Biomutant review for PC, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PC
Also On: PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Experiment 101
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No

On paper, Biomutant seems like the perfect blend of Fable, Borderlands, and Fallout, with a sprinkling of Shadow of War and some John Woo/Max Payne bullet-time. All of the pre-release trailers and gameplay showcases certainly leaned into this, and it really looked like Biomutant was going to be the sleeper hit of 2021. They advertised an ocean of content, but unfortunately, that ocean only ended up being an inch deep.

My first issue with Biomutant came immediately after starting, although this aspect of the game was not a surprise. The character appearance customization is directly linked to the stats you choose to go with at the start. Stronger characters are larger, but have smaller heads. Smarter characters have huge heads but smaller bodies. A balanced character has a balanced appearance. I appreciate the idea, but ultimately wish that I could choose the two separate from each other. The further you went into one category, the more unpleasant your character began to appear. I would have preferred to be able to choose a more well rounded character, but be able to max out the stats I wanted in one way or another.

The next issue I had early on was with the NPC interactions. They are immediately a hassle. The characters all speak a nonsense animal language which is not translated into subtitles while they speak, with a narrator coming in once they are done speaking to translate what was said. This means you interact with the character, wait for them to finish speaking nonsense, then sit and listen to the narrator relay what was said. This may seem like a small qualm, but it ends up being incredibly frustrating. NPC interaction is a chore right from the start of the game, which is a very poor way to start.

In addition to the narrator being used to convey what other characters are saying, he is the guiding voice throughout the entire game, filling in what little story details there are to be had, as well as offering guidance as you traverse the world. Unfortunately, the guidance is almost always nonsense, or just a random proverb that in no way relates to the quest at hand. Once, it was the middle of the afternoon in the game and he came in with some deep sentiment about how the world looks so different at night. He was a frequent annoyance throughout the majority of the game. Biomutant took me roughly 14 hours to finish the first time, that includes every main quest, as well as about 70% of the side quests I uncovered. It wasn?t until around the 10th hour that the game popped up a little dialogue box informing me that I could go into the settings and ease back on the narration to get less of those random thoughts offered up. Knowing that, I would definitely encourage new players to opt for turning him down immediately.

Continuing on with character interactions, they all ultimately come down to the same lines of dialogue. There were dozens of times where I became stuck in a loop with a character. I would choose the ?I need to be going? option, which would prompt the NPC to say something which the narrator would translate as ?They understand you?re busy?. It would then offer me more dialogue options, with a slightly different ?I need to go now? choice, which would loop me BACK into the same thing 2 or 3 more times before finally letting me actually go. When interacting with the main characters, you constantly have a semi-hostile ?Tell me what you are hiding? option which, from what I was able to tell, never nets you any kind of further information. On top of that, the story does not seem to track itself. I finished a major, main story quest about halfway through the game. After it was finished, main characters continued to reference my need to go seek out this particular boss, which I had already subdued. This was a constant thing, nearly every step I made toward finishing the primary storyline had some character or another telling me I still needed to go and ?confront? this boss, which I had finished doing 4 or 5 hours previous.

All of the things I have brought up so far can be overlooked, or chalked up to mere annoyances in the face of a truly great story or phenomenal gameplay. Biomutant simply could not deliver on the promise of what it wanted to be. The story itself was a paperthin vehicle that felt like a complete afterthought. It is simply a reason to go from Point A to Point B and get to experience the combat. The general plot is that the evil corporation ?Toxinol? dumped all of their waste for years and destroyed the planet, turning it into what you see before you in the game. It is a string of clich?s, with the player needing to hunt down the four ?Worldeaters? who are destroying the Tree of Life, which is needed to save the world.

There are also several factions at war throughout the world, with each one representing a different level of morality. You are immediately introduced to the full dark and the full light factions and asked to choose between the two, with the other more moderate factions coming available later. The faction war is one of the main quests that must be dealt with, alongside the destruction of the Worldeaters and saving the Tree. Each faction has a stronghold, and a number of outposts surrounding their central area. In order to face the faction leader, you must take down all of the outposts under their control. These outposts boil down to little more than fetch-quests and a few small fights. When you encounter an outpost leader, you can choose to simply talk them out of fighting and get them to surrender. You can do the same to the faction leaders, once you reach them. If you want to go full light, you will convince them to surrender peacefully, then release them immediately to join you. If you want full dark, you can fight them instead, or get them to surrender and lock them up.

All of that sounds deep and interesting, but each one plays out exactly the same as the others. The dialogue options are exactly the same. The ?evil? faction leaders are dealt with and respond in the same way as the ?light? faction leaders. The leaders of factions that should already CHOOSE to join with you, based on their ideals, must still be conquered as if they were evil. They still resist, when in the confines of the established story, they should be joining you willingly. I will avoid spoiling how the questline plays out, but ultimately the choices you make that seem meaningful amount to nothing in the long run. The story spends most of its time at odds with itself and walking circles over ground that was already covered previously, but ignoring its own continuity.

