Game

Review: Creative, Colorful and Strange, Biomutant Is Unique But Familiar

Screenshot: Biomutant

Video games, like any form of media, have evolved over the years. You can almost tell what games came from what generation/era based purely on aesthetics and sensibility. Biomutant feels like a game from yesteryear plopped into the current generation—like something that was conceived around the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 generation, made with modern visuals and controls. A lot of modern influences are gone, or in the background. It’s a strange game that mixes its post-apocalyptic setting, anthropomorphic mutated animals, and a touch of eastern themes to create something simultaneously unique, but familiar.

Biomutant is a single player third person open world action game. You take the role of a Ronin warrior on a quest for revenge that turns into a chance to save the world. Orphaned as a youngling, and marked by the carnivorous Lupa Lupin, you return to the place of your youth to meet your destiny. And that destiny is up to you as you explore the post-apocalyptic open world, destroyed by men in their hubris and greed. The time of man is long gone, as their structures lay wasting under generations of new growth, and they are replaced by mutated animals that sometimes adapt the products of the old world into something new in a sort of post-apocalyptic cargo cult. As did the world of humanity before it, the New World of Biomutant is coming to an end: the Tree-of-Life is bleeding, and dying. Four World Eaters have emerged to end the world as the five tribes fight amongst themselves. You can choose to unite these tribes and save the world, or play them against each other and watch chaos unfold as the world ends.

Screenshot: Biomutant

Combat is an essential part of Biomutant, and one of the things that first made me notice it when it was announced almost a half-decade ago. It does away with the slow stamina-based Dark Souls-style combat a lot of modern games employ. Instead, Biomutant hearkens back to an earlier era of combat, as dealing damage is about quick reflexes with a little style thrown in. Combat is a mixture of melee and ranged attacks, and is combo-based, meaning you can chain together attacks to create combos, and unlock different combos as you progress through the levels. The combat in Biomutant is fun, and fast, but it can feel a little overwhelming at first, especially with the options for psi powers and mutations added in. Both mutations and psi powers can give you powerful new abilities, or you can choose to spend your bio points on upgrading resistances, instead. Sometimes you have to brave harsh environments, and without the proper protective gear, resistances can come in handy.

While I enjoyed the combat in Biomutant, it really took a while for it to click for me. It wasn’t until I was several hours into the game that I felt like the combat was finally fun. I think part of reason for that was the weaponry I was stuck with. Perhaps it was the way I was playing the game, but it seems as though I didn’t have any new or interesting gear for several hours. The time to kill on enemies is a little high, and with poor gear, it was even worse. But once I got enough mats to dig into the crafting system, and my damage numbers went up, the combat was finally fun. Which is good, because it’s hard not to want to like Biomutant’s combat system: its combination of melee and ranged attacks, mixed with the synergy you get with mutations and psi powers, can be quite gratifying. There’s also a turbo-mode called Super Wung-Fu that you can activate after successfully landing a number of combos, and it’s a great way to devastate groups of enemies quickly.

Screenshot: Biomutant

Crafting in Biomutant is important, and surprisingly diverse. The best gear I had in Biomutant was made from the crafting system. Exploration through Biomutant’s old world ruins can yield powerful components that can be used to enhance current weapons, or build new ones from scratch. Each weapon in Biomutant is modular, and each piece can be mixed and matched with other pieces. While I really appreciate this system, it requires crafting mats to finish off any weapon assembly. It’s not as easy as combining pieces. Instead, you’re forced to farm for resources throughout the world—usually in the form of totems that must be destroyed. These totems aren’t marked on the map, and as far as I know, there’s no way to track them—so I just grabbed them as I went about my business. This made me extremely starved for materials to craft weapons.

Armor in Biomutant has a modular quality, but isn’t as customizable as the weapons. You can add modifications to armor pieces, however. Each piece of gear has its own stats, which include potential for damage output or environmental resistances. The armor can be modified and upgraded with benches found throughout the world—so if you’re attached to a certain look, you can use crafting mats to bring that look up snuff stats-wise. I really appreciate the diversity of gear in Biotmutant, and I had as much fun with figuring out my character’s fashion style as I did their playstyle.

