Being announced all the way back in 2017, does this debut ARPG from Experiment 101 set itself apart from the pack? Or is it just another new IP trying to cash in on the open-world formula? Let’s find out in today’s review of Biomutant!
Biomutant’s Frustratingly Dull Story & Characters
Set in a post-apocalyptic world full of odd-looking creatures and warring tribes that are anything but threatening, Biomutant reins in a bunch of different ideas and inspirations from similar titles in the open-world genre. The problem is, not all of them hit the spot.
First and foremost, and you’re probably not going to believe me when I say this, but the story and characters are bad. Really bad! The whole plot revolves around a supposed Tree of Life that’s “the key to our future”, and “we must stop four giant Worldeaters from bringing about our end!”
That’s pretty much it. No embellishments here. The devs inject some backstory early on about the protagonist’s parents being killed, but it’s so mind-numbingly basic! There’s no real sense of weight or significance either. Let the death of a parent actually mean something, rather than simply using it as means to move the plot along. It’s as if the writers jumped on D&D Beyond and just let the character generator write the entire story… Oh man, I got bored so quickly!
Doesn’t help that there’s absolutely no voice acting for any of these dull characters either. What we get instead is a narrator who constantly babbles on about what the creatures are saying…
Even outside of the cutscenes, the narrator just can’t stop running his mouth.
It’s all well and good at the beginning of the game, because you’ll start off thinking
“Oh wow, this is refreshing! What a unique approach to storytelling!” Then you’ll realise about an hour in that this guy just doesn’t switch off! Even outside of the cutscenes, the narrator just can’t stop running his mouth.
On a much more positive outlook, how about that combat? I hear you asking. Well it’s actually pretty slick! The developers set out to quote “mix melee, ranged and mutant ability action” and I think they truly nailed it here. It’s very similar to Devil May Cry’s style with all the different combos, button combinations and such. The only major differences being that there’s no style system and the unlockable skills called Wung-Fu are way easier to pull off. Though that’s not a bad thing at all!
Almost every single ability is super fun to use and they can easily chain into each other with minimal fuss. Whether it be the unarmed Unspeakable Hand, where the Biomutant picks up an enemy and piledriver slams them into the ground. Or the Unstoppable Duck that flings the protag out of harm’s way for a high-damage rifle shot.
What I really like about the Wung-Fu moves is that they all have these unique, comic-book themed texts that pop up.
What I really like about the Wung-Fu moves is that they all have these unique, comic-book themed texts that pop up. Adding in that little bit of panache, but also making up for a slight lack of visual and audio impact. As some of the attacks and their audible feedback don’t hit as hard as other action-based games out there.
Regardless, each of these special abilities fills up the Super Wung-Fu gauge as well, where the main character can enter this Super Saiyan-like state for a short spell and wreak absolute havoc on the battlefield. Launch a barrage of bullets, smack enemies senseless or just explode the ground around them for some satisfying damage. Throw in some of the mutant abilities that brainwash enemies into attacking each other or trade Ki for an auto lock-on DPS skill and there’s suddenly a whole stack of combat capabilities.
The dodging mechanics honestly feel great to control too! The protagonist bounces around well… Like a jacked-up kangaroo, but looks so graceful dancing and darting around the place, evading enemy attacks. I absolutely love the dodge roll, I cannot overstate that enough. Even down to how the protagonist leapfrog’s over an opponent if you dodge straight into them. Or slides right under the legs of larger targets, to gain the edge in battle. The encounters just flow like a smooth, running river! And once you’ve found your rhythm with all three forms of combat, it really feels like you’re watching a high-budget action movie! The layers upon layers of fighting mechanics are legitimately impressive.
Ranged attacks are definitely the most overpowered. As they can deal similar, if not the same amounts of damage relative to melee weaponry.
That being said, ranged attacks are definitely the most overpowered. As they can deal similar, if not the same amounts of damage relative to melee weaponry. And since most enemies are less dangerous from a distance, the Biomutant will consistently remain out of harm’s way. There’s even a feature that’ll instantly restock an ammo clip if the player times a reload correctly. It’s pretty easy to get the hang of too, and once you’ve committed the timing to muscle memory, it essentially allows for a relentless stream of bullets.
Carving Your Own Path In Biomutant
In regards to the RPG side of things, Biomutant has a lot to offer. Starting off with the character creator system, you can tinker with 4 screens worth of stat parameters, aesthetics and starting abilities for a wealth of personalisation options. Although this is more of a starting preset at the end of the day. Since you can switch to any type of build from the outset, which is a nice touch.
The customisation in crafting is super simple and fun to play around with too.
The customisation in crafting is super simple and fun to play around with too, with only a few parameters that actually require experimentation. In other RPGs, I usually find crafting to be more of a chore than anything else. Whereas here, it’s a lot more accessible and visualised in a way that’s easy enough for any RPG rookie to follow along with.