Biomutant is a really good looking game. It is intentionally a bit cartoony, and reminds me a lot of Jak and Daxter/Banjo-Kazooie brought forward in time. The graphic style evokes a certain level of nostalgia for me, and I was constantly stopping just to explore and check out the world around me. After a while you begin to notice the recycled environments and repeated buildings, but Biomutant is in no way a small game, and things like that are certainly not unexpected. Being able to grab a mount and ride around at slightly higher speeds makes the large map more manageable, and I truly enjoyed the diversity of the biomes you encounter throughout the game.

One of the biggest selling points to Biomutant is the combat. The blend of Devil May Cry melee/ranged combos and John Woo/Max Payne bullet time with dashes of magic abilities and spellcasting really is a ton of fun. Perfectly timed dodges activate the bullet time as well, plus a solid parry will open an enemy up to a flurry of devastating counterattacks. As you learn new ?Wung-Fu? combos, you can use them to enter a state of ?Super Wung-Fu?. Once you successfully land three different combos in a fight, you can activate Super Wung-Fu which slows time way down and allows you to perform unique moves to devastating effect. You can choose to unleash a flurry of rapid, light attacks. You can jump up and slam your opponent repeatedly into the ground. You can jump into the air and come down for a ground slam AOE attack, and finally you can choose to simply shoot your opponent a lot while they are mostly frozen. Each option will use up your Super Wung-Fu meter, which can then be replenished by landing three more combo attacks.

Unfortunately, even the unique and enjoyable combat loses its shine pretty early on. As you progress, you see just how shallow that system really is. Each weapon type has basically the same roster of only a few combos, all of which are executed with the same sequence of buttons. You can press X three times for melee combo #1 or press X twice then Y for melee combo #2, you can jump and pull the trigger for ranged combo #1 or dodge, melee, then pull the trigger for ranged combo #2. This makes the combo system feel old and stale pretty early into the game, despite being able to craft new weapons. I will say that there are a ton of different weapon options, and despite trying as many as I could, it is entirely possible that I missed some weapons with new and unique combos, but from my sample size at the time of this writing, I would seriously doubt it.

The weapons and armor are deeply customizable, and Biomutant is not hesitant to give you upgrades and weapon parts. I was constantly finding new pieces of gear to tinker with my weapons and armor, and never kept the same pieces on for very long. In addition to being able to add parts in just about any way imaginable, there are also general upgrade tables that can advance your gear to the next level for a steep building material fee, but luckily those are also plentiful. Towers of scrap are found all over Biomutant, and anytime I felt like I needed to get something it was never far away. The upgrades are both functional and aesthetic, which makes upgrading the absolute highlight of the game. Towards the end of the main story I had gathered a good ?core? set of gear that I was making incremental upgrades to occasionally, but the system never felt tedious or useless.

I cannot speak on the Worldeaters too much, as I do not want to spoil story details or some of the fun surprises that Biomutant throws at you for these fights. I will say that playing on Normal felt too easy, and I managed to take down all 4 of the main bosses without ever even having to worry about death. Healing items are plentiful, and the fights were extremely simple. Each boss has a unique arena and moveset, and has to be fought in its own way, which makes each fight pretty enjoyable, albeit unchallenging.

Biomutant is a first time offering from a new, smaller studio, so it would be fair to give them a little bit of leeway. Although it is made up of former Avalanche devs and folks who know what they are doing, it is still very noticeably a ?first game?. I can?t help but feel like it is a bit of a smokeshow though, as the game runs almost entirely out of ideas after the first two hours. Everything past that is just a repeat of what has already happened basically. The different biomes are easily traversed with specialized suits that you find, the difficult areas are not truly difficult, and you will run into the exact same, named minibosses over and over again. It would not be an exaggeration to say that more than half of the game is made up of fetch quests. Repetitive fetch quests at that. Even the light puzzle element does not progress in difficulty at all as you move through the game. I found a very late game puzzle that was the exact same as the tutorial puzzle at the beginning. These little repetitions and constant overlap become all too apparent as you make your way past the shine of the opening few hours.

Biomutant has been hit with multiple delays, but unfortunately still feels like a half-finished product. The morality system is little more than a means to a few strong magic attacks, and the choices you make throughout the story are laughably irrelevant. A lot of the choices like the single narrator for all of the voiceover, and the overly simple combo mechanics can all be called creative choices, but in the grand scheme of things simply feel like the quickest route to a finished product. I truly wanted to love Biomutant, it has been high on my list of ?must plays? since it was first announced, but in its current state, I simply cannot recommend anyone rush to buy it for $60.

Note: THQ Nordic provided us with a Biomutant PC code for review purposes.

Grade: C-