[Updated] Mutant Year Zero gets a disappointingly bad Switch port

[Update] Funcom has reported that an earlier build of the game was mistakenly posted to the eShop on release day. They have since launched a patch looking to address the issues surrounding the initial release of the game on Switch yesterday (July 30th).

I have downloaded and updated my review copy of Mutant Year Zero and was able to test and gather that it now looks a bit better than the first version that I played. The game still does not come close to the other versions’ presentational quality, so my impressions from the original review remain. In dock mode, the game manages to look fairly better than when playing handheld, but the lack of a real lighting depth model is still very much apparent. I tried bumping down the gamma in order to make the visuals slightly darker and more moody, but it’s still not ideal.

The new patched version of the game includes even longer loads when compared to the original that was played for review. The patch has also added in the new content that was post-release, including the Stalker Trials and the Seed of Evil DLC campaign, so all versions of Mutant Year Zero are now on par content-wise.

[Original review]

By now, my love for Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden should be no secret. It was one of my favorite games of last year, and even though it only came out practically at the end of 2018, it managed to make it to my top games list then. It was by no means a perfect game, but inherent warts aside, it’s a lot of fun. We’re getting two new releases for Mutant Year Zero in August, starting with the Seed of Evil expansion, a continuation of the main campaign which I also reviewed, along with the late Nintendo Switch port of the base Road to Eden content. 

For anyone who’s been holding out for this particular release, you should only pick it up if the Switch is your only alternative to playing games, or in case you feel you must play Mutant Year Zero on the go, because it’s by far the worst looking and performing version of the game. If you have access to a low to decently specced PC or any of the other consoles it came out on, you’ll be better off just playing Funcom and The Bearded Ladies gritty take on XCOM there.

This scene is supposed to be taking place at night, but there’s no lighting depth at all.

Mutant Year Zero is based on a tabletop role-playing game of the same name, taking place in a post-apocalyptic Earth where humanity was ravaged by a plague, and the only survivors are mutants with special abilities and scattered tribes of vicious men and women who grew insane. You play as a group of Stalkers, mutants who live in a safe haven called The Ark, who scavenge what’s left of civilization in search of supplies. As the game moves about with its story, you eventually find out what happened to the ancients you pick up after, as well as your own origins, as you eventually find your way into the mythical Eden the title alludes to.

Gameplay borrows a page or three from modern Fireaxis’ XCOM book, putting you in control of a squad of up to three characters, having you freely move through the world during exploration, and locking you into tactical turn-based combat when you approach enemies. The real knack about Mutant Year Zero though, aside from the unique character upgrades that come in the form of mutations that give them special abilities as they level up, is the possibility of being stealthy about your approach before engaging in encounters, in order to even up the odds. 

Character models look pretty damn cheap as well.

By equipping and using silent weapons, you’re able to pick off straggling enemies without alerting others, and it’s by far the most exciting aspect of playing Mutant Year Zero, since it tends to be pretty unforgiving difficulty-wise, with even the option of playing in the game’s version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown’s Ironman mode. Given the absolutely bonkers nature of shot percentages — even with a simplified 0, 25, 50, 75, or 100% ratios — I wouldn’t recommend playing the game like that for your sanity’s sake, but hey, I ain’t your mama!

While the game played and looked fine on PC, which was the version I originally played last year, Mutant Year Zero is a visual trainwreck on Nintendo’s portable console hybrid. I simply cannot believe how bad it looks on the Switch, from the blurry, low detail visuals without any form of lighting depth in neither docked and handheld modes, to the sluggish performance during more action-heavy gameplay. I checked back with the PC version just to be sure before drawing any comparisons, and even running it in integrated graphics mode — a step under minimum settings — the game manages to look even worse on the Switch. It’s like playing the original version of a PlayStation 2 title and then booting up a remaster on modern machines, a night and day difference between both versions of the same game. The original version on PC is by no means a graphical showcase either, so it’s a little baffling to see how bad it turned out when ported to the Switch.

It’s really hard to recommend picking this version of Mutant Year Zero up, unless you’re really itching to have it portably, or in the off case the Switch is the only gaming hardware you own. Presentation aside, this is still a playable version of one of my favorite games from last year, so if you have absolutely no other choice, it’s a worthwhile purchase down the line during a sale.


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