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Developer: The Bearded Ladies Consulting Publisher: Funcom Platform: PS4, Xbox One, and PC Release Date: December 4, 2018 ESRB: M for Mature Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game It does not take too much effort to find a game that's heavily inspired by the challenging turn-based tactical title X-COM: Enemy Unknown nowadays. But there is something to be said about encountering one that's well-made and reminds you why the X-COM formula is often so compelling. Based on a fairly old Swedish pen-and-paper RPG, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden intends to do just that by taking its source material to the strategic, turn-based video game realm. It is a title that has some fresh ideas, even if its road to paradise is anything but neatly paved. As one would guess from something strongly influenced by the late XCOM titles, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden boasts gun-centric turn-based tactical combat as well as plenty of oppressive difficulty options, such as permadeath or autosaving after every turn for those masochistic enough. But, beyond that obvious parallel, Mutant Year Zero revels in its post-apocalyptic world-building far more than X-COM. One of the primary distinctions is that the units the player has control over are mutants (referred to as "stalkers"), such as the on-the-nose titled "Dux," who as one likely guessed is an anthropomorphic duck, to the less obvious ones like the human-like Selma who can do stuff like bind enemies to the ground with tree roots despite looking relatively normal otherwise. The more inspired aspects of the game come into play rather quickly as there is a heavy emphasis on stealth and gathering resources throughout the various zones. Most enemies have bright red vision cones and it is up to the player to wisely, or not, attempt to thin down enemy numbers before they can attempt to call reinforcements and likely start up a prolonged and difficult turn-based combat scenario. It creates an intriguing blend of real-time and turn-based elements while also encouraging thorough exploration for a new gun, piece of armor, or maybe even an old "relic" to bring back to the home base, referred to as the Ark, for various permanent upgrades. While the player feels woefully equipped for most things early in, including stealth (with only one member able to use a silent weapon at the start), the game eventually starts to balance out as one garners new levels, skills, and equipment. There is a fair amount of flexibility in tactical options such as lopping a grenade to destroy enemy cover to the more supernatural mutant-specific skills like sprouting wings and taking potshots at foes at higher ground. Despite there being a small amount of playable characters there is enough flexibility in their skill trees to encourage a diverse approach to each confrontation in addition to attempting to wisely utilize stealth options or gathered resources when one is able to do so. The least inspired aspect of all is likely the storytelling itself, unfortunately. While the post-apocalyptic title most certainly has a heavy emphasis on atmosphere (and is generally better for it), the narrative plot twists are not only signposted long in advance but also leave one feeling like so little happened by the end journey with its shallow sequel tease. At the very least, however, it is somewhat amusing that the lead cast like to treat "ancients" throughout (or rather those akin to modern civilization in our world), by poking fun at the impracticality of many pieces of their technology or outright misinterpreting the usage of much of it. More important than story qualms, though, and perhaps the biggest problem I had with playing the game at launch was its various technical issues. The biggest issue had to do with enemies being called in as reinforcements yet being unable to reach me (...or some taunted by one of the skills that I enjoyed using) and, conversely, I was unable to reach them, which left the title in a game-breaking state that made exiting combat impossible beyond being forced to reload an old save. Thankfully, despite happening a couple of times near the beginning, it was mostly patched out in recent updates. A few other technical quirks did consistently surface elsewhere, such as awkward load times and frequent visual stutters on PS4, which can distract from the experience. As a first debut Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden gets a fair amount right with its rewarding tactical gameplay and generally well-implemented stealth/gathering systems. Where it stumbles, unfortunately, is in its technical implementation (especially at launch with some game-breaking bugs) and a narrative/cast that is not all that compelling. There is still enjoyment to be had in this adventure despite its rough edges, however, and for those looking for a solid X-COM-like that tries its hand at some new ideas, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden should certainly fit the bill. Pros + Creative take on turn-based tactical gameplay that also includes stealth/gathering gameplay systems + Unit variety, as well as weapons/gear, lend themselves to many strategic options + Characters that amusingly treat "ancients" with the amount of respect they deserve: none Cons - Occasional technical performance hiccups that are really jarring - Stealthily picking off foes one by one can get somewhat tedious in the latter half - Storytelling/cast are quite predictable and does not do much with either by the end Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a rewarding, turn-based tactical title that gets plenty right in its first debut, but it has just enough rough edges, and narrative teasing, that one may find themselves wondering if a sequel could turn the brand into something truly special Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
Marcus Estrada posted a article in Industry NewsIf you are an adventure fan then The Longest Journey is probably a series you're familiar with. The first game, simply titled The Longest Journey, arrived on PCs back in 1999. It was immediately popular and was designed by Ragnar TÃ¸rnquist. Seven years later, in 2006, the sequel arrived under the name of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. Although the popularity of adventure games had definitely changed in that span of time, it still found an audience. Now, nearly seven years after that, it has been announced that Ragnar TÃ¸rnquist is in pre-production stages with the next Longest Journey game, titled Dreamfall Chapters. Although Funcom owns the rights to the franchise (not TÃ¸rnquist's own developer), he went and paid for a license to use them. This is so he can produce the game under his studio Red Thread Games. Although he has been mulling over the idea of making a new game, it has been on the back burner until today's announcement. Check out what the developer has to say about finally returning to the series: "I'm very excited to finally have the opportunity to continue the 'The Longest Journey' saga. Ever since we ended 'Dreamfall' on a nail-biting cliffhanger, players have been rightfully demanding a sequel, and my deal with Funcom will finally make that possible. I'm extremely grateful to Funcom for this unique and exciting opportunity, and I can't wait to dive back into the universe I helped create more than a decade ago, and continue the story players have been waiting for these past six years." Have you ever played The Longest Journey or Dreamfall? Do you appreciate this resurgence in bringing back games?
Jason Clement posted a article in Industry NewsIt's always an unfortunate circumstance when publishers are hit with layoffs (even more so in the wake of Nintendo Power's announced end earlier today) , but unfortunately today proved to be a major day for such an occurrence at the likes of PopCap, THQ, and Funcom (developer of The Secret World and Age of Conan). Specifically, PopCap had to let go 50 employees (more or less) at their Seattle studio while exploring the possibility of whether or not any changes can be made to attain profitability with their Dublin, Ireland studio. PopCap's co-founder stated that today's layoffs are the result of a "fast-changing industry" and the need to reorganize in order to manage costs, improve efficiency, and maintain a profit. You can read more of what he said here on PopCap's very public blog explaining the reason for the layoffs. Meanwhile, THQ has laid off about 20 people from its marketing staff. This comes as a reorganization of sorts as the company's new president, Jason Rubin, attempts to shift more resources into development areas. The official statement on the matter from THQ reads: "THQ confirms a realignment has taken place in the company's marketing and production groups in Agoura Hills. This change is reflective of the company's ongoing strategy to create a more focused, agile, and digitally-oriented organization. Less than 3% of the company's global workforce was impacted, and no development teams or projects were affected by this action." Last but not least, Funcom has not revealed the official number of layoffs but reports that certain measures are being taken to reduce operating costs for The Secret World through layoffs and other means. Game Podunk wishes the best for those who were laid off and hopes they land on their feet soon.