Analysis of Mutant Year Zero. A very original XCOM game, centered on stealth

Mutant Year Zero
Written by Kamran Haider

We are in the Zone, a dangerous area of ​​this post-apocalyptic world full of mutants, some more friendly than others. In the analysis of Mutant Year Zero, we explored this interesting strategy game that gathers the base of the combat of an XCOM and the mixture with exploration in real time. All in order to unravel the mystery behind a strange place called Eden.

When I played XCOM 2, I remember that one of the novelties was focused on stealth, but unlike what we could think at first, this stealth only served to plan the position of the units before the battle. We could take the initiative, but once we started attacking, all enemies located us, except for one that we could keep in this state until we wanted to. In the end, he remained in a certain curiosity rather than in a complete system of stealth because Firaxis wanted to continue focusing on the action, but it seems that it was enough to inspire this new and small studio to create its own vision. Mutant Year Zero takes the XCOM base for the combat and adds an infiltration and ambush component that is really refreshing for the genre.

Here the numerical superiority of the enemies is usually a fact in practically all the combats, the reason why we will have to use the cunning and to try to decimate our opponents whenever we can. When an enemy is left behind and moves away from the main group it is time to use our silent weapons to try to finish him off. Little by little, we will reduce the number of enemies to turn the tide and tilt the fight in our favor. Even so, it will not be easy, since there are many enemies that will not move from their position and that will alert the units that are around them. That is when we have to take out our heavier and noisier weapons to return to the strategy in turn of a lifetime.

Exploration and stealth

When we are not fighting, the game takes place in real time, instead of in turns. Again, it is a very original system that mixes the best of two worlds to create a good dynamism in the game. At this moment we explore the different interconnected areas of the scene, in search of resources and equipment to improve our strange and mutant units. We decide when to ambush the enemies and when to go unnoticed because it is very important to choose the battles and in some moments to leave behind certain enemies that can be too complicated for our level, which is better to face later.

The Zone is divided into different interconnected areas that we will have to explore thoroughly if we want to discover all its secrets and in the highest difficulties, it will be practically necessary to explore 100%. In the end I detected that the trick is to clean each area well and the difficult thing is to identify the correct order in doing so, because although you can leave behind hard enemies, you need to face them in the future to be able to go up in level and improve mutant powers of your units. These powers are very varied and allow us from ramming units to throw them to the ground until we grow up to skip the covers from an elevated position. We also have a refuge that works as a base, the Ark, but here I miss the depth that XCOM had. It is noted that the study has not had so many resources to deepen this part of the game. We will hardly have stores with which to trade and improve our weapons, also equipping accessories, but beyond that, there are no improvements that serve to deepen the fighting.

If you miss more XCOM or maybe this one seems too complex and you prefer an intermediate step, Mutant Year Zero is for you

For the development of the game, the truth is that it is not very necessary either since it contains enough variety for its 20 hours of the campaign. The differences are found in the units themselves, whose mutant powers make them virtually unique compared to the XCOM soldiers. A mutant may have psychic powers that allow him to mentally manipulate human units but what is completely useless against robotic ones. One of our allies can deactivate these units, while another focuses on physical strength or long-range combat. In the end, I found the differences between the squad very funny and know exactly when one unit is needed over another. The maximum fault that I put? Not being able to carry more than three units at a time, what is the maximum that the game allows you since it could have resulted in much more strategic and complex combats.

Mutant action in turns

In the end, it is noted that Mutant Year Zero has had to put limits to their ambitions because it is a smaller study than Firaxis. Even so, this approach to stealth and this kind of guerrilla warfare in a post-apocalyptic and mutant environment feels great. If you miss more XCOM or maybe this one seems too complex and you prefer an intermediate step, Mutant Year Zero is for you. If the thing works, I’m sure that with this good foundation, we will be able to implement many improvements for a future second part. I hope so because the game has really convinced me. It encourages you to explore each of its corners to uncover the mystery behind the enigmatic Eden.

Graphically, in addition, a great deal of work has been done. The Unreal engine works well (except for a load of some textures) and leaves some very accomplished places that, although at first, I could do a little repetitive, little by little they are opening up to new environments and different types of lighting. Yes, we can get to miss more variations in the long run but in general meets. In addition, for the second half of the game, you will be completely trapped by their combats, much more intricate than in the beginning, as well as with the story that is revealed little by little and that captures our interest. From that moment, you can only think in turn, trying by all means not to lose any allied unit in the process. And it is that as it happens in XCOM, in the end, you take care of all of them and each one has its use. Much more when they are unique and different from each other.

There is a mode of difficulty that makes things really complex beyond the classic Normal, Difficult and Apocalyptic modes. It is about the Iron Mutant in a clear homage to this XCOM mode, in which death was permanent. The fact that we can not save the game is really difficult because the trip becomes much lighter if we are able to save and load game just before each fight. Playing in this mode is a real challenge and serves above all to add a replay component in the game, although it is really difficult.

In any case and any mode of difficulty, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden convinces

In any case and any mode of difficulty, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden convinces. It is easy not to take into account all the small and big things that do not make it as deep as the work of Firaxis because it is enjoyed from beginning to end. You can tell that the people behind it, the Bearded Ladiesstudio formed by ex-creators of games like Hitman and Payday, know exactly what they do. A perfect hors d’oeuvre that makes me realize, deep down, how much I miss that there are more games of this style.

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Mutant Year Zero is a turn-based strategy game that supposes a breath of fresh air to the genre, thanks to its contributions to stealth and exploration in real time. Your characters are unique and charismatic and you will want to take care of them at all times during the 20 or more hours of play. A different and very original approach that is already a more than valid alternative to this reference that is XCOM.

  • The use of stealth implies a new approach to gender.
  • Real-time scanning helps create a unique combination.
  • The combats are strategic and challenging.
  • The Ark, our base, is shallow and could give more of itself.
  • We can only carry three units at a time.


About the author

Kamran Haider

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