit. Positioning, cover, movement ranges, all these things are critical considerations at all times.

As what amounts to a clone of the XCOM style of gameplay, Mutant Year Zero is absolutely on the right track. It’s tense as hell. The challenge is substantial too – I was told that only 3 people managed to complete the demo without dying over the course of the show (I wasn’t one of them). There’s also a lot of personality baked into the experience with some seriously cool character and environmental designs.

mutant year zero

Pen and Paper Roots

Most of that design comes from a somewhat obscure Swedish pen and paper RPG – Mutant. I asked why this property was what they latched onto, and why they wanted to make an XCOM-like, and the answer was simple. The team likes the world building of the Mutant game, and the dice rolls etc. that are intrinsic to a pen and paper game make the jump to turn based strategy very easily.

From what I saw, we can look forward to a robust experience with plenty of progression options and variety of characters to choose from (they wouldn’t put a number on it), including the now infamous Duck-person, and a Pig that gave me some intense Beyond Good & Evil vibes.

mutant year zero

The kicker is this – there’s stuff to do outside of combat. The demo I played started out with a sneaking section where speed of movement affected enemy detection ranges. From what I gather, it’s possible to ambush enemies and generally stay out of combat a lot of the time – very cool stuff. I couldn’t get confirmation on the scope of the world, but from a few brief glimpses at the map, it looked like the world might just be open for exploration.

As someone who really likes turn based games, Mutant Year Zero has my attention after playing at E3 2018. A character with a giant Duck head will get all the headlines, clearly, but there’s a well developed and diverse tactical game core underneath all those cool environmental trappings. Release is planned for later this year, and I’ll be keeping my ear perked up for any and all news about it.