Biomutant PC Review
Ever since the first trailer, I had Biomutant on my radar thanks to the kung-fu theme set in an open-world formula, but with no humans, instead replaced by bizarre animals, again I am into that! The main appeal, though, was the trailers giving me vibes of the older generation of games, that B-tier video game market that has faded away. The market is now populated by AAA-A games or indie titles, but that middle ground has not had time to shine often. Calling a game B-tier is by no means a negative because there are some rather memorial titles that fall into this group – Remember Me, Binary Domain, Nier, to name a few.
Biomutant‘s world is one where humans no longer exist. Humans have been eradicated and the planet we left behind has been mostly destroyed due to environmental damage. A huge corporation, Toxanol, powered the world with nuclear energy and oil. This business had no care for the natural balance of the world and allowed the hazardous materials to seep into the lands and oceans, poisoning the planet and most of its inhabitants. The scars are still present in this post-apocalyptic land. The lush unrestricted growth of the colourful plant life is met with areas of barren wastelands still tainted with thick oil and deprived of oxygen or infested with bio-hazardous waste that is enough to make any human grow an extra pair of eyes. The presence of nuclear waste also meant that life had to adapt to survive, and so Biomutant presents us a world where animals evolved to have anthropomorphic traits, growing into a fully-fledged civilization with their own technology and economy – not bad for a bunch of bio freaks.
The player gets to create one of these mutations as their avatar. A weird concoction of squirrel, rodent and feline that can be stretched or squished into some rather amusing physical appearances. The character creation is not deep, there are a few templates to pick from and an RGB colour slider, but do no be expecting to have the option to create some monstrosity from a game like Spore. Along with the creation, the game’s role-playing mechanics are brought into play, with six classes – Dead-Eye, Commando, Psi-Freak, Saboteur, Sentinel, and a pre-order bonus class Mercenary – available to pick that offer unique starting perks. These also change the starting stats – Vitality, Strength, Intellect, Charisma, Agility and Luck – and what resistances the character has against the land’s dangerous biohazards, radiations, cold or heat. Classes are quite free to cross over, as they feel more like a starting build, as a lot of the abilities/weapons can be unlocked further into the game.
This avatar is the player’s entrance into Biomutant‘s world, giving them a backstory and a mission quickly after the bunker 101 tutorial has been completed. As a youngster, the avatar lost both their parents to a monster that goes by the name of Lupa-Lupin. The avatar’s mum was a famous fighter who trained the village kids in the ways of kung-fu, including yourself. The game gives the player the mission of exacting revenge on Lupa-Lupin for the pain he caused. While this is a personal plot for the character, the general plot is about saving the world from dangers. There are four “Worldeaters”, giant monsters that are chomping away at the roots of the Tree of Life, the planet’s source that is keeping the world alive, but the threat of the Worldeaters is causing panic for the inhabitants, and so you, as the hero, are set out to kill these Worldeaters. This set-up screams The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but not quite as free-flowing with the story here. On top of this, there are six tribes that are at war with each other. Yep, you guessed it, it is down to you to join one of these tribes and put a stop to this war by either killing off the rest of the tribes or getting them to join forces together.
The plot is not one of the game’s strong points, as it delivers a simple tale that feels a bit suited to kids than adults. What makes the game more interesting is the characters in the world. These are crazy in both their design and personality. These mutated animals also talk in nonsense language, and so there is a narrator that translates the dialogue. The narrator will also comment on the happenings around the player’s avatar from time to time while exploring. This is actually an interesting way to get around having to spend more money on a multitude of voice actors, as you have David Shaw Parker reading the game’s entire lines apart from a small duo of Dark and Light, who sit in your mind and battle it out between them to let you know which side is the best.
The narrator works well when exploring, but when it comes to the world’s characters, the game does not treat it as well as I would like. When you watch live events on TV, usually the translation into your language happens close to the time the person speaks, but with Biomutant, the narrator waits until the random noises stop from the talking character, and then Mr. Parker tells you what has been said. This ends up giving the dialogue a slow pace. In the beginning, it is amusing hearing the noises coming out of these animals, but after a while it becomes tiresome. I wished that the game reduced the audio of the gibberish voices and had the narrator talking over them to speed it up. The voice work itself is great, but it can go on a bit too much. Thankfully there is an option in the menu to cut down on the random interruption of the narrator as you explore around the land.
It is this land that is Biomutant‘s strongest element. The world and the art that fills it is something I fell in love with. I can see this being one of my favourite looking games of 2021 – it is such a distinct look. Exploring through the world’s overgrown lush and bright green fields of grass, large bundled trees and colourful flowers busting out from broken houses, destroyed bridges, and abandoned vehicles, it almost tricks you into thinking this is a world of paradise not tainted by poison. But as you explore this stunning world further, and you can pretty much go anywhere that you can visually see, you begin to discover sections of the map that are suffering from the damage caused by Toxanol. Power plants leak out biowaste, causing awful mutations to the land covered in a green hue, while barren areas are bleak and tainted with black oil as the oxygen is sucked from those zones, making it impossible to live in. This mismatch of beauty and the ugly helps the world offer many things to discover. It is not the largest area to explore, but what is here is concentrated and unique across most of the map, which allows it to be more memorable and rather beautiful to witness than a few other open-world games on the market.
