I’ve played most of the popular turn-based strategy games of our time- XCOM, Divinity Original Sin, their sequels, Battletech, Wasteland 2, etc. These games may be unparalleled in certain departments like XCOM in character customization and Divinity: Original Sin with regard to the lore, but if you consider sheer strategy, then Mutant Year Zero comes out on top.

Gameplay and Combat

The core strengths of Mutant Year Zero are the sneaking and ambush mechanics. They let the player target isolated enemies and finish them off with precision without alerting the rest. Planning goes a long way here, as reinforcements are brought at the first sign of trouble.

Mutant Year Zero

Like all other games in the genre, it lets you divide your party to set up intricate traps. For example, there are many enemies in the latter half of the game who can’t be pacified in one turn using conventional means. As soon as the turn ends, they alert all their friends and then it’s f***ing Christmas.

Mutations

However, there are certain skills called mutations that allow your stalkers to incapacitate ghouls for a couple of turns, making it possible to finish them off before they raise a ruckus. The same thing can be done with bots and machines who can be a bother at times. Just use an EMP on them, and they’ll skip a bunch of turns, and you can loot them for scrap.

Mutant Year Zero

The sequence in which you take down hostiles also has a big impact on how much damage you ultimately suffer. It’s recommended to nag the bosses or pack-leaders first as they often confer certain bonuses on their minions. All these seemingly small strategies will keep you alive and make Mutant Year Zero enjoyable. If you only rely on character placements and firearms, then it won’t be long before you rage-quit.

Customization

The game allows a fair deal of weapon and gear customization. Each party member can equip two weapons, preferably a loud and a suppressed one. Throwables like grenades, molotovs and smoke screens are also available strategic options when up against a horde of enemies. The latter hides both friend and foe from weapon fire and can be used to conceal badly injured members of the party to prevent casualties.

Mutant Year Zero

There are no side-quests as such but additional exploration grants access to some sweet gear and valuable scrap. You’ll also learn a bit about the game-world and the apocalypse, and how people reacted when all hell broke loose.

Visuals and Story

The game has surprisingly good graphics for a turn-based strategy, with some PC-specific enhancements like AMD’s contact-hardening shadows, although I’d recommend turning them off unless you have a really beefy system.

Mutant Year Zero

The plot is fairly mundane, but it keeps the momentum going. Like you won’t run into any JRPG story-twists but there will always be a well scripted main story mission to keep you immersed in case the combat starts getting too stressful.

Conclusion: Would Stalk Ghouls Again

Mutant Year Zero was a pleasant surprise. I’m not new to turn-based games but this was the first one in a while that made me plan my every move in advance. You’ll almost certainly struggle in the beginning but once you get the hang of the stealth-combat mechanics, taking down ghouls in the Zone becomes an absolute joy. If you are a fan of the genre, then do yourself a favor and don’t let this one pass.

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