6 Strategies for Survival in Mutant: Year Zero
Do you really like X-COM, except for its overbearing insistence on making you miss seven 95% shots in a row? Mutant: Year Zero will treat you better, but it's still an unforgiving game that expects you to play by its rules. Set your Stalkers up for success by sticking to these six key strategies.
1. Searching for Extra Loot is Not Optional
Most games are built in such a way that players can cruise through the main campaign without focusing too heavily on side errands and still be successful. Mutant: Year Zero is not really one of them.
Especially on higher difficulty settings, you'll need to thoroughly scrounge every area in order to recover enough supplies to carry on. Common scrap and weapon parts are found everywhere and are used to buy stuff and to upgrade your weapons, respectively.
Artifacts are much rarer, but are even more important to your long-term success; they can be exchanged for permanent perks that benefit the whole squad.
Finally, unless you're a brilliant strategist or just extremely lucky, you'll be going through medkits and grenades (see tip #5) like candy. Both can be found in fairly healthy quantities, but often just out of plain view. Search high and low to keep your stocks full(ish).
2. Stealth is Also Not Optional
X-COM veterans in particular may think it's possible to build your squad in such a way that you'll be successful running into open combat, guns blazing.
It really isn't.
You might be able to get away with Rambo tactics on easy difficulty (which is called normal), but on normal (hard) or higher, enemies will consistently outnumber and outgun you. Even if you survive a particular knock-down-drag-out fight, you won't power through on a regular basis.
Positioning your squad for devastating ambushes is absolutely critical. I generally put my heavy gunner (Bormin) on overwatch and leave the others to stealthily snipe or support as needed for the first turn of combat, but the basic principle of preparing thoroughly for each and every fight is what matters here.
If a concealed squad member manages to one-shot an enemy that's unaware of them, you can continue picking off stragglers for free as long as you remain undetected. When someone eventually notices what you're doing (and they will), you'll definitely want to already have a trap set for them.
The outcome of the first turn of a battle is usually a good predictor of the final result, so hit hard, hit fast, and make sure each party member's gear and skills synergize well together.
3. Take the High Ground
This probably seems obvious—the tutorials do tell you to take the high ground, but they don't really emphasize how important it is. If there's a hill, rooftop, or vehicle, get on it ASAP.
Being above your target makes it easier to hit them, and harder for them to hit you. What's more, it effectively shuts down (or at least hampers) melee enemies, who will have to climb to get to you, and will often need to cross open ground in the process, making themselves choice targets.
4. Half Cover is No Cover
I don't mean that half cover (indicated by a half-filled shield icon during movement) is literally useless, but it should be viewed as only marginally better than no cover.
Some characters will gain skills that allow them to gain full-cover bonuses from half-cover positions, but until then, don't underestimate how accurate even regular enemies can be. The second rule of survival in Mutant: Year Zero (behind hit hard, hit fast) is don't take damage.
Full cover provides significantly better protection than half cover, but it's also harder to find. If you can't leave a great position to get within range of the enemy, so be it—let them come to you, which they eventually will. Hold your castle and be patient.
5. It's Raining Men Grenades
As we've already mentioned, dominating the enemy during the first round of combat is key to keeping your squad healthy and well supplied. One of the best ways to do that is to inflict big damage on multiple targets at once, before any of them have a chance to spread out.
Enemies often clump together when they think they're safe, and if you've been searching each map carefully, you should always have at least a few grenades on hand at all times. Use 'em.
If you've got enough ordinance to spare, battles that would otherwise be tough can sometimes be won during the first turn without any of your Stalkers taking a scratch.
For even more first-round devastation, set all but one squad member in overwatch and have the last person trigger the trap by tossing the grenade.
In most cases, you don't need to worry too much about using your last grenade. As long as you maintain good loot hunting habits, you should find more explosives soon enough.
6. Heal Freely (Out of Combat)
During combat, medkits restore a set number of hit points, but out of combat, a single one will fully heal a squad member. This may seem like a no-brainer, but maybe it doesn't, especially if you're a conservationist used to hoarding supplies in games.
As a rule of thumb, you should generally heal out of combat anytime a party member falls below 50% health. This may feel wasteful, especially since your medkit reserves will rarely reach double digits, but rest assured, the game is designed to be played this way.
Heading into combat in a weakened state dramatically increases the odds of allies being knocked out. Not only does this mean at least two missed turns for you (one for the unconscious Stalker and one for the person who has to revive them), it's also an inefficient use of relatively uncommon medkits.
A proactive approach will eliminate, or at least mitigate, most of these problems.
There you have it! Mutant: Year Zero is a challenging but fair turn-based strategy game. Knowing when to be conservative and when to give it all you've got will make your team's dangerous and difficult journey much more manageable.
Be sure to periodically check our Mutant: Year Zero hub page for more guides in the near future.