The excitement level for the Switch is starting to reach a high-pitched whine that might only be discernible by dogs and teenagers, and it’s perfectly acceptable to see why. Three Houses is the best selling Fire Emblem game in forever. We are mere weeks away from Astral Chain and I cannot WAIT to dive into that. We’ve still got an Animal Crossing, Bayonetta, Metroid Prime AND Breath of the Wild sequels coming down the pipeline, and that’s just first party releases. But people are really excited for the possibility of ports from other big houses. CD Projekt Red is offering up Witcher 3 in the near future, and people’s anticipation is also tempered by trepidation: how will it look? I think we’ve seen the Switch is able to balance graphics and performance with the right amount of trickery (Wolfenstein and Doom, I’m looking at you), but there’s a dynamic presence to Witcher that could easily go astray if not treated correctly. The Bearded Ladies, creators of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, wanted to help pave the way for everyone coming down the PC pipeline by showing how their excellent turn-based TRPG could work on the Switch, and so they’ve released the Deluxe Edition so everyone can jump in with the wild and amazing world of the Ark and the Zone. The result? Not as grand as they would have liked, but, similarly, not as bad as many people make it out to be.
For the uninitiated, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is the story of a massively post-apocalyptic Earth that’s suffered through a Red Plague and a nuclear war, and the surviving “humanity” is now, distinctly, less than human. You’ve got the mutants, which are humanoid animal hybrids that’ve mostly retained characteristics and personality traits of humans (but with a handful of animalistic quirks), and the Ghouls, which are the savage, cannibalistic monsters you’d expect from watching society get melted back into the Stone Age. The Ark is a skybound castle that serves as one of the last bastions for mutants to live peacefully, but they need to send out scouts (called Stalkers) to search for scraps and supplies to try and maintain their existence). Our heroes for the journey are Bormin (a boar hybrid) and Dux (a duck man), but you eventually pick up a couple other Stalkers to help you along the way. Trying to simply keep the Ark alive, Bormin and Dux stumble into a series of mysterious events, such as a sucicial cult of Ghouls looking for weapons to take down the Ark, the secrets that the Ark’s leader, The Elder, may be keeping, and the truth of the fabled land known only as Eden.
Up top, I’d like to mention that Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a fantastic storyline, from start to finish, with absolutely banger voice acting from all fronts, especially the tired, gravely tones of Bormin himself. I often have difficulty getting through TRPG/SRPGs because combat tends to be very invested and time consuming, and I prefer to have more time to explore and less to plan out and execute damage strikes (although the exploration of MYZ is pretty decent). No, the story and the twists compelled me, so much so that I avoided learning too much more about the game until after I had completed the main storyline, and now I wish to God I had another medium to consume this story through. It easily could become a standalone movie (c’mon Netflix, this is better than Bright) and the way that the combat plays seamlessly into a majority of plot driven moments made for my immersion into the effect of the game rather than the game itself. While I feel that the ending “twist” was a bit obvious, especially with the way certain dialogue interactions went, it was still a satisfying ending, setting up a whole other direction for the universe in the future, and I’d sincerely like to see more. The Seed of Evil expansion (which is built into this Deluxe Edition) gives more in terms of logistical expansion, and reads more like a continuation and less like a sequel, so it fits in nicely without disrupting anything the main game set up. Plus, I mean, who doesn’t love Khan?
As far as gameplay itself goes, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is exciting in the potential for exploration, strategy and execution. Unlike other SRPGs that I’ve played, I never felt like I was being forced into a straight line for where I had to go next and which combat I had to participate in. Sure, there were more than a few fights that were without other choices: engagement was the only way to rescue someone or retrieve something or basically move the plot forward, but there were also plenty of times where I could sneak around and avoid the battle. As a result, I sometimes found myself foraging new directions and places to go, trying to discover lost caches of scrap and broken weapon parts to bring back to the Ark and create/upgrade my gear. There was never a lack of materials available, and wanting/needing to advance my inventory just meant jumping back down into the Zone and going hunting in the best ways that I could. Plus, combat meant leveling up and scoring more points for Mutations, easily one of my favorite ways to exercise a skill tree and customize characters. Something about mutating Dux so that he can fly, but with MOTH wings, is so out-of-the-blue that I was totally on board, figuring that this must be how mutation worked after massive radiation rocks the planet.
The combat of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is the centerpiece of the game and probably what most people will enjoy (especially with the Deluxe Edition), and players who really develop a taste for it will want to head online with the Stalker Trials and try their hands at out-thinking and out-gunning NPCs on leaderboards against your friends. Simply put, there’s a complex and exciting layout within the combat field that really challenges you to use stealth, timing, and chess-like planning in order to survive. After a couple of rather simple initial combats, MYZ quickly shows you that you can’t just rush forward and shoot things in the face again and again without getting murdered. You have to decide how you’ll use action points each and every turn, and I never found a match that left me frustrated with imbalances unless it was purposely set up as such. Between sacrificing attacking to create extra distance, timing out when you need to utilize skills, and trying to plan out if you can finish combat before a friend bleeds out…well, there’s plenty to do here and a lot of excitement. Limiting the number of characters that you have to control also just puts more on the line for every encounter: you aren’t just gonna grab a new Stalker at the tavern the next time you head back to the Ark. You gotta keep your team alive.
Now, the graphics. This has been a massive point of contention for many people, and it needs to be addressed. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a bit rough, but not unplayable, when docked. There’s a distinct blurriness to almost everything, from the shops of the Ark to the snow-covered areas of the Zone (and the early nighttime missions are VERY difficult to watch), but it’s manageable when you’re docked. The extra real estate on a television screen allows you to gloss over some of the rougher points and still control, perform and accomplish everything. To be perfectly frank, I played this game almost 95% docked, which is unheard of for me: if I can, I try to do everything handheld because that is the ultimate attraction of the Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, the blurriness and rough pixels are borderline unbearable when playing in handheld mode. The game itself, sadly, still performs well, so you can move along and theoretically accomplish quite a bit without any sort of slowdown or lag. However, it really doesn’t look very good. It’s like I’m trying to stream a YouTube video and my ISP has throttled it down to 144p. Sure, if I know what I’m looking for, I can tell what it is, but it gets really hard when I’m trying to pick out certain things, like whether I’m choosing the exact grid spot I want to move to for optimal cover and firing, or if I’m a block off and now I’m a standing duck. For a lot of people, this might be a total deal breaker, especially if they’ve played/seen the PC gameplay and notice how gorgeous it is on a much stronger machine.
I can’t stress this enough: I sincerely enjoyed Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden. The amount of content is incredibly robust and varied, with plenty of choices and customization, and it absolutely is worth it with the Seed of Evil and Stalker Trials added in. The storyline is gangbusters and will keep you enthralled for a majority of the time, and working out the action on the big screen is worth your time. However, most people will want to buy this to have Mutant Year Zero as a portable play option, and I just can’t recommend that. It hurts my eyes after a period of time, and it’s disorienting for me to stop in the middle of a TRPG fight and try to pick it back up later. The day one patch dramatically improved the game (according to several people), so here’s to hoping a future patch might be able to smooth things out further. It’s entirely possible this is as good as it gets, and, if that is the case, this is as good as players can hope for.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden - Deluxe Edition Video Game Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 6/10
User Review( votes)
A fantastic story and enthralling combat that is totally waylaid by an ugly and muddled handheld experience.