What I'm Playing - No. 94
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
Be warned, minor spoilers may be contained within. Generally, I do try to keep things spoiler-free but this isn’t always possible/practical! If you want to totally avoid all potential spoilers so you can play these games yourself in a blind run, you shouldn’t continue reading! Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden (PC)
I played through this turn-based, tactical RPG this week. Based on the Mutant Year Zero tabletop RPG that’s been around since 1984, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden follows the adventures of several anthropomorphic mutants. They live in a post-apocalyptic Earth where humanity has nearly gone extinct, and those that remain are mutants. I chose to play on Normal difficulty, which was the easiest option. Its description sounded the most enjoyable to me, since I haven’t played many turn-based cover-shooters like this. I think the only one I’ve played through is Mario+Rabbids on the Switch.
You take control of a small band of mutants who live in a settlement called the Ark. They’re known as Stalkers, and their duty is to venture out into the wasteland, known as the Zone, and scavenge for supplies to keep their community strong. It’s a dangerous task; many blood-thirsty mutants wander the Zone. Your initial group is just 2 members: Bormin, a boar-like mutant, and Dux, a duck-like mutant. After returning to the Ark after a successful scavenging mission, the Elder, leader of the Ark, has grave news. Hammon, a mutant of the Ark who is a genius with machinery, has gone missing. Without Hammon, the Ark can’t run smoothly. Bormin and Dux have no choice but to accept the Elder’s mission, and head back into the Zone once more to find Hammon.
As I mentioned earlier, this game is turn-based. Success in battle depends on finding good cover to protect yourself from enemy gunfire while outgunning and outmaneuvering your enemies. There are also exploration, stealth, and RPG elements. Between battles, you can freely explore several interconnected areas in real-time. Battle begins once an enemy discovers you, which will happen whenever you enter their alertness radius, at which point the action becomes turn-based and fixed to a grid. You can shrink the alertness radius by turning off your flashlight and entering sneak mode. This causes you to move slower, and without your flashlight its harder to find supplies since the flashlight illuminates them at a distance. You can split up your team at any time, which gives you a number of strategic options when sneaking up on enemies. For instance, you could hide Dux on high ground to have him snipe, and then flank the enemy with Bormin.
One thing that’s really cool about the encounters is that you can use the stealth mechanics to pick off isolated enemies without alerting all enemies in the area. It took me a while to find a good way to do this, because you basically have to defeat the straggler in 1 turn, otherwise they’ll shout and alert the rest of the enemies. Eventually, I realized I could have Bormin knock down the enemy for a few turns with one of his special skills. Since a knocked down enemy is stunned, they can’t call for help, and it’s time to pummel them with silenced weapons. I definitely abused this tactic as much as possible once I discovered it, and managed to make it through a whole region without having to fight more than 1 enemy at a time!
I enjoyed Mutant Year Zero. There were a few odd visual bugs here and there, but nothing game breaking. The areas available to explore were delightfully dark and overgrown, and I enjoyed finding scrap and other valuables off the beaten path. The soundtrack was also full of synth, and it gives the game a pretty cool aesthetic. The ending was a little abrupt. It felt sort of like the end of an arc in a TV series, or the end of the first book in the series. The main conflict was wrapped up, but it left me wondering what was next for main cast. Apparently, there’s a DLC that continues the story, and sounds like it might leave things on a more resolved note. I’m content with the base game’s ending, at least for now!
Life is Strange 2 (PC)
PatronusLight and I started playing through this one together this week. It takes place after the first game, but from what we’ve seen so far, the events don’t really connect to that game very much. Life is Strange 2 follows brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz, with the player controlling the older brother, Sean. After a tragic accident, the two are forced to run away from home, and it’s up to Sean to care for and mentor his kid brother. That’s a lot of responsibility for a teenager, and to complicate matters further, it soon becomes clear that Daniel has special powers - powers that could be dangerous, especially in the hands of a child.
Like the Telltale games and its predecessor, Life is Strange 2 is episodic. Each episode originally released months apart, but we bought the whole season as once. Not having to wait for new episodes to come out is definitely one of the perks of waiting to play games like this! Gameplay is much like the aforementioned Telltale games too. You explore a bit, talk to people, and make decisions that impact the story. Episode 1 started out pretty strong, albeit a little slow at times. PatronusLight and I played through the first and 2nd episodes. In the 2nd episode, the game ties into The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. The 2nd episode has had some good moments too, but there was a point where we just knew bad things were about to happen to these characters, because the plot had them making stupid decisions. It was like watching a horror movie where the characters make the dumbest decision possible - all you can do is watch in horror, and yell at your TV. We were dreading what we knew was coming, so we dragged our feet finishing that episode. When we did finish it, it actually wasn’t as bad as expected, and I actually think we got the best outcomes in that episode, based on the possibilities that are revealed to you at the end when it shows you the overview of all the possible choices and the percentage of other players who picked each one. Overall, I’m enjoying Life is Strange 2, but I don’t think it’s as good as the original so far. I’ll try to hold off comparing the two until we finish this 2nd game…but I’m probably going to be biased since I really enjoyed the first game! To be fair, one of the aspects I really liked about the first game was the soft, indie/alternative, piano/acoustic-guitar-filled soundtrack, and the sequel definitely lives up to it in that regard!