Review – Biomutant
Have you ever had a school or work project that you almost finished but at the last minute you thought of a great idea that you tried to fit in? Then those new ideas took you down multiple roads and created a ton of extra work. You then had to scale back because you wouldn’t finish in time and your original project idea was getting muddied and disjointed. This is what Biomutant feels like. Experiment 101 had a great idea of an open world action RPG filled with cool mutated creatures and tried to stuff every gameplay system from the last decade into it. Biomutant is a great example of the expression: Jack of all trades, master of none.
Biomutant is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a natural disaster has released pollution all over. Nuclear plants are busting open and buried pollutants are bubbling back up, defiling the water and creating black tar lakes. The Tree of Life that provides every creature in the region food and vegetation is now being poisoned at its roots. As if that isn’t enough, the radiation has mutated some creatures into World Eaters who are consuming the Tree of Life. The region’s tribes are at war with each other as they can’t agree on how to deal with the disaster or the World Eaters. Some believe it was fate and we shouldn’t interfere as this is our punishment for all of the pollution. Others want to cleanse the tree and destroy the World Eaters so the region can be restored back to its former state.
Your story begins on the outskirts of the region where you first come into contact with the polluted ooze. This is how they sort of setup the customization, as the pollution mutates you. The options are unique and offer a ton of visual differences. Your starting stats directly correlate to your visual look. If you want more strength and vitality, you’ll be bulky and stout. The more agility and intelligence you have, the skinnier your features become. Besides this you’ll be able to choose starting classes that vary between the main weapon and power classes. Don’t worry too much about your starting stats or class, since this really only makes a difference in the first few hours. Once you start collecting upgrades and upgrade materials you can start moving into a ranged, melee, or power focused character.
There is a lengthy tutorial up next that does feel like a bit of a slog. This feeling is also exacerbated by the myriad of gameplay systems, world building, and story that is going to get thrown at you. Some of these systems and story beats really won’t start to click until a bit later also which doesn’t help. The morality system and the tribe allegiance will be the first things that will shape the rest of your journey. Unfortunately, these systems don’t really play a massive role in the grand scheme of things. Whether you’re good or bad, it mostly just changes up some dialogue. You won’t be locked out of interactions or start fights depending on your morality choices.
The tribe allegiance does make more of a difference since their influence and goals are a bit wider. You’ll wage war against the other tribes and decide if their leader will join you or be locked up. Doing this expands your army which cuts down on random enemy encounters and grants you access to that tribes special weapon. Unfortunately, the tribes story lines don’t make as much of an end story impact as I would have hoped. In fact, this is a similar statement for the majority of the story lines.
At times the main story line can feel cliche while it’s relying on open world tropes like fetch quests. The majority of the mission structures involve simply fetching items or eliminating a group of enemies. That being said, it wasn’t an instant turn off due to the world being fun to explore. Each main region has a World Eater that you’ll need to kill, but each World Eater has its own way that needs to be dealt with. For example, the South West World Eater is in a Hypoxia Zone. You’ll need to use a giant mech to explore the area, but you’ll need to fetch items to level it up enough. The North West boss requires a special animal mount to access its lair. However, you’ll need to fetch a ton of items to bait the mount and tame it.
Everything that is done well, every interesting idea, each cool thing to do, is unfortunately hamstrung in some way. This is the crux of Biomutant. For every high, there is an equal low. A lot of quests may feel derivative, but I was never bored. There was always something to do that was dragging me away from my fetch quest. Help my friendly tribe fight some enemies? Defeat some raiders that are burning down a town? Check out some ruins or a cave for some loot? Collect resource towers? Raid the areas tribe stronghold? Do some side quests that are near my path? I simply enjoyed being in the world and that is an important aspect in an open world game.
Combat, unfortunately, also has its own give and take. While you have a buffet of options available to you, there isn’t one aspect deep enough to fully specialize in. For example, you wouldn’t be able to only focus on being really amazing at Psi powers. There just isn’t enough depth there to be only one category. A lot of RPG’s would allow me to be a “Dead Eye” gunner and I would have a ton of specific abilities just for guns. I could then do a secondary combat type if I wanted. However, if I only stuck with Biomutant’s “Dead Eye” style I would only get a very small selection to choose from. This is why I said don’t worry too much about your starting class. You’ll end up unlocking everything or else you’d be doing the same five moves over and over.
