Thanks To THQ Nordic for Providing An Early Review Copy
What is better than becoming a ninja racoon who fights a bunch of other mutant animals in a post apocalyptic world? Biomutant was a really unique idea that unfortunately didn’t pan out the way I hoped for. Before we dive into specifics, lets start with the basics. Biomutant is being developed by Experiment 101 which is a new team with less than 30 members that is owned by THQ Nordic/Embracer Group. Biomutant will be releasing on May 25th, costing $59.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC. Biomutant can also be played on an Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and PlayStation 5 through backwards compatibility and next generation versions at a later date. Biomutant will also be available through EA Play Pro which costs $15 a month. Experiment 101 has a really small team, but I can’t give them much leeway due to the fact that they are still charging sixty dollars for Biomutant. I understand that they probably had little to do with that decision, but a sixty dollar game has to be reviewed like a sixty dollar game, regardless of the size of the team that made it.
I will be as vague as I can be here to avoid spoiling stuff, but to be completely honest, there isn’t much narrative stuff that I can spoil. This was one of my biggest concerns going into this game and it unfortunately came true. The narrative is really weak. The main story telling element is through a narrator essentially reading the story of you. The best comparison I can make to this would be Immortals Fenyx Rising. You are either going to love it or hate it, and I can say that I was not a fan. The NPCs in the game talk in their own gibberish language and then the narrators translates and tells the story. The downside to this is that you never get to actually connect with the characters or get a real feel for their personality. Dialogue itself also gets pretty repetitive when talking to some characters. For example, the tribe leaders have identical dialogue options. Now as far as the main story itself goes, there is a tree of life in the center of the map and there are these monsters that want to destroy it. If the tree gets destroyed, all life will die. There are different tribes that want to protect the tree, and there are others that want to see it get destroyed. You will pick a side and then you will fight anything opposing your goal. Throughout your journey, you will have flashbacks where you will see events from your childhood, but those moments are short lived and still don’t add enough. I would like to note that I haven’t completed all of the side quests so I am not sure if they cause any changes to the ending (I doubt it).
The combat is the most enjoyable part of the game, but even that falls short at times. It starts off on a high note during the opening boss fight, where it teaches you a bunch of moves and combos. You have different classes, mutations, perks, and a ton of different weapon options which add new moves to combat encounters. One tiny issue that I have with the combat is the lack of a lock on system. If it had one, combat encounters with multiple enemies would feel a lot more fluid. Biomutant has crafting and weapon customization which is done pretty well, but it was something that I didn’t use that much besides during required sections. The biggest problem with the combat is that there is zero feedback when you are hitting enemies with a melee weapon. It feels like you are swinging at ghosts with a sword made out of napkins. Things get even worse when you hear the weak sounds that some of the melee weapons make. I wish I was kidding, but Biomutant has some of the worst sounds I have ever heard in a sixty dollar game.
Quests are a key part of any single player game and Biomutant has a lot fetch quests. For example, going for a ride on a catapult (needed to start certain outpost missions) requires you to go across the map to get a helmet, even though you have plenty of helmets in your inventory. A ton of the side missions are checklist type quests which just end up being time fillers. I am fine with side objectives being there to pad for extra content, but the main story should not consist of a ton of fetch quests. Something that pops up through out your quests is a morality system based off light vs dark, but its end up becoming forgotten due to how easy you can max out your mortality meter.
Taking over outposts is a main part of the tribe war part of Biomutant, and some of them make little sense. Obviously, I mentioned the helmet example before, but there were quite a few other things that stuck out to be just as odd. An example is one of the outposts that you see relatively early in the game. There is a cave full of moth nests next to the outpost, and a friendly NPC recommends you to destroy the nests so that the moths will move into the outpost. That is a unique way to clear an outpost so I was initially digging it until I saw that there were a ton of soldiers in the caves. These caves were completely empty, (besides the three moth nests) so there would be zero reason to have soldiers chilling in there. Like these caves were pitch black and didn’t have tents or anything. This quest could have been so much cooler if you had to fight mutated moths or some other insect in the caves, but the developers just copy and pasted soldiers into there even though it made zero sense for them to be there. I attached a video of the last part of that fight below.
Biomutant has puzzles that come up quite often, but they are all practically the same. They may be different in the sense that one may be a breaker box and the other may on a door, but the puzzle itself is just an easy color matching game that is super simple to complete once you have done the first one in the tutorial. This is a minor issue which will probably not bother most people, but some of the HUD markers feel misplaced. You can change the scale or could just turn it off all together, but you can’t actually move stuff to the corners of your screen which is where you would traditionally expect it to be. Another minor gripe that I have is the menu itself. Its colorful, fortnite inspired menu just feels out of place in a post apocalyptic game. One thing that I loved and needed to mention was the fact that you urinate on a flag post to unlock a new fast travel location.
To cap off the gameplay section, I would like to discuss how Biomutant doesn’t really respect your time which is something that quite a few open world games love to do. It forces you to go thousands of meters away just so you can hear the narrator translate dialogue from a new NPC which will lead to you having a checklist worth of tasks to fulfil. One objective has you saving twenty plus NPCs which leads to nothing. There are so many other objectives that just don’t have satisfying conclusions and makes you second guess if that was really the end of a side story. Biomutant could have had a fantastic gameplay loop if things were done on a smaller scale (meaning a smaller world that is filled with more detail, less mechanics that are more ironed out, etc). Mechanics like the mech or boat could have been more impactful on the game if they were used in a smaller but more refined area. I have seen other critics talk about how Biomutant was a success for such a small team’s first game and they aren’t wrong. Experiment 101 did a good job for what they were working with, but THQ Nordic/Embracer Group should have given them more support and a bigger team. They continue to acquire more and more studios and could have had some of them help Experiment 101 bring the true vision of Biomutant out.
I played Biomutant on my Playstation 5 and the game didn’t look as pretty as the gameplay that I saw on PC and Xbox Series X. The main reason behind this is because the next generation version of Biomutant has not released yet. But the game looked even worse on PS5 compared to XSX due to some technical issues that the developers had which required them to keep things at 1080p upscaling to 4K. Upscaling can be hit or miss (TLOU2 did a fantastic job), but Biomutant was a miss, especially when viewing the game up close on a monitor. Biomutant ran mostly at 60 frames per second, but there were areas where it dropped below it. Some of the areas with a ton going on ran fine, but then there would be weird areas where it lags. One example was an indoor subway when I was fighting just four enemies. Outside sections look good besides some pop in, but indoor locations look like they didn’t get much time spent on their attention to detail. Another delay really should have happened to put some extra work into the next generation versions of the game.
Biomutant was a super ambitious game that I really wanted to love, but I could not. Experiment 101 wanted to do so much and ended up falling short in a lot of areas. It is almost impossible to make a huge open world game with tons of different mechanics while keeping everything at a high quality. THQ Nordic/Embracer Group really should have staffed up Experiment 101 with a 100+ person team, because there is such an interesting premise behind all of the jank in the world of Biomutant. At this point, I can’t recommend Biomutant at full price. I would highly recommend waiting a few months and picking up the game at a sale price. If you really need to play Biomutant now, then I would recommend either picking up a month of EA Play Pro and essentially renting it, or just buying a physical copy so you have the option to sell it if your not enjoying it.