BIOMUTANT® is an open-world, post-apocalyptic Kung-Fu fable RPG, with a unique martial arts styled combat system allowing you to mix melee, shooting and mutant ability action.
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Reviewed on: PS5 (PS4 game)
Also available for: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Cast: David Shaw-Parker
Developer: Experiment 101
Writers: Stefan Ljungqvist, Matt Forbeck
Creative Design & Direction: Stefan Ljungqvist
Gameplaying Programming & Game Design: Per Johansson, Nikolai Nyqvist
Every year there’s a game trailer released that grabs me and jumps to the top of my most anticipated list. A couple of years ago, that trailer was the reveal of Biomutant, an open-world action RPG from the small and new team of Experiment 101. The teaser trailer showed off a small mutated creature fighting a massive monster, and that world instantly captivated me. The whole game kept me hooked with that same curiosity to know more and desire to seek out the world’s interestingly designed characters; there are just a few un-shined bolts behind this machine.
In 2019 I played a demo for Biomutant at PAX Australia, and oddly the thoughts I shared then are very similar to those I have now. I like it; I love the ideas — but it’s just very messy. There’s no way of understating how big of an achievement a game this size and scope is from a small and new team. But that also comes with many negatives, and the game simply doesn’t feel as polished as AAA open-world games. You may love that, and there is some charm to it, that’s for sure. But it made me wish for a smaller world, fewer missions, and a more polished experience overall, rather than the scope presented here.
As you begin Biomutant, you’re presented with a character customisation screen for your little mutated creature, of which you can pick from six different breeds. Each has various perks; for example, one is simply a tank character, another a stealth-based breed. You’re then able to tinker with the DNA of your biomutanted creature by moving a diagram between different attributes, which also shapes the size and shape of your character. At the end of this process, you can colour your character from stark yellow to bright purple, which is fun. Overall the stats don’t matter too much in Biomutant, but you may want to build a small, slender mutant or a thick one — the choice is yours.
The look of your character continues to grow as you progress through the game, finding different outfits from cupboards and bins, which also provided defensive stats. It’s all very a-typical RPG stuff, but all Biomutant’s gear, from armour to weapons, are built from old things from our planet Earth. I won’t spoil all the rather silly pieces of armour I’ve found, but I will say I found a duck mask about two hours into the game, and I kept upgrading that, and I haven’t changed it at all since then—no regrets from this mighty duck.
As you begin the Biomutant journey, you’re quickly put on the hero’s journey and have the finger pointed at four ‘World Eater’ monsters to track down, each on different sides of the map. They’re slowly destroying the ‘tree of life, which is a very literal life-tree providing everything in the world and must be protected at all costs. Alongside this goal, you also have to pick a side and end the war between the six factions found throughout the world. All the while, your character is searching for answers about their past and understanding how they fit into the larger picture.
Overall I found the narrative in Biomutant to be a bore. The character designs, world, and lore behind everything were intriguing, but I struggled to connect to anyone, and for a while, I couldn’t put my finger on why? Until I realised it was the narrator that drives your story. You see, in Biomutant, all the characters speak their native languages — that’s fine — but you have all of what they say translated to you by a narrator. This same narrator will randomly drop lines while you’re in the world and point out objects and locations of interest. Hearing him say, “this could be the beginning of the ending of everything”, became rather tedious for the twentieth time.
Nonetheless, this narrator translates all the characters in the game. Thus, they lose all personality and ability for me, as the player, to connect to them and separate them from one another. They all blurred together as this single-voiced cast. As far as my brain was concerned, there was only one character in this game, just wearing different costumes across the game’s seven biomes. Because even if the weasel character with a drinking problem doesn’t look anything like the one working on a train, they sounded the same.
Biomutant does feature a morality system, but I didn’t find it at all engaging. You’ll have a black or white angel appear at different points in the game and try and swing you in a specific direction, but it’s straightforward to follow whichever path you choose. Even without signalling, the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ options always appear on the same side of the screen. There’s also little incentive or adverse reactions to choosing to be bad or good. There’s a couple of powers locked behind being one way aligned or another, and there are at least two endings that I’ve read about, but nothing you haven’t seen done before ten years ago.
There’s a plethora of guns and melee weapons ready for you to choose your preferred playstyle in Biomutant. Play at a distance and use nothing but guns, or get up close with dual-blades, two-handed heavy swords or go unarmed and prove you know kung-fu. However, Biomutant feels best when you’re combining both guns and melee weapons, but you could definitely go all-in in either direction.
Combat in Biomutant is somewhere between the Batman Arkham series, DmC and Vanquish. Enemies can be countered as you see little icons appear above their heads, or you can button mash your heart away. As you level up, you can unlock special moves that allow you to initiate a powerful shot of your gun after slashing your weapon and more juicy combo moves. Learning these button inputs will enable you to look way cooler during combat, but making three different special moves will charge up the ‘Super Wushu’ metre. When activated, you’re able to dish out powerful attacks for a short amount of time, and it can come in clutch in more challenging fights.
Your gear and fighting style won’t matter for most of the World Eater fights, the games only proper boss fights. For each, you take them head-on with a different craft of some sort. This process starts which the mech suit, and then there’s a jet-ski to take on a water-based World Eater. These fights are pushovers, but there’s a sense of scale to them, and because you’re using these crafts like the mech suit, they stand apart from the rest of the game’s fights. Plus, the music begins to build as you head towards the boss arena, getting the heart racing slightly.
Biomutant’s world is divided into seven distinct biomes. Several of these are death traps with heat and cold levels that will boil or melt you in seconds. To counter this, you can use some of your upgrade points to increase your resistances to different elemental effects to last longer or go track down the side quests to unlock suits to protect you against other effects. Thankfully there are five different gear loadouts you can have saved at one time, so you can have your default loadout, a heat zone, a cold zone, a biozone and more ready to switch to in just a couple of button presses. These add to the world and the narrative threads about how the species who lived on this planet treated it so poorly.