I’m going to parrot this again, but for every shortcoming of the gameplay there is something I also really enjoyed. The combat is frantic with some nice combos, and using multiple styles is fun and easy to pull off. Using three different finishing combo moves will unlock a focus mode allowing additional attacks. You’ll be slow-mo dodging, parrying, counter attacking, and switching up between melee, guns, mutation powers, and psi powers. It all comes together nicely, I just wish there was more depth in each category. Psi powers are even linked to your good or evil levels so those moves are cut in half depending on the way you handle yourself.
One of my favorite gameplay aspects is the crafting. I think if there was one area that got the most in-depth attention, it’s this. Crafting doesn’t quite become viable until you’re a few hours into the game and have collected some high quality parts. However, once the parts and mods started rolling in I was having fun making ridiculous weapons. Want to craft a two-handed weapon with a plunger as the hilt and a ceiling fan as the blade? Then go ahead and put some razor wire on it and an ice skate for added damage. Each item has its own properties so dismantling picked up weapons and replacing parts is recommended. You can craft one-handed, two-handed, and crushing weapons as well as pistols, rifles, and shotguns. However, armor crafting isn’t featured, but you will be able to add mods to armor.
Biomutant embraces that trope of RPG’s where the weirdest armor has the best stats. Sure that armor plated samurai helmet looks cool, but it’s weak as hell compared to this sweet rusty duck one. This over-the-top aesthetic is seen throughout everything in the game which I enjoyed. There is a deliberate art style and design that I enjoy as well as a huge color pallet. You can also tell that Experiment 101 had some fun with the creature designs because they are strange, in a good way.
Everything pops and I found myself entering the photo mode way more than most games, even if the visuals aren’t perfect. This is still a last gen game that hasn’t even been patched for the Series X. There are some noticeable shortcoming when it comes to the visuals. Up close textures, especially fur, are dated. Draw distances and pop-ins are noticeable through all regions, and the water leaves a lot to be desired. Also there are some performance hitches when it rains in settlements as well as some odd looking wet visual effects.
Sound design is definitely the weakest aspect of Biomutant, but it’s not all bad. I enjoy the majority of the tunes as they add a bit of that playful whimsy to the wacky visual style. It’s definitely lighthearted as you’re traveling the bright world. There are some battle tracks for encounters and bosses, unfortunately, there just isn’t enough variety here. I feel like I heard the same tunes a lot. General sound effects are done well enough not to be annoying, but they aren’t anything standout. The combat sounds have the same effect with repetitive clashes and gunshot sounds. None of it is low quality, it just never pulled me into a moment with its implementation.
One thing I didn’t care for at all is the narrator. The voice actor does fine, but he is used for every single piece of dialogue. Experiment 101 also uses second person perspective, where the narrator speaks for the characters interpreting what they say. Since the creatures use their own language, he translates their speech to English and just tells you what they’re saying. The narrator also talks a lot while exploring and recycles a ton of dialogue. Luckily, you can tone down how frequently he will use these lines. Needless to say the meter went down to zero pretty quickly.
It was a long road for Biomutant and I am still impressed how much a twenty person team accomplished. I feel that in a lot of ways Experiment 101 just got too ambitious with this title and it ended up backfiring a bit. Instead of having a hyper focus on its own identity, it instead feels like a compilation of the last ten years of open world action RPGs. I don’t feel Biomutant is a failure since it still offered what I was expecting. A crazy RPG set in a weird setting filled with mutated creatures and fun combat. I definitely got that. I also unfortunately got way more than expected, which ended up diluting the entire package.
Art design is decidedly colorful and unique which creates plenty of moments that had me using the photo mode. Up close textures, draw distances, and water are not as pleasing.
Biomutant stuffs itself with a ton of gameplay systems that are all implemented well. However, no single system is deeply expanded upon which can lead to unsatisfying results at times.
There is a light and playful sound design and soundtrack that goes well with Biomutant’s stylish fantasy aesthetic. However, there doesn’t seem to be a huge variety of tracks and the narrator can be a bit much.
In my 60+ hours with Biomutant I had a lot of fun exploring the world and discovering the workings of this crazy post apocalyptic wasteland filled with anthropomorphic civilizations and mutated creatures. However, there are clear shortcomings with its gameplay systems that left larger moments unsatisfying.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Biomutant is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Reviewed on Xbox One.
A copy of Biomutant was provided by the publisher.