I also loved how certain actions or dialogue options would change depending on the Biomutant’s morality, or Aura as it’s called here. Not only does it affect how other creatures respond to you during conversations and a particular event later on in the game, but also how it affects which psi-powers can be unlocked based on your dark and light balance. Even though the story and characters are bare-bones at best, it does make you think twice about being a goody-two-shoes, and I respect that.
Oh No! You Sunk My Battleship!
Speaking of morality, one of my certified favourite parts of the game was invading the rival tribes’ headquarters. Upon completing the opening tutorials, the Biomutant must swear their allegiance to a Sifu of a neighbouring tribe, and either try and unite them all to rally against the Worldeaters, or invade them to conquer their land. So you can probably guess which path I chose…
Your allegiance can change throughout the adventure, but I also found it ultra satisfying how you could invade a rival tribe base and proceed through an onslaught of soldiers and security systems with all sorts of defences lying in your wake. Then decide whether it’s worth fighting the leader to capture the outpost or agree to a ceasefire. If you do manage to defeat the rival Sifu though, the opportunity for mercy or a swift death is entirely up to you.
If you continuously kill off rival Sifus, the other tribes may flat-out capitulate because of your tribe’s momentum and resort to offering up a voluntary surrender. If you accept, the whole outpost quest-line will suddenly be completed, and all the morality decisions will feed back into the Aura system as well. Each of these decisions acting as great examples of excellent gameplay-story integration.
Error 404: Cannot Find Your Vehicle – Sorry!
What I don’t think was well-integrated though, was some of the transport options. There’s a few different mounts and vehicles that all have their own distinct attributes for wandering through Biomutant’s epic landscapes. The only issue is that summoning them is by and large, frustratingly inconsistent. I can’t recall the amount of times the Googlide, which is the game’s jetski-type vehicle just refused to appear.
The only issue is that summoning them is by and large, frustratingly inconsistent.
The player obviously must be standing near a body of water to summon it, but half the time the game either wouldn’t register my inputs or just say
“Sorry, we can’t spawn the selected vehicle here!” This really started to tick me off after a while, as it gave off the impression that this mechanic wasn’t properly QA tested.
Same goes for the fast-travel system. There’s more than a few occasions where a mission will be started or finished underground, but the player won’t be able to fast-travel unless they return to the surface. Now you’re probably thinking
“Wow! This is getting nit-picky, mega fast! What are you going on about, Anthony?” And fair enough, this might not bother you at all. Although, in my opinion, having to run around for 5 minutes straight just so I can fast-travel to another location is a massive chore. I’m not a fan.
Loads of Content Meets Empty Space
What I am fan of is the world design, with all the lush, saturated colours and furry animals. It’s clear that humans lived here before and now nature’s running in full bloom. But at the same time, it does run into the age-old, open-world problem of large, grand scale environment meets considerable lack of content. While there are plenty of interesting side-missions that aren’t just random ‘go-fetch quests’, the world itself only has a few aspects that can actually be interacted with.
You’ll stumble upon the occasional hidden pathway, environmental blockade or turf war walking and paragliding across the land, though the open-world is pretty much only peppered with upgrade points, gear or cash to spend on equipment. Just don’t expect a giant habitat with all sorts of animal NPCs running around like a BBC wildlife special. It’s not happening.
Just don’t expect a giant habitat with all sorts of animal NPCs running around like a BBC wildlife special. It’s not happening.
The main quests are where this game’s at, and there are a multitude of varied missions. Such as exploring underground dungeons, invading rival outposts, scaling up mountains, taking on the 4 Worldeaters – a whole slew of things to see and do here and they all work extremely well. The bosses themselves are a mixed bag in terms of quality and skill level however, but they’re still fun overall.
Biomutant’s Performance On PS4
With all this action happening on screen, does it hold up on the base PS4? Well, kind of… Biomutant targets 30FPS but there were countless frame drops throughout my playthrough of the game, especially when running around the world map. Combat and dungeon exploration are typically more consistent, but even then I noticed some slight hiccups here and there. As a whole, it’s generally stable but we’ve definitely seen worse in the open-world genre, that’s for sure.
Is Biomutant the bees knees of action RPGs? At the very least, it’s certainly worth a shot but don’t expect it to be a masterful experience. The combat is incredible and the missions are relatively fresh throughout, though a handful of technical issues and a severely underwhelming story hold this game back from its true potential.
Biomutant falls a little short of expectations, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun time. The action is top-shelf, the presentation is stunning and the looting/crafting aspects are undeniably satisfying. However, the story and narration are straight-up outrageous and a host of technical issues sour the overall experience. So close, yet so far.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by THQ Nordic. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.