Every so often a game is announced that generates massive amounts of attention. Gamers proclaim that this will be the next big game. They’ll say that this has everything you could ever want, a large expansive world, crazy customization, or deep combat. But upon release, people realize they had just expected too much and the game is just alright. The latest victim of this trend is Experiment 101’s new game, Biomutant. There is so much potential for Biomutant to be an excellent title, however many issues and design choices hold it back from how great it could truly be.
Biomutant takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where humans have over-polluted the planet and have disappeared into the stars. In its destruction, small bipedal mammalian creatures have risen up to dominate the world. You play as one of these creatures. As the world comes close to ending once again, you must unite the six tribes to save the world, or dominate them all and end it. The choice is yours.
You begin the game by creating your creature. There’s a large amount of customization options available across six different breeds, functioning like your race. They have small stat bonuses, but ultimately don’t matter much, mostly providing aesthetic style. Choosing your stats works a little different from standard customization. Rather than the allocation of points how you see fit, you slide along a customization wheel to allocate all your stats at once. The kicker is that your stats also determine the basic morph of your character. If you put more points into intellect, your head will get bigger. Put more points into strength, and your character will get a bigger upper body. The trick is finding that happy balance between how you want your stats to be, to how you want your character to look.
The customization doesn’t end with the character customization either. Once you’ve chosen your look, you can choose between six different classes. Each class will give different starting items and bonuses to the three different play styles: melee, ranged and powers. I say six, but in reality, there are five classes in the game to start with. The sixth class, mercenary, is a pre-order bonus or paid DLC if you didn’t pre-order. This wouldn’t be too bad if it weren’t for the fact that mercenary is by far the best class if you are going for a melee oriented build. Mercenary takes perks from all other classes and gives the best stat bonuses for melee characters.
As far as the five classes that you start with however, they were widely unbalanced. A post-launch patch helped to alleviate this concern, but only a little bit. Psi-freak, the only power focused class, gives you the ability to heal off of ability damage. Once you unlock this perk, all combat becomes irrelevant as you can almost never die. Deadeye, one of the two ranged focused classes, originally gave you double damage on two handed ranged weapons. This was by far the largest damage bonus in the game, making it hard to consider picking the other ranged class, the Commando. The patch lowered the damage bonus, so now Commando is a much more viable option now. Classes definitely needed the patch adjustments, so it’s good that Experiment 101 took some time to address them.
One thing to note is the voice acting presentation. There’s only one voice actor in the game: the narrator. The narrator speaks for everyone in the game, translating the gibberish that all other characters speak. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but can be a serious repellent for some. In theory, it’s a great idea that can save money. David Shaw Parker does a great job as the narrator, however it can get very tiring to only hear one voice throughout the entire game. This choice also makes characters feel very insignificant. Without an actual voice, characters aren’t given any chance to distinguish themselves. As a result, there’s really no memorable characters in the whole game. This is unfortunate for a story driven game with good and evil choices. If there’s ever a sequel, it’d be great to see a fully voiced cast to go along with the characters.
Now to talk about the actual game. Once you’ve created your character, you’re thrown into a painfully long tutorial. It took me roughly three hours before you hit the true open-world that the game is about. There is a point that feels as though you’ve hit the open world, but you still need to follow the quest markers for at least another hour. However, the tutorial does a great job of introducing the story and the mechanics behind the exploration and combat. Once the tutorial ends, you’re given free reign to do pretty much whatever you want. Thankfully, that post-launch patch now cuts down the tutorial to help with the pacing. This same patch also allows players to remove the narrator for subtitled gibberish instead.
There are two major plot points to go through in Biomutant. One quest has you tasked to either stop the Worldeaters from destroying the tree of life, or help them. The other task has you trying to unite, or dominate the six tribes. For the latter, the way it works is you can ally yourself with one of six tribes, three light and three dark tribes. Choosing a light or dark tribe will determine whether or not you are saving or destroying the tree of life. Beyond this, there is no other story or plotline. Sidequests never amount to more than just “go here, grab this, kill that.” Luckily, where the game truly shines however, is in the world itself.
Experiment 101 created a wonderful world that is an absolute treat to explore. Most post-apocalyptic worlds are dead depressing ruins. The world of Biomutant is far from that. The world is filled with a variety of gorgeous looking vistas. Lush forests, sprawling snowfields, colorful radiation zones, and destroyed battlefields fill the land. Each new location you discover is full of places to explore, things to see and mutated creatures to fight. I never felt tired of exploring. Walking to an objective, I would see a ruined building, a cave, or something else leftover from the old world. The narrator then chimes in and tells me what it once was. “This was a hopehall, the people of the past would gather here and… hope. Who knows why they would need to do that.” It’s simple things like this that fueled my curiosity to explore. Well that and the loot.
Biomutant has one of the most diverse and interesting loot and crafting systems in gaming. While you can find some weapons, most of them that you use will be crafted yourself. While exploring the world, each small zone you explore will tell you what kinds of things are nearby. Sometimes it will be old world devices to tinker around with and sometimes it’s rare loot. But each area also has several small boxes and lockers that you can pop open and receive a weapon part. Whether it’s a handle, scope, muzzle, or blade, it can all be assembled to create absolutely wacky weapons. I spent a large amount of time using a toilet brush attached to the end of a pipe that was also on fire. Between melee and ranged, there’s an endless combination of different weapons to craft, constantly changing your arsenal as you pick up better parts.
Combat itself is a blast to play, but only if you pick the right playstyle. I began the game as a Psi-freak and decided to do a mostly power based playthrough, as I was most interested in the variety of mutations and abilities available. I quickly found out that was a mistake. The powers available to you are widely varied. Spark Ball, the starting power for Psi-freak, is far more powerful than anything else I could use. There were a few to experiment with, and some of the later powers, like telekinesis, can be fun to play, but aren’t very effective in combat.
Focusing on powers also means that you miss out on the weapon crafting system. Due to this, I started a new game about ten hours in and decided to focus on a split melee and ranged gameplay. This was the best choice I could have made. The combat opened up and became much more interesting. Mixing in melee attacks and ranged attacks gave me so many more options in combat. The flexibility allows you to adapt to all the different enemy types in the game. This also lets you utilize all the loot that you can collect and makes every new area that much more exciting.
Biomutant has loads of potential. There’s a beautiful world to explore, interesting and dynamic combat, and an endless loot system. It’s unfortunate that the story is so bland and the quests are near non-existent. The narrator is a bold move, but ends up taking away more than it adds. I had high hopes for Biomutant, but it’s issues hold it back from greatness that it deserved. I hope we get a sequel one day to make improvements on the foundation set here. Polishing up this amazing world could end in an amazing game. Despite the flaws, I still recommend fans of RPG’s and open-world games pick this up and try it for themselves. For now, Biomutant is still a blast to play, and I foresee myself exploring for hours on end.
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