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Mutant Year Zero now has a demo, plus a challenge mode

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, engages in turn-based tactical combat like a duck, and is free to look at like a duck, it must be a demo for Mutant Year Zero: Road To Eden. All and sundry are now invited to try out 2018’s delightful tactics ’em up for free, sneaking and shooting through the post-apocalyptic wasteland full of mutants and oddities in the game’s opening stages. It’s a bit XCOM-meets-S.T.A.L.K.E.R.-meets-Howard The Duck-meets-Hitman, and really quite a bit good. As you can now see for yourself. For folks who were already Stalking around the Zone, hey, a new challenge mode with leaderboards launched this week too.

Mutant Year Zero’s set a few centuries into the future, where the world is trashed by reasons long-since forgotten and civilisation clings on in one settlement surrounded by hordes of scavenging mutantmen. Off we go out into the wastes of the Zone as a pair of Stalkers (yes, the terminology is familiar), pigman Bormin and duckfella Dux, to scavenge supplies and- no, look, we’re the good scavengers, okay, not like those bad scavengers who are also just trying to survive. And then story happens.

Our Alec gushed plenty of praise in his Mutant Year Zero review. I foolishly did not heed this, and only now there’s a demo do I see oh god he’s so right. XCOM is an obvious comparison and inspiration for the game, but that misses the importance of stealth. Mutant Year Zero switches between real-time and turn-based depending on whether we’re in combat or not, so we’ll sneak around, scout targets, set up ambushes, and, if you’re me (which I think only applies to me?) try to salvage mistakes.

“What a glorious thing it is to slowly, painstakingly, silently transform an area patrolled by half a dozen rock-hard baddies into one that’s just got one or two suddenly highly vulnerable guys left standing,” Alec wrote.

“Even more glorious is bungling an assassination, winding up in a thousand-degree frying pan as a result, and somehow surviving it. Your squad have/can unlock special abilities that enable you to regain control of a chaotic situation, but it’s always seat of the pants stuff, shamelessly challenging and with tall demands on your patience and precision. It’s the closest I’ve known a turn-based strategy game to feel like Dishonored or Hitman – making Mutant Year Zero a beautiful collision of gaming things I love.”

I should’ve listened. I have really enjoyed the demo. I will now buy this game. I dig the tone and all, quirky and sometimes funny in juxtaposition with the grim world.

Swing by Steam and look for the “Download Demo” button down on the right to get going. It’s 5.8GB to download. The full game costs £30/€35/$35. It’s made by The Bearded Ladies and published by Funcom.

Mutant Year Zero also now has a challenge mode, named Stalker Trials. Added in a patch on Tuesday, they challenge players to Stalk hard and climb the online leaderboards. See those patch notes for details.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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