Filled within this land are predators and other rival tribes that will engage in combat. One thing I felt about the game was that it does lack variety in enemy types. You will often walk into confrontations with small tribe members that are around the same size as your avatar armed with rifles, pistols, or melee weapons. Then there are the larger tribe members that will easily grab your character and decide to play baseball with them. Some will be equipped with gear that means they only take damage from either melee or ranged attacks. There are undead skeletons, less evolved predator animals and other furry beasts that come up from the ground, but just like the anthropomorphic foes, they have limited attack patterns.
There is a lot of combat options in Biomutant. Elements of its RPG gameplay come into play with skills that can be unlocked for melee and ranged attacks to perform extra combinations. These are not just grouped into their own category but can cross over. For example, one combo is a dodge that leads into a melee combo but then finishes with a jump into the air popping off the equipped ranged weapon. There are also psi abilities, such as dashing and leaving a wave of fire behind or casting an area of effect ice spike that amusingly causes enemies to slide across in a funny animation. The options for psi powers are based on the game’s morality system of dark and light. These are easy to tell in the dialogue, as it often sits between “do something awful” or “do something nice“, and performing this will push the avatar to either the light or dark side of the force, I mean morality. This did feel like an afterthought, and in theory with the game as it is, probably would have been better to be part of how you build your character through the skill tree.
Melee and ranged weapons all feel different. A pistol is unlike using an automatic rifle while attacking with dual daggers is more agile than carrying an enormous piece of metal that requires two hands to swing. Combat itself is clunky, and a lot of this is down to the automatic use of lock-on. There is no manual intervention with this, and so sometimes what can happen is the game thinks you want to target another enemy and will slide the character to another enemy mid-combat in a clumsy way. It reminds me of the transitions in Batman: Arkham Asylum, except since there is a lack of manual lock-on, there is no way to stop this. Gun combat feels loose as well because of a similar issue. There is an on-screen box and any enemy within that box becomes the target. The problem arises when multiple enemies are in this, and so the reticle will switch between them randomly, losing focus on the actual enemy you want to fight with. These issues, along with the combat options that never allowed to fully breathe, due to how limited the enemies and their attack patterns are, means 90% of normal battles can be done by dashing to the left or right and using a ranged weapon. This ends up making combat feel pretty standard and repetitive after a while.
Signs of how well the combat could have flourished are in the game’s Worldeater boss fights. Before each fight, the player is asked to gather parts for a vehicle to help take down such large monsters. A mech, a small jetboat, a wild blue beast thingy, and a submarine. These fights require more from the player, getting them to follow attack patterns and learn the three stages of the boss fights. Each vehicle has its own weapons. The jetboat has a wire to tag and pull objects that you need to use on its boss to yank out its teeth, while the submarine gives the battle with that boss a 360 degree of movement element, as it is set underwater. Apart from the jetboat and blue mount, the other two vehicles are locked to the specific areas around the boss, which is a huge shame, as these vehicles would certainly offer a bit more spice to some of the general fights. Even more so when the random big enemies spawn out of the ground and are towering above the player with a big health bar. Imagine being able to spawn down your mech to begin a massive titan battle with the monsters of this world – yes, please!
Also scattered around, well really it is not scattered, it feels like it is in every nook and cranny, are loot, mainly health packs, energy packs or gear, lots and lots of it. Loot and crafting is a big part of Biomutant and it is one of the finer parts. Melee and ranged weapons can be built from different parts of materials or altered by replacing their parts with better ones. There seem to be thousands of parts to discover, and are easy to craft as it feels like mutilated Lego bricks. For example, a gun is made up from a base (this determines what type of ranged weapon it is), then bolting on top of that is a muzzle, scope, clip, grip handle that alters the statistics of the weapon. This goes for melee weapons as well. Instead, those replace gun features with handles and add-ons that attach to the blade, such as bolting on a saw or nails to a giant buster sword. It is a lot of fun experimenting with different combinations to see what mad weaponry can be formed. By the end of the game, I had a shotgun with pretty good range, huge clip size, and added radiation damage on top, while my giant slab of metal was covered in a field of electricity.
The last topic to talk about is the quests. This is a single-player open-world RPG, so there is a general quest line filled along with many side quests. The side quests are mostly the standard affair. You will be performing fetch quests, killing things, although they do try to add some flair to this by throwing in simple puzzles, such as turning a satellite dish to find a “ping-pong” reply or twisting a few nobs to line up colours to crack open a safe. These are very easy puzzles to solve. The main quest is short, probably around 15 hours, but this is where most of the more inventive quest events happen, such as the mentioned boss fights or tribe fights. There are plenty of side quests for people who are completionist that can pad out the game to over 30 hours.
After the ending played and the credits rolled, I looked back on my time with Biomutant with mostly fond memories. The standout for the game is its gorgeous visuals and fantastic world that is packed with charm. It is this charm, a good crafting system, and wonderful art direction that helps me forgive some of its clunky combat, which once I got the hang off did become more fun than it initially led me to believe. It will not set the world on fire for open-world RPGs, since this is a collection of borrowed ideas from many other games on the market and does not innovate the genre, but Biomutant is enjoyable, if a somewhat formulaic approach to this genre. What makes it stand out against some of those other games it has borrowed ideas from is the fascinating setting and bizarre character design. It is strange in all the right places but just cannot jump above the games it took inspiration from for its gameplay.