Biomutant is an ambitious game with a lot going on. You’d expect that to be the case for something that has been in development for so many years, with huge hype surrounding what an ex-Avalanche team can create. But very much like the development process and the world within, Biomutant takes some time to bloom. Yet when it does, you’ll discover an open world post-apocalyptic kung-fu RPG that is well worthy of your time.
Biomutant tells the tale of a world which is dying, with the Tree-of-Life at its centre being destroyed by its roots. It’s here where you come in, as a lonely child looking to take in a life of revenge, of world-saving commitment, and of decision-making. And it’s here where Biomutant totally focuses, with every single decision you make promising to alter the land before you. That all starts from the character creation.
As gamers we’ve long been treated to character classes and creation opportunities that go deeper than anything before it, but honestly that of Biomutant takes things to a new level. Multiple initial ‘breeds’ can be picked from, and then each and every attribute can be amended before you’ve even set foot in the world of Biomutant; Vitality, Strength, Intellect, Agility, Charisma and Luck all need to be considered. It’s here where you may initially find yourself spending longer than you would wish, taking a considered approach for each and every change you make in the hope that it will affect your adventure ahead.
If truth be known though, there is no real need to debate for too long – once you get away from the detail and chance to make multiple changes and amendments, upgrades and abilities will be fast thrown your way as you evolve your little mammal into the being you wish.
It all takes a while for things to kick in though. Much like the developmental process, what you get out of Biomutant will only come about after many hours have been unfurled. Honestly, I could have sat here and written about my first few hours that played out as a constant battle with boredom, with a slow opening segment and breaks in play bringing about a dodgy start. Hell, even reaching double playtime figures sees Biomutant still sitting on the brink, ready to fold this way or that as players get to grips with the immense amount of work and detail that is found within. But pursue through and the world starts to really come alive, as multiple missions, side quests, secrets and conversations appear which in turn lets Biomutant come into its own, with it playing out as a loot hunter’s dream.
In fact, there’s probably too much going on with what Experiment 101 has created, and it could well have been good of them to rein in a little on the intricacies. You see, confusion does occasionally take hold as like with any good RPG you can easily find yourself distracted from the task at hand. Side quests are lengthy, numerous and plentiful, and these pop up at every given opportunity. Just by talking to any of the various characters found throughout the land will usually deliver some new fetch quest, hidden secret – or both – and so traipsing the land, moving back and forth, criss-crossing paths is all par for the course.
That’s absolutely fine if you’re looking for Biomutant to deliver a gaming experience that you can really get your teeth into, and fans of the genre will be more than delighted with what is on offer. However occasionally it does all seem a bit ‘go here, go there, head back, and chat’ with little compensation aside from some new gear and the opportunity to leave a mark on the world. When you consider that the main missions also play out along the same lines, and well, Biomutant gets a little bitty.
With a main story that is fast forgotten, there are then a slew of missions, side quests, objectives, secrets and exploration options that are present, along with other things to consider, with Experiment 101 playing on the post-apocalyptic tale well. A whole light/dark aura mechanic plays in the background, with pretty much any and all conversation trees and actions playing a part in the way you are seen by others in the Biomutant world. You can then also throw in a huge range of options held within the weapons and gear system (and yep, the usual likes of uncommon, rare, legendary, relic class types are present, along with the option to allocate certain outfits and kit for specific occasions), with crafting, modifying, and upgrading always at the front of your mind. Include the likes of general character upgrades, both biogenetic and Psi-power mutations, multiple perks and more, and it would be quite easy to spend more time in menu systems than it would be getting out and about.
There is however one element of Biomutant that allows for all this depth to take place. The gameplay itself. The world that you find yourself in may not be utterly vast, and can easily be traversed from one end to the other over the course of minutes, but doing so is a delight. This is helped by the fact that your character – at least once a few ability upgrades are dropped on – moves fluidly; jumping, dashing and climbing with the best of them. Yes, it’s occasionally a bit weird that we discover small rocks proving stumbling blocks, particularly as at other times larger scenery types can be wandered through, but for the most part this world delivers. It’s helped again by a variety of areas too, each unique, each coming with its own style and purpose, but still all managing to blend the world together nicely. Just be sure that before you enter radioactive, biohazard, cold or heat areas you have correct the equipment to hand. It’s there – and with other side quests – that the arrival of Meks, mounts, a paraglider and then a Googlider to help traverse the wet stuff, are made of good use.
