If at anytime in your life you've thought to yourself "I like X-Com, but it needs more pigs and ducks," my friend, I have some damned excellent news for you. Mutant Year Zero: Road To Eden is here and all your dreams of ducks shooting crossbows at robots with a porky best friend are now within your grasp.
Story & Flow
Mutant Year Zero: Road To Eden is a post-apocalyptic, turn-based strategy title in the vein of X-Com. You actively control your characters through stealthy exploration until battle breaks out, either by you ambushing your opponents or them noticing you, wherein the game then switches to a turn-based grid-based battleground. You start off as the appropriately named Dux and Bormin (a duck and a boar, respectively), two mutant scavengers who are attempting to make it in this post-apocalyptic landscape.
In this world, humanity's fate dances on the edge of a knife as the last survivors struggle to live through each day, where mutant scavengers like Dux and Bormin leave the safety of the Arc (a "home base" of sorts) and head into the Zone, an irradiated wasteland filled with the remnants of modern humanity and a host of dangerous creatures, all in the hope of scavenging enough goodies to keep the Arc functional for one more day.
What's great about this title is the sheer amount of strategy that goes into every encounter. The game makes it clear early on that you will never have the numbers advantage, so it's advantageous to skirt around enemies that are too high a level for you, as well as pick off stragglers when actually engaging a group. Your characters have choices of different weapons, such as the silent crossbow or the incredibly noisy boom-stick, as well as access to a slew of mutant abilities that unlock as you increase your mutant's levels.
Along the way, you'll encounter other desperate scavengers and add them to your merry band of wasteland adventurers, as you look for a lost member of the Arc, who went hunting for the secrets of Eden, a mythical city untouched by the Rot.
The characters in MYZ:RtE are fantastic and the atmosphere is plenty engaging. A common trope is that these characters are so far removed from the society that existed before the bombs fell and the Red Plague destroyed humanity, that all the relics left behind baffle them.
A personal favorite is when Dux and Bormin discover a boom box, one insisting that it's a dangerous bomb ("It's called a BOOM box!") while the latter insists it's safe and will fetch a good price. This can wear a little thin after the fifteenth mention of metal birds (airplanes) or iron serpents (trains), but the game usually manages to rein it in before it becomes too annoying.
The mechanics of the game are easy to understand and it's a lot of fun to look over a map of enemies, plotting out a strategy, and then seeing it come to life, bit by bit. The game rewards exploration and patience, allowing you to take on tougher foes with a little planning and offering side maps to explore for more loot and experience.
On top of this, the characters are quite engaging. The back and forth between Dux, Bormin, and the rest of the gang are humanizing and often thoughtful, especially for roles that could just as easily ended up as "tank," "sniper," or "rogue." Unfortunately, because your squad can't exceed three members at a time, I wasn't terribly motivated to swap out new characters very often, as I'd already grown attached to the ones I had.
Graphics & Sound
The game isn't terribly graphics intensive, but it is pretty. Well... as pretty as a post-apocalyptic wasteland can be. Characters can find armor and other accessories throughout the world that are reflective of the "before times," meaning Dux can wear a weathered top hat and Bormin a clear poker visor. And they straight rock it.
In fact, all the details of the wasteland tell a bit of a story. From the gas stations to the train stations, all with an unmistakably but non-specifically European flair, you can see not only the story that's meant to unfold in front of you, but the stories this world has built based on the context-sparse remnants of the old world.
The music, while suitable, is nothing that merits deep analysis. It's fitting, it doesn't distract, it does its job.