Developer: Experiment 101
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platform: PC(Steam), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X
Price: $59,99 USD
Release Date: May 25th, 2021
First revealed almost half a decade ago, Biomutant has finally undergone a full release on all platforms. So much time between first reveal and release is usually a bad sign but surprisingly, Biomutant has very solid gameplay and a consistent vision. For this review I’ll be going over some of the game’s systems, its stronger points as well as some flaws.
You begin the game by creating a character. All characters in Biomutant are rat-looking mutations that stand on two feet, use melee weapons, guns and shoot weird psyonic attacks. You’ve got different classes focused on different attacks, your race plays a part too. When customizing your custom stats your physical appearance morphs. For example, moving the slider towards Strength makes your upper arms bulkier but the head shrinks at well.
Once created you’re shown the opening animation again and put in control of your character, have a little tutorial road to follow, learn the basic system and at the end, you have a flashback to your childhood and meet a guide NPC before being thrown into the large open world. Flashbacks in Biomutant are very important because they are fully interactive and have choices for you to make, and those affect your character in the present and how others see you. They will happen throughout the story at several points.
Once you meet your first few NPCs you will realize that the entire story in Biomutant is told through the voice of the Narrator. He speaks to the player from the very first moment of the game, gives advice and indirectly tells you what other characters are speaking. In a sense, the narrator plays the role that would belong to a Game Master in a table top RPG. The NPCs in the game only make “talking noises” that are interpreted by the Narrator. If you’ve ever played Banjo-Kazooie, it’s exactly like in that game.
The first bits of information fed to the player are that the World Tree is dying, the World Eaters are responsible and its your role to do something about it. Also the tribes are split up and fighting each other and you guessed it, you need to do something about that too.
Shortly after this scene you exit the tutorial section and have access to all parts of the world. Your first task will be to contact one of the first two tribes but you’ll encounter many more missions and tasks to do. Random NPCs on the road, different puzzles to solve, areas to explore and so on. Standard open world game from this point forward.
The bread and butter of Biomutant is the mix of melee and ranged attacks. Everything is cooked to make the gameplay look and feel like a Kung Fu movie, from the themes and powers and attacks. You will scavange for better parts to make new weapons. You can also jump, run and roll(dodge). Combined with attacks you will perform combos to unleash special moves. And finally, by leveling up and picking up upgrades in the field, you can unlock and bind special skill attacks.
Upgrading your character is a very open ended system and it made me confused at first because there are so many options. First you have Perks which are mostly passive but are split between General Perks and class specific ones. Then you have Wung-Fu which include your basic melee combos, basic ranged combos, advanced combos for physical and melee which are further split into different weapon types(including bare fists), and Super Wung-Fu which are specials that require building up with several different combos.
Besides those there are also mutations, split between biogenetics and and Psi-Powers. Those are unlocked with discoveries rather than levels and are key-binded skill attacks. Suffice to say that the combat and customization is potentially very complex and open ended.
Personally I think most people will never fully explore all of these option for one simple reason: You can just shoot everything with a gun and it’s 1000x easier this way. The implementation of guns in Biomutant feels like a mistake, anytime I tried to do anything cool with my melee attacks I was faced with the reality that standing back and gunning down enemies was just a better option.
One thing I did like was the crafting system. You will rarely pick up a complete weapon, you will always find parts to craft. Handles and blades for swords, and individual gun parts for weapons. Mix and match to create the weirdest looking piece of scrap with good stats you can. I love the general atmosphere of overgrown rats fighting each other using junk for weapons and armor.
Furthermore, it was very pleasing to see how new discoveries are handled in this game. Anytime you enter a new area, you are presented with a checklist of all the things you need to find in this particular area. You can then clear this area without constantly having to worry about if you left anything important behind. And in case you cannot explore everything because you’re lacking a tool to open a particular door, you will know to come back later after finding that tool.
Certain sections of the map are hazardous and cannot be explored normally, requiring specific tools. An early area you get to explore this way is deprived of oxygen and you can only stay inside for a few seconds. To enter it requires a giant robot. Hypoxia is not the only hazard though, others exist.
At first glance, the environment in Biomutant feels like a generic wilderness, not any different from a multitude of other open world games. However, something feels uncanny. Some of the more colorful parts feel different from the real world, adding to the general feeling that the world is warped and mutant. Structures from the old world dot the landspace, train tracks sprawling across the land, fences and barbed wire. It really gives the world a unique feeling unlike any other.
For this review we’re using the PC version of the game, all settings on Ultra and resolution set to 1080×1920. Below I’ve put some captures of what I thought were the most relevant in-game settings. Captures taken using the default Steam screenshot tool, not the in-game photo-mode.
The overall atmosphere in Biomutant is that of a dreamscape. The grass is grainy and the colors are bright and vivid.
The choice of having a narrator do the entirety of voice work and story telling was very curious but I’ve really grown to like it. It gives the game charm and adds to the general feeling of silliness that permeates the overall experience. Otherwise there isn’t much else to write about the music, it’s atmospheric at best.
Perhaps I just haven’t played the game long enough but my personal experience is that the best way to play is to just ignore all the complex melee and combo mechanics and just shoot everything from a safe distance. The AI is terrible, all long range enemy attacks are heavily telegraphed and nothing in the game punishes you for just cheesing the game this way, except maybe shield enemies every once in a while. I feel that the choice of having guns in the game at all is a mistake in itself.
The start of the game felt very slow as well. It took several hours for me to become invested enough to care about anything that happens in the game. As an RPG, this is a serious flaw. I believe many people will drop the game out of boredom before giving it a fair chance.
At this point, some people are just tired of open world games. For those that have been playing them by the dozens over the last decade, news that a new open world post-apocalyptic game with a sprawling wilderness just came out might have some of them rolling their eyes. The truth is that this game genre is saturated and it requires a monumental feat to stand out. Biomutant has many unique traits to help it shine apart from other games but it will have difficulty in making players try it out the first time. If it had come out several years ago it might have had a better chance but now the market for this type of game is simply too crowded.
There are several little bits that I loved in Biomutant. The Narrator, the little Angel and Demon used to represent good and evil, the colors and atmosphere. Some parts even remind me of early 2000s adventure games. If only the enemy AI was better and more threatening it would have been a solid WRPG.
Biomutant is certainly one of the most important releases this year but I doubt it will make anybody’s choice for favorite game this year.