A duck, a boar and a mutated human walk into a camp full of ghouls.
This not the start of a very weird joke (though it could be). This is how the first gameplay video of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden starts.
The video shows exploration, combat, progression and a tiny bit of world-building. We also get some information about the story from the video’s narrators – Mark and Lee, a producer and developer respectively. Both have previously worked at IO Interactive, a studio famous for the marvelous Hitman series.
The premise of Mutant Year Zero isn’t really all that new. The world has ended, humanity is on the brink of extinction and its last surviving bastion, the Ark is falling apart.
To save the Ark, mutated humans explore the Zone, a nuclear wasteland filled with danger, but also precious supplies. Those who go out into the Zone are called Stalkers, and if any of this sounds familiar to you then congratulations – you’ve played at least one game in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series.
Our stalkers on hand are Selma, who is the human-looking woman; Bormin, the humanoid boar; and Dux, who is a duck.
Each of them has their role to play, with their own abilities, or mutations as they are called.
For example, we get to see Dux’s Mothwings mutation that allows him to sprout leathery wings and fly up to gain an additional advantage in combat.
There are several mutation characters can “equip,” and it’s possible to change them at any point outside of combat. That should be useful, as different situations call for different character builds.
The major, minor and passive mutations available for each character can be unlocked as you rise in the levels, and can create very specialized characters. In the demo, Bormin serves as a sort of tank, with the ability to absorb damage or burst throw cover to knock down enemies.
At this point, it isn’t clear how crucial Selma, Dux and Bormin are to the story, but they can die in combat, so I’m assuming you can unlock new stalkers when needed.
As is with most tactical RPGs, combat is turn-based. It reminds me of the recent XCOM games, which makes sense since the developers also use XCOM as a point of reference on the game’s official site.
So yeah, combat is a pretty standard turn-based affair. You take turns moving and shooting at the enemy, and then the enemy does the same. You can use silenced weapons to avoid alerting nearby enemies and even loot the fallen.
The new “twist” Mutant Year Zero brings is the element of stealth. If you spot an enemy before they spot you, you have the option to prepare an ambush. You can position your stalkers in strategic locations around the battlefield, and then initiate combat.
The strategic decisions don’t end with unit positions. You have other ways to take control of the battlefield. During the demo’s final battle, we see the devs use Bormin to sneak into an enemy camp and activate a dormant war mech. Bormin got the codes for the huge robot in a previous mission, and they allow him to reset its targeting information so it will attack everyone in the camp.
The team could have chosen to leave the war mech inactive, and save themselves the trouble of having to destroy it once all enemies are down. However, then they would be risking the enemy using it themselves.
Movement outside of combat is all in real-time, so you’re free the explore as you like without being confined to a grid system.
Mutant Year Zero isn’t just tactical combat. There is an element of exploring, and the game’s map looks pretty big. You can fast travel through discovered location, and you’d be happy to know all environment are persistent. If you clear a camp of enemies, they won’t respawn the next time you visit it.
I’m not really sure what’s the benefit of revisiting past location, but I’m guessing we’ll have good reasons to go back.
All in all, the Mutant Year Zero gameplay video shows a promising game. The story and premise appear to be a little too cliche, but the combat and aesthetics have definitely piqued my curiosity; it’s not every day you get to play a human-sized duck in a trench coat.
Mutant Year Zero is an upcoming tactical RPG, based on the pen-and-paper Mutant IP. It’s developed by The Bearded Ladies, a Swedish game studio, and published by Funcom.
The game will be available on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this year.