At the end of 2018, one great, tactical RPG set in the post-apocalyptic world was released - Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden. At first glance, this game might seem unappealing. Strange characters, and a bit complicated story mainly set on the west coast of Sweden. This is somewhat understandable, since the team behind this game, The Bearded Ladies Consulting, is from Sweden and involves veterans who worked on some big franchises such as Hitman and PayDay.
The game was initially released for Xbox One, PC, and PS4, but a few months ago, it also appeared on the Nintendo Switch. The first thing that came to our mind was how the game is supposed to work on such weak hardware. We got ready for the worst before turning on the Nintendo Switch version and hoped that our time would pay off.
The game follows the story of a mutated humanoid boar Bormin and his faithful friend, a mutated humanoid duck - Dux. After the last major war that destroyed a majority of the population on Earth, only one small fortress, the so-called Ark, remained with the Elder at the helm, trying to rebuild and further improve, to provide a safe home for survivors, human and mutant. Everyone is welcome here, no matter what faction you belong to now.
The post-apocalyptic world of this incredibly detailed game mixes 80s pop culture with, hmmm, a kind of "punk" culture, if you know what I mean. Amazing synth music from the 80s will lift the atmosphere on every part of the map you are on, while the artifacts left from the ancient people, as they call us, as well as their interpretation of them in that future post-apocalyptic world, will bring a smile to your face and intrigue you to learn even more about this world. It is important to note that the game is based on a pen-and-paper RPG called Mutant and that this was the first attempt at "digitalizing" it in the form of interactive entertainment.
The post-nuclear era brought many consequences; the survivors were affected by radiation, which turned them into mutants, while newborns had the misfortune of starting their life as such. This, of course, means that the characters in this game have some kind of superpowers. You will be able to take up to three characters out of six to explore the contaminated Zone at any time, while the other three will rest at the Ark. Each of the characters has a special set of Mutations that can be used in combat, and you can upgrade each of those mutations through the XP points you get at the end of each fight.
Mechanics are a mix of real-time exploration and sneaking with turn-based combat, such as in the XCOM franchise. The difference is that the Zone is divided into large maps that you’ll have to explore while encountering enemies. During the real-time part, you will be able to plan the attack, isolate the enemies, remember their positions and their paths, and eventually weaken them before you kill them and the remaining strong units.
The game offers you an easier way to progress if you just stop and think. In order to be stealthy, you’ll have to calculate how many action points you have, how much damage does your weapon deal to the enemy, as well as whether you’ll be able to kill the enemy before he calls for backup. All of this adds more depth to this amazing game.
As you progress through the game, you will find a variety of equipment to use, different types of grenades and weapons. Anything you find that your stalkers can use can be upgraded on Ark to deal more damage or be more efficient at a greater distance. All of these upgrades require materials you can find in the contaminated Zone. You can also find the notes that’ll give you insight in the final hours of those who were on the surface of the Earth when the disaster happened, their fear, and a totally frivolous understanding of the situation they are in.
In addition, you will find the artifacts we have already mentioned that bring you various bonuses and they apply to absolutely all your team members. Artifacts are everyday objects that we currently have in our lives, but interpreted incorrectly by mutants who never got in touch with them before.
The nature of gameplay mechanics is what made Mutant Year Zero port for Nintendo Switch’s library possible. Slow, tactical gameplay doesn’t require a lot of frames per second, but it still requires detailed graphics, which is a double-edged sword in the Switch version. In docked mode, the game looks acceptable because all the elements from the other versions are ported nicely. Of course, we may notice fewer polygons in the characters, or perhaps a drop in framerate, but these things are not absolutely essential for the true enjoyment of this game.
A bit bigger problem is a portable mode, which sacrifices a lot more, one of the things being the resolution. There’s no big difference between docked and portable mode, but only because the smaller screen compensates for the flaws the game had to make to appear on this platform at all. Even with all these "flaws", Mutant Year Zero for Switch is a must-play title, simply because it's just perfect for playing these types of games on a portable console.
For those unfamiliar with XCOM games and are dedicated Nintendo fans, the gameplay mechanics are best compared with Mario + Rabbids game, which is absolutely fantastic in every sense as well. If you loved that type of combat, then you will also love Mutant Year Zero, even more so if you are a fan of post-apocalyptic games with a wonderful story, amazing details, and a great atmosphere accompanied by the almost perfect soundtrack.
The Deluxe Edition includes the first expansion called Seed of Evil, which is the direct continuation of the original game. Since this is a review for a Switch version of the game, we won’t spoil the game, so we’ll only mention a few things related to this great game.
Aside from the few weapons and other pieces of equipment you can find when you start your expansion, the biggest addition is definitely the new character, Big Khan, who will join you at the beginning of the adventure. His mutations will give you a breath of fresh air and a bit of variety in combat, and we believe he’ll be the one Stalker you’d want to use in the Zone. In terms of content, the Seed of Evil campaign requires six to eight hours of gameplay, with the addition of new side missions. There’s just a couple of them, but enough to make you stay immersed in this fantastic game a couple of hours longer.
Mutant Year Zero for the Nintendo Switch is an unusual, amazing title that simply has to be a part of your collection. All the flaws this title has are purely technical in nature, but which third party game does not have these issues, even those that come straight from Nintendo. With the content it offers, great gameplay, unusual characters and weirdly amazing humor, Mutant Year Zero is a must-play on Switch.