Biomutant, where to begin? A post apocalyptic RPG set in a world not unlike ours, albeit when ours is the ‘before times’.
We felt the sprawling nature of Biomutant would be a good opportunity to team up Richard and Dylan, let’s see.
Richard: Imagine a world poisoned by toxicity, inhabited by mutated creatures instead of people. Living their simple lives in a pseudo medieval-samurai-esque setting. Biomutant has a colourful open world, liberally peppered with ruins of humanity. Shells of buildings and rusted cars, intersected with skeletal tracks of Chuggers, sorry, trains.
Dylan: Yes, the fiction is well-realised and original, with strange, almost Mad Max-esque names for things. Biomutant does have going for it the quite beautiful ruined world in which its somewhat bland storyline takes place.
Richard: The developers have gone a long way into their world building cupboard, structurally there is thought in the world at risk. The game wants you to make choices that affect the outcome and for once I actually laboured over my decisions. There is always light and Dark, or Paragon vs. Virtue. Biomutant does a good job about making you second guess your decisions. It certainly flags early on that a second play-through would be worth taking the path less travelled.
Dylan: My first reaction to the game was that it did feel like a step backwards in many ways. In general, it just feels like a game from a decade ago. I guess we almost need to temper our expectations overall here, being that Biomutant is the product of a small team. That said, this is also a $99.95 title and I feel that if you step into the grown up yard to play, you need to wear the scrutiny. There are several janky aspects to Biomutant, notably the way that the game is narrated.
Rather than featuring character voices, each speaking creature you meet instead mumbles in their own language. As the narrator fills you in on what they are saying. I’m not convinced that this works. I would prefer they take the Hunt for Red October route. Have the creatures talking in their language for a while, with subtitles, and then switching to English performed by voice actors.
Richard: Playing as the poster-boy Biomutant, it’s a journey of adventure as you find your way in the world. It’s also a world of danger, threats and lighthearted (super easy) puzzles. Combat on the surface is a simple affair, progress and experience will bolster this. Switching between melee and ranged weapons on the fly is essential. A capable Biomutant will easily become a force to be reckoned with.
Movement is fluid and intuitive, and seeing your Biomutant drop to all fours to sprint keeps reminding you of your animalistic origins. An essential stat to bolster is the stamina bar, it drains during combat and if it empties during a swim, you’re a goner. Strangely it also applies to swimming in a mount. I would have hoped the mount ran out of stamina, then I could jump off and swim myself.
Dylan: Yes, combat is fine without being anything exciting. I found myself frustrated by the agonisingly slow reloading of my gun, and would have liked a quick-reload action or some such. I also had issues with quick time events, in that the button prompt looks exactly like the ‘mash’ prompt elsewhere in the game, and if you instead mash the button it fails the QTE. Not forgetting, I also can’t tell enemies and foes apart.
Combat is like watching a group of guinea pigs in costumes go at it. I do, however, like how you gain level up points just for doing stuff in the world, and this helps you to build a somewhat unique character. I opted for a dual-wielding runt who leaned towards spitting out weird bile that caused enemies to turn on their allies for a short period.
Richard: There is an extensive range of level up options, and there are plenty of points, blobs and unlocks to spend on them. You can build your Biomutant however you wish, and the levels come relatively quickly. You can also revamp your character’s physical build at a story location. I played a short Biomutant, stretching myself out giving me access to a ledge I couldn’t reach. Which was nice. The only real problem with the sheer amount of combos, skills and perks is keeping on top of them in combat.
I’ve lost a few encounters fumbling with the controls, running out of stamina and failing to hit a healing potion. That’s me though. Leveling up doesn’t restrict itself to you though, no self respecting Biomutant is complete without an Automaton. A mechanical grasshopper at the beginning,things change, who may or may not be the narrator. The Automaton has some key skills opened up at set points, I plumped for adding a turret so it could aid me in combat.
I probably should have gone for the flying aspect first.
Dylan: I did feel at times that being close to the ground felt a bit off. As if I was missing out on the full vista of the world around me. Stamina was a constant issue for me too, never remembering to check that it was being used up. (note: double jumps use it up).
Richard: I am a fan however of the loot and customisation options that the game throws at you. Once you remember where to find it in the menus, you keep going back to tweak your kit. You can happily build weapons from scratch too. It won’t be long until we see some Borderlands style guns being shown off across social media.
Picking up various additions to weaponry and armour, you simply start attaching them to anchor points at the cost of various bit of ‘scrap’ you’ve collected. I now have a sword that’s longer than I am tall thanks to a Legendary handle I picked up.
Dylan: It is always cool to see your weapon and armour options reflected on a character. It’s part of the large success of franchises like Diablo. Biomutant feels like there were several elements the developers really wanted to keep in. Especially as overall, the way that you negotiate all the different levelling and crafting options could do with some UI refinement. I often spent upgrade points and then stumbled across a whole other sub menu with stuff I could spend points on that I didn’t even know existed.
Richard: Some areas are off limits at first, well, you can access them, but they’ll kill you. Specifically the environment will. This is a clever trick, no invisible walls, no unreadable islands. It’s there for the taking, but unless you find the right equipment you can’t survive inside its boundaries.
One of the first essential kits is a Bio-Hazard suit, found after a few interlinked mini quests. Biomutant has a strength in its easy going mission structure, nothing is over long or too taxing.
Dylan: It definitely has that “you’ve played everything before and can easily pick up the controls” feel. That can be both a positive and negative, depending on how you want to approach it. It’s not going to compete with any recent open world game. However there will also be players who have skipped by the massive time-sinks offered by large studios. For them, Biomutant will feel familiar, safe and comforting.
Richard: Apart from the monstrous World Eater bosses destroying the Tree of Life. Apart from the tribes that you really want to unite above fighting each other. There is another battle at the heart of Biomutant, it’s the mostly beautiful setting fighting with the narrative decisions.
The story is classic hokum, and at times you can’t help but feel it’s straight from a young adult novel. The characters and races are a diverse bunch. But while the narrator translates their bizarre mumbled noises, you can’t help wondering why they needed these languages in the first place. It doesn’t really add to the suspension of disbelief, especially when it’s actually quite distracting. As for the diversity, Dylan’s spot on about the guinea pigs.
Since we’re talking about the narrator. I believe Biomutant got whoever Media Molecule rejected over Stephen Fry. The random cutesy names for things just begin to mount up, leaving you not quite sure what they’re actually talking about. Delivered by a soothing voice that has too much to say and has sent me to sleep multiple times…for real. Even with the inclusion of my refined dialogue skipping skills.
Dylan: The problem is that while the narrator is perfectly fine as a Stephen Fry impersonator, his delivery soon becomes monotonous and boring. During one play session where my wife was listening in. She remarked after I had stopped playing that it was, ‘The most boring game I’ve ever heard you play.’
Richard: Overall – my brain wants to compare Biomutant to Jade Empire, strangely. It’s a fun and colourful ride that is saving the open world genre for me.
However the character voicing and language pulls me out of my reverie. It’s jarring and never feels really at peace with the ex-humanity setting. For clarity, even with a week’s head start I wouldn’t expect to have completed the story. Mostly because I am a nosey kleptomaniac and can’t go past a chest, partly because of life. One medium to large gripe aside, I wholeheartedly recommend Biomutant as a strong new IP. With a decent world to explore and enjoy, at some leisure.
Biomutant wants to be played. I suggest you entertain it.