Screenshot: Biomutant

Biomutant is a strange game with an obvious sense of humor that doesn’t dominate, all tied together by a persistent narrator that gives clues into the story, and flavor to the on-screen action. While you can’t turn the narrator off, you can turn down the frequency of his comments. I actually enjoyed the narrator, and his contribution to Biomutant’s story. I think part of that is my obsession with Warhammer: Vermintide 2 and the fact that innkeeper Franz Lohner and Biomutant’s narrator share a voice actor. But the narrator also acts as your window into Biomutant’s extremely strange world, and while he literally translates what characters are saying to you, he also serves as a translator between us from the past, and Biomutant’s view of the future. Objects we interact with every day in our world are relics from the past in Biomutant, usually with a silly name added.

The open world of Biomutant isn’t muted grays and browns—it’s lush, and vibrant. It has been a long time since the fall of humanity, and the world has moved on significantly. Unfortunately, humanity’s garbage is ever-present, and its factories and ruins are often places full of radiation or other deadly hazards. Biomutant’s world is colorful, and a joy to explore, however. If you enjoy side quests, there is a plethora of activities to complete (though most of it is of the “find this puzzle and solve it” variety), and powerful gear and components are hidden in the deep, dangerous parts of the world. There is also an amount of diversity among Biomutant’s creatures I don’t often see in video games. It’s not just a single aesthetic, either. Creatures look like they could be at home in the Muppets, but others look designed by Tim Burton. While Biomutant’s open world is gorgeous and often interesting, it still suffers from being large—and a lot of it is pointless to the story.

Screenshot: Biomutant

There isn’t just one interesting story in Biomutant, instead there are three: there’s the tale of your character’s past and revenge, the story of the tribes you can unite or conquer, and the threat of the four World Eaters and the destruction they’re inflicting. The tribal conflict can be seen as the usual open world activity sink, especially since a lot of that involves capturing outposts. Interestingly, once you prove yourself to be a force to be reckoned with, rival tribes might even offer their surrender. This is something I’ve never run into in an open world game before. Underlying all of this is a binary reputation system—light and dark—that affects the story and presumably the ending you get. At around 25 hours or so for my first playthrough, I didn’t have time to see how different the outcomes would be if I made different decisions.

Biomutant is a game that would have benefitted from cutting off some feature creep. If I had one main criticism, it’s that there’s too many pots on the stove. Biomutant could have been great if its systems were tightened up a bit. I guess its diversity can lead to interesting new playthroughs, but it’s not a game that really convinced me to dedicate time to another run. True, you can make different decisions to see how it affects the story—the game even urges you to do this—but I’m happy with the decisions I made the first time through. Plus, it doesn’t feel like those decisions have quite the emotional or gameplay weight that was intended. But its weapon crafting, mixed with a huge number of perks and abilities, mixed with its open world, three stories, and other aspects I haven’t even mentioned—feels like it’s a bit much. Hell, even each of the world eater fights requires a specific, specialized vehicle that is mostly only used for the boss fight and the area leading up to the boss fight, and I haven’t even touched on mounts at all.

Screenshot: Biomutant

Biomutant is a strange game. That’s the most succinct way to put it. Is it a fun game? Yeah, it’s definitely fun, and it has an extremely compelling combat system, and interesting post-apocalyptic world. It just has so many moving parts and systems to worry about, it can feel overwhelming at times. If martial-arts, combo-based combat in a vibrantly colorful open world sounds interesting, Biomutant is highly recommended. But its story, told in a series of flashbacks, didn’t quite pay-off for me in a way that made it feel like the decisions I made had any impact. Still, I enjoyed the time I spent with Biomutant, and I know its characters and world are going to stick with me for a while.

Biomutant is available tomorrow on Windows via Steam and the Epic Game Store, as well as PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

 

 

 

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