I’ve never been one for turn-based strategy, no matter how often everyone sings the genre’s praises. I want to say that it’s because I find the gameplay to be slow and boring and the whole “percentage to hit” thing furiously frustrating, but in reality it’s probably just because I’m not incredibly intelligent. So I skipped every XCOM game, never got into Advance Wars and don’t even get me started on Fire Emblem. How anyone has the patience for 80 hours of that is well beyond me (Editor’s note: Shut up Brad).
In a strange turn of events I was tasked with reviewing Mutant Year Zero’s long-awaited Switch release and I’ll admit that I was hesitant going into it, but I also wanted to give it a fair shot. I saw it as a learning opportunity to maybe find some sort of appreciation for a genre I’d long since written off. Turned out that was probably the best way to go into reviewing Mutant Year Zero on the Switch, because the port doesn’t have much else going for it.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, was released in December of last year and looked at taking the table-top strategy/roleplaying game of the same name and bringing it to a screen near you. The world has been ravaged by some kind of plague, killing off nearly everyone and leaving small pockets of survivors scattered far and wide, each trying their best to make it through the day. You play as the titular mutants who are sent to find Hammon, the only man who can keep your settlement which is known as The Ark, running. The story is compelling enough if you’re okay with really tired post-apocalyptic cliche’s but I’m not really going to go too much into that aspect of Mutant Year Zero. Resident writer Sam Spiller did the original review for it, so check that out if you want his take on it.
Where MYZ really excels is the implementation of exploration within a turn-based combat system. There’s a degree of freedom offered to players as they make their way through the various locations, choosing whether or not to avoid enemies or challenge them head on. Stealth allows you to isolate stray targets and take them out before the battle, giving you a feeling of prevailing over the odds by outsmarting the enemy. It’s how I imagine Rambo felt taking out all those poor soldiers who were just doing their jobs. Alongside the management of ammo, movement and health, you’ll also be able to utilise a series of perks specific to certain mutants like a charged shot that disables robots or the ability refill of an individual health bar by chowing down on an organic corpse. Yum!
Again, I’m just going through this quickly because it was covered in the review of the original release. For the rest of the article, I want to talk about the Switch version and how it effectively showed me what it would be like to suffer from glaucoma. We all know the Switch isn’t exactly a powerhouse of a console; the charm of the device comes from the convenience of taking some of your most beloved games on the go. That being said, I was aware that Mutant Year Zero probably wouldn’t look stunning on the Switch. The original PC release looked surprisingly good and boasted some really beautiful environments alongside detailed character models. Yet to get it running on the Switch, it’s clear the developers had to tone a lot down and unfortunately the game looks terribly dated. A good-looking game released in December 2018 unfortunately looks like an early release title for the Xbox 360, made worse by the resolution being so low that the screen is almost constantly blurry.
The user interface is the exception here, fortunately. Mutant Year Zero’s menus and heads-up display look crystal clear; the real problem comes in when the maps you’re running around in look so garbled and unclear that you’ll find yourself running into a box that you can’t discern from the grass. It’s frustrating to say the least but I can’t think of any other way to get the game running on a device that so clearly lacks the necessary power to deliver its visuals. What’s perhaps even more frustrating than the poor graphical quality is Mutant Year Zero’s performance which borders on choppy to totally unplayable. It’s most apparent when enemies take their turn in combat, with the game often stuttering to a complete halt to register the most basic of actions, let alone the destruction of cover and buildings.
It’s a pity because Mutant Year Zero is the perfect sort of game for the Switch. It fits into a category of challenging but accessible strategy games that offer up a decent amount of playtime that does admittedly end a little too soon. As someone who maybe wants a strategy game to play on the go but doesn’t have 200 hours to spare for Fire Emblem, Mutant Year Zero would be the perfect option. Unfortunately, the port leaves a lot to be desired thanks to a severe graphical downgrade that renders the ugly in positively hideous graphics and performance issues that are both jarring and staggeringly apparent. With the Seed of Evil DLC launching later today I plan on delving head first into the game’s first expansion but I have serious doubts as to whether it’ll be enough to fix Mutant Year Zero’s technical issues.
Last Updated: July 30, 2019