• Mutant Year Zero review by Rick Moscatello

    Steam Patches and what the server does with them-mutsplash-png

    The most brutal Easter egg hunt, EVA!

    Mutant Year Zero (MYZ) is a turn based stealth/strategy/shoot-enemies-in-the-head game with role-playing elements, set in the post-apocalyptic near future, where humans are scarce, and all sorts of thinking nonhuman creatures are common.

    Steam Patches and what the server does with them-mutsearch-jpg
    This is what most of the game is. Strangely, the enemies don't notice flashlights.

    If you’re going to do post-apocalyptic, you have to have an interesting world. MYZ doesn’t just fall flat on its face here, it falls flat on your face. You basically play the role of two “stalkers” in service to the ARK, the sole outpost of civilization you’ll find. “Stalker” is a cool name, but you’re a scavenger, going out and scrounging up scrap, which you’re told is very important for the Ark (they never actually ask for it, however, but let you use it as money). Be sure to look everywhere for scrap, as it’s often in out-of-the-way corners.

    Steam Patches and what the server does with them-mutleader-jpg
    The Ark leader, and one of the few remaining humans. He'll give you missions, but won't help in any way.

    You’re told quite a bit about how stalkers are critically important but…man, they don’t like you. Yes, you’ll be sent on Very Important (and quite dangerous) missions, but no they won’t give you any free equipment, not even a critically useful medi-kit (you can buy it with scrap, and that’s the main thing you’ll buy). Yes, you’ll often be outnumbered, but no you can’t hire or otherwise acquire in the Ark some extra stalkers to even up the often impressively unfair odds. Finally, you’ll likely get wounded doing missions but…no, the Ark can’t see fit to give you a cot so you can rest up for free.

    Gee whiz, they really make you feel wanted, eh?

    It’s even harder to care about the Ark when you consider your characters, an anthropomorphic duck and pig, are devastatingly alone in the world. There’s mention of mutants…just not mutants like you. It’s really hard to understand why these guys care about a place that keeps sending them out at grim odds to get scraps, beyond it being a place to buy and sell weapons and equipment to let them kill enemies so they can get more scraps.

    Ok, so an interesting post-apocalyptic world isn’t everything (hi Fallout76!), a game can totally be great if measures up in other areas. There’s still character development and battles after all.

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    Rather than use it, your enemies will keep useful loot in nearby unlocked chests.

    Your missions will generally be go out into the world and follow the railroad tracks to whatever enemies the game designers had in mind. For the most part a typical encounter will find you dealing with goons holding guns or clubs, along with a boss, usually with a special power. Since you are always outnumbered (you do find more stalkers much later), we come to the game’s premise: stealth kills. You first circle the enemy camp (they’re somewhat blind and deaf, and the game draws helpful “circles of detection” to make it easier for you to not disturb them), and pick off isolated nearby enemies. You’ll need “silent” weapons for this, but the game (certainly not the Ark!) will provide, often with convenient nearby chests.

    Once you pick off the outliers, then it’s time for the assault of remaining enemies. Often the boss can take a full on hit from every character you have and remain standing, so you need to choose if you want to deal with his minions first, or not. The most annoying minion is by far the medi-bot, as it is heavily armored and quite capable of resurrecting previously slain enemies (even relatively long slain), who pop up and start blasting immediately.

    Overall, the fights are ok, but I sure found myself wishing for a rocket launcher, decent sniper rifle…anything to make any fight a little different than the way I’ve outlined above.

    Oh, in addition, your shots might well miss, and that’s pretty much “game over” in most situations, as you’re just too badly outnumbered to do things any other way. So, you need to save before that first shot is taken, and make sure everyone hits when you’re taking out the outliers. A missed shot can also be fatal when taking out the boss, but you can sometimes survive it if you’ve taken out enough of his minions. But you have no chance if the whole horde descends on you at once. If you love save-scumming, this is the game for you.

    You’ll invariably take damage, and you can heal quite well during battle though it cuts deeply into your actions—if you’re healing, you’re not shooting.

    Steam Patches and what the server does with them-mutlevels-jpg
    Those are all your possibilities...can you call that a tree?

    Character development, the “role playing” element here, is as much on railroad tracks as everything else. There’s a dress up system, but you’ll generally go for damage—you need to get to the point that two characters put together can take down a single weak enemy in one salvo (almost nothing can be one-shotted past a few levels). You can mutate your character, but you only have two railroad tracks…the options are just so limited, and yes, you’ll once again to focus on the only thing your characters can do: kill bad guys. I’m pretty sure if 100 people spent 20 “mutation points” (i.e., experience points) on these characters, they’d all spend all the points in the exact same way.

    The graphics are nice, although you’ll mostly be wandering around at night with flashlights (not that the enemies will notice that) looking for scraps and loot. Mutant Year Zero never crashed but…it’s just so hard to care about this world, or the characters, that it’s tough to keep wandering down the path and snuffing out enemies in your way.

    Overall rating: 78
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Mutant Year Zero review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post