Mutant: Year Zero: Seed of Evil
Might contain spoilers.
This is a great, satisfying game. The main campaign (Mutant: Year Zero: Road to Eden) is nice and concise, while Seed of Evil has some visible padding. As the Internet will tell you, it’s more of a puzzle box than a strategy game, so there isn’t much replay value. It’s a shame you can only use three squad members, to the point that it’s always a surprise to see the entire team in cutscenes. Switching from the three first heroes (Bormin, Dux, and Selma) never seemed necessary to me. Naturally, like any XCOM-esque game, gameplay is filled with satisfying kills from low probability shots as well as misses from high probability shots.
The UI makes some strange choices. For example, when the game starts, you must press a button on the keyboard to continue to the menu, but selecting an option at said menu requires the mouse. In the midst of battle, right-clicking will abruptly change from canceling actions to moving. The game sorely needs a quicksave mechanism. It also continues annoying trend of minimizing the game window when tabbing out.
The camera can be problematic during battles. In a nice touch, hovering over a position shows possible targets along with hit probabilities. Unfortunately, because of the angle, those probabilities sometimes aren’t visible onscreen.
The stealth mechanism is inadequately explained, particularly how line of sight works. I only really learnt how to use in the second half of Seed of Evil (thanks to a Reddit post). It was fun to pick off enemies after that rather than immediately enter big firefights. Molotovs are useless.
The story is interesting, not least because it avoids exposition (save for the long, static
monologues from the Elder in Road to Eden). The environmental design is commendable, too, for
how it tells the story without words. There’s excellent humour throughout. The characters feel
reasonably authentic and human. The Ghouls in the Zone are always worth stopping and listening to as
they discuss very human concerns, voice their fears, castigate each other, talk about completely
irrelevant things, and so on. Many moments made me pause to laugh. The squad’s discussions of the
artifacts are always hilarious too. This is all helped by the great vocal performances, not
just for the core duo of Bormin and Dux but from the entire cast.
Something the game does well is to avoid giving you a team of superheroes by the end. Part of this is that accumulated experience stops having any value once the slots for mutations are filled (and the same goes for scrap and weapon parts past a certain point), which happened to me before even completing the main campaign. Properly trained heroes will be strong, but in my playthrough, a single shot would still remove half of Dux’s health, and a single careless move could still doom the entire squad. I always had to plan my fights and methodically eliminate enemies to stand any chance of success.
It’s extremely tedious and frustrating to be forced to scour areas for scrap and parts after killing enemies, especially because of the slow movement speed. It would have been a big help for all such things to be automatically retrieved once the area was cleared. Indeed, traversal is generally an annoyance. It’s hard to tell where the boundaries of an area lie. It’s also hard to tell which objects are low enough to walk over. On a related note, there are situations where characters have the ability to reach a higher level during battles but not outside them, which sometimes leaves scrap dropped by enemies inaccessible.
The visuals are nice, in the sense that the important characters and objects are reasonably detailed while the rest vary in quality.
- It’s funny that the DLC ending reuses the main ending.↩