The other characters you come across have been well-integrated too. The tribal system that underpins the immediate moments allow for full combat or persuasion decisions, and the world-eating main bosses that you hunt down are a good opportunity to utilise your skills. Yet for the majority of your time in Biomutant, the inhabitants will only have one thing in mind – the fight.
It’s here where Experiment 101 has really succeeded in providing a combat and fighting style that is utterly brilliant. There are elements of the very finest Batman moments present as you utilise the power of Wung-Fu to fight back against overpowered foes, with you needing to work your own preferred playstyle in order to take enemies down. You see, it’s not just about holding back and taking fire from range, or getting up close and personally dealing with melee options – Biomutant absolutely wants you to make the most of all that is available to you and this sees every fight turn into a ballet of ranged attacks, melee strikes, dodges, jumps and then a plethora of biogenetic and Psi-powers. Oh, and there is the odd quick time event, and a gorgeous but under-utilised Automaton side-kick to enjoy too.
With everything attached to easy to pick radial wheels, it’s an absolute blast to use the systems in place for every single combat opportunity. Like most of the game, it gets better the more you put into it too, giving you the tools to quite easily be able to go away after each and every fight to tweak things to your own needs, adding in upgrades, crafting new weapons, or changing up your bio-magic attacks as you see fit. For as much as is going on in Biomutant, it’s this combat that is right up there with the very best bits of it. In fact, the only real downside is the ease in which any foes will give up the ghost should you dare stray away from a set combat zone.
Equally as good is the overall presentation, especially in terms of the audio. You see, Biomutant runs a gobbledygook Sims-style character chat and so it’s rare you’ll get any real-world words coming from those you are interacting with. Thankfully the humorous and fun kids’ Jackanory-styled narrator is on hand to deliver all key moments, bringing together the conversations as a well-told, fluid, story. This is immediately brilliant, and really is a superb way of delivering the narrative and interactions that the player needs, yet occasionally it becomes a little too long-winded; eventually you’ll find yourself skipping through repeated moments, preferring to read the subtitles, or switching down the frequency in the menus instead. As a tool for telling the story at hand, it really does work. Of course, others may think it’s an easy way out and could point to Experiment 101 having run the narrator route to get by with any need to fully voice the myriad of characters, but embrace it for what it is and you’ll be treated well.
The visuals aren’t bad either, especially in the open world that you rush through. The biomes that are in place are well-distinguishable, and there are many vistas that you can run to before utilizing the photo mode at will. There are times when Biomutant looks absolutely breathtaking, and again it’s easy to see where the seven years of development have gone in. However, not all is rosey in this blooming garden and cutscenes are sporadic in terms of their quality, camera angles can be off (no more so than when you decide to go hunting for little critters), and conversation videos highlight a lack of visual depth in other characters. It’s a bit of a shame in that respect.
There are smaller issues too. A lack of a minimap is a strange oversight, and navigating through various waypoints, fast travel dots and missions in the main map consistently annoys. It’s also weird that melee attacks feel less than weighty in the early periods of the game (although this does rectify itself as progress is made). There is also no getting away from the fact that for the most part the entirety of this adventure boils down to a host of fetch quests that have you moving from point a to point b and on to point c, all via point d and point e, taking in a few copy and pasted areas for good measure. Perhaps that’s the case of every single RPG that has ever been created, but the small world map in Biomutant only amplifies the retracing of previously trodden ground.
Yet for those failures, and for the slow initial opening hours, once Biomutant gets going, you really get to feel it. The combat is the outstanding element, the chance to dictate your own route through the world is another, and even though visually things occasionally come across as hit or miss, on the whole the Biomutant adventure is one that is utterly engrossing. Give it time and this is one post-apocalyptic kung-fu RPG you won’t be able to tear yourself away from.
Get involved with Biomutant on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One via the Xbox Store