First announced in 2017, Biomutant immediately grabbed my attention by just how high it was trying to reach with the promise of bringing together so many different factors from a whole range of benchmark setting games. Though it has been a long wait since its initial announcement to finally getting released for PC and consoles, I was still very excited to finally get my hands to see if Experient 101 managed to reach the heights they were aiming for. Biomutant tries to do a great many things, but could it pull off the impossible and make it all work?
The first thing that must be said about Biomutant is that by George was Experient 101 ambitious as a developer team. All the time since this game was first announced was a lot of promise about what they hoped to create in terms of an open world adventure game. Ambition and a dream can often be fantastic should they be realised, but overreach on either and you can end up with something that fails to live up to the hope and Biomutant sadly falls into that category with as much to criticise as there is to celebrate. The question remains, is it still a good game?
The answer is a surprising mixed bag with my experience going from loving it to being able to easily pick out the elements and mechanics that should have either been removed or at the least had more time dedicated to their essence in the game. I did get frustrated as much as I was confused with just what experience Biomutant was trying to give me or to let me have but I have hated it, I never felt the team had failed by aiming so high with it and I even made the conscious choice to play the PS4 version on my PS5 despite it only upscaling to 4K with 60FPS instead of the native 4K and 60FPS that the Series X can do from release. There is hope for Biomutant so let me break down what did work and what did not work for me.
The world of Biomutant is most definitely a cautionary tale at a time where Climate Change is very much a real issue on people’s minds. It is a world very much left to die after humanity went and basically messed the planet up even worse than it is right now and did what humans would do…they left on big spaceships called Arks. Since their departure, some wildlife has evolved to become more humanoid and mutations have given some special abilities and powers that the humans might have stuck around for to have. The world is still in danger however with huge monsters threatening to destroy the World Tree and the tribes divided on whether they should let the tree die or try to save it. All in all, the world is still in a right mess just now a crazier mess and well, only one thing can be the deciding factor.
That one thing is you, the player, in the form of the game’s hero which you will customise and create right at the very start, which is also where you start to discover just how many systems you will be dealing with in this game. You begin by choosing your Breed, which determines your starting attributes before choosing a playing class to shape your combat style from ranged with guns to melee weapons of a dual or two handed nature to the incredible ‘Psi-Freak’ which has you starting with the ability to throw electricity from the start. Physical customisation comes in the form of being able to choose the decal of your fur with markings before deciding on the colours. Once chosen these are all locked, the only thing you cannot change or give is a character name and off you go into this new world.
Now the combat system is something I do enjoy about Biomutant even though it is also a point of frustration. If you have a melee build, which is what I prefer and went for, then you will instantly feel at home with basic combos based on the weapon you have equipped with new moves being unlocked with upgrade points acquired when you level your character up. It has the classic dodge and perfect dodge evade system and a parry and counter system and all of which use a stamina bar which is also shared with any abilities you may have equipped and used. It is a system that on paper and early on in the game works quite well right up until the point you realise you are simply doing the same things over and over unless you change your weapon to get different moves but then just recycles the same issues I found to start with. Enemy encounters can be multiple numbers versus you with will comprise of small enemies armed with guns or melee weapons and usually a big enemy or creature to give you a challenge. The issue for me is comes down to how the enemies immediately scale up and slightly over your current level making every fight feel like a slog especially early in the game. Where the crafting system lets you down I feel, is that finding the parts to craft add-ons to your armour or to create a new weapon but especially to upgrade what you are using, is such a pain in the arse until you learnt to start scrapping instead of selling but even then, the lack of finding the materials you need to make improvements over collecting components to make things you then cannot upgrade only to have new weapons feel lacking of any actual improvement.
It was the first example of a multitude of systems trying to complement each other not quite doing so but sadly not the last. The game also takes inspiration from another of other RPG games where player choice is used to define and stir the course of the story but with Biomutant it again fails to really mesh well enough to be impactful on the experience. Those who have played the FABLE series will know that your actions, be they good or evil, will shape the character you become and therefore how others in the world will react to you and Biomutant tries to do the same with a Dark Devil and White Angel characters who tempt you to try and pull towards their side yet, all these choices seem to do is unlock moves based on the number of dark or light points you have acquired by your actions.
Dialogue choices, much like a MASS Effect game, can be good or bad and as you will spend so much of this game talking to an abundance of random and main questline characters. You can be very nice or you can be an A-hole and yet this process happens so many times it almost seems redundant whichever way you do go in a dialogue and a big reason for that is just how much of the dialogue is so confusing or just boring when all they ever do is follow the same formula of “meet random character, listen to a lot of waffle that will or will not make sense, be given a side quest to go get/do something for that random character, go do it and return, end up wondering why you bothered”. This is a criticism many have shared online, and I will come to it again a bit later on because of the surprising thing it means going forward, but in the game this process is mind numbing after a while. Not to mention the sheer amount of side activities the game will let you pick up can be very overwhelming when so much of it has very little reward for doing them.
The Narrator, voiced by the brilliant David Shaw Parker, is a wonderful addition to this world as he or the Automatron robot Cricket you see in the opening cutscene, will step in to translate the character dialogue for you or to explain some story exposition and whilst I did enjoy the performance, there is a limit to when the cuteness of the gibberish spoken the player is forced to sit through all through the game experience. I found myself quickly skipping dialogue to literally just be given the side mission so I could get on with it and that is not a good thing. There is just too much of it where if it had been streamlined down to make conversations short and I do mean the side random stuff you can pick up to do along your journey.
Now reading the above you would rightly expect that I did not enjoy my time playing Biomutant but the opposite is true, I did, as strange as it sounds, I enjoy playing Biomutant. I love how beautiful this post human messing it up world is and despite its many flaws, there is a cracking open world action RPG game waiting to be discovered. What gives me hope for this game is the response from the developers, Experiment 101 who have said they will base update on player feedback and just one week from release, they have already delivered an update that has addressed some crucial feedback such as making dialogue shorted, improving the loot drops as well as bringing some quality of life fixes to the game. This has given me hope that Biomutant will continue to evolve much like the characters you meet and play as in the game. The problem with hit recognition when using guns can be fixed and an improved looting system will help bring the crafting and upgrade systems to a much more usable and enjoyable part of the game. A promised new gen console upgrade for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S will help unlock even more visual potential for the game and its world. This is not a game that is broken but a game that needs to be nurtured and improved because the ambition it was created with ended up with a game that never reached it but with the help of the community playing the game, it most certainly can be refined to be something it can be…special.
This is a game that needs to be given time to have updates improve many of the systems, but you could also take a punt and dive into it and see how it appeals to you. I can see this title dropping into sales very quickly and see it as a contender for Xbox’s Game Pass sooner rather than later. I never grew to hate what didn’t quite work and never lost my admiration for what the team tried to accomplish with it but being overly ambitious without someone perhaps stepping up to reign that enthusiasm in a little means that Biomutant is something that is still “cooking” and is not quite ready even with four years been being announced to being released. It attempts to do everything others have done better but they did it better because they often focused on a few systems and perfecting them than trying to do everything and not quite getting enough of it right.
My time with Biomutant is far from over and I am on board to see where it can go, but this will be a punt for many to jump on board with at this moment, but the first update is promising and in time, with the new gen upgrade, it could really become the special game the developers hoped it would be, it just needed more time in the oven and more taste testing before release.