Biomutant received mostly mixed reviews when it launched in late May, and for the most part it deserved them.
Certainly at the time of its launch, it suffered from some performance issues and features several storylines that weave together but don’t quite stick the landing in the end.
Biotmutant is an open-world, action-RPG, in which you play an anthropomorphic character straight out of a Wes Anderson stop-motion animated movie, set in Disney’s Animal Kingdom where quirky characters help you and big, stuffed-animal-looking Worldeaters threaten the tree of life.
It’s a post apocalypse where all the humans have died off and biohazard waste left mutated animals to inherit the planet.
The game seems at least somewhat inspired by open world, action RPG’s by Bethesda, for reasons I’ll get to shortly.
The game has received several updates, but at the time I played through it, I did run into some performance issues now and then. Some areas on the map caused the frame rate to chug every once in a while, even when running on my PS5. And I had two hard crashes during my play through. But even at the time I played through it, I’d say these performance issues were the exception, not the rule.
The game looks great. The post apocalypse here is lush and vibrant. It’s more “Enslaved: Odyssey to the West” than it is “Fallout.” The mostly smooth, high frame rate mode makes the game feel pretty good to play, and the music is pretty good too.
A lot of the soundtrack is moody music that fills your post-apocalyptic journeys, much the way a “Fallout” soundtrack might. That is to say, it appropriately fills the background in a way that vibes with the setting, without standing out in a way that makes it too memorable.
And yet, there are some tracks that do stand out in ways I liked. For instance, the heavy, moody cello of the track “Biomutant Biome” has really stuck with me. Several other fairly memorable tracks are clearly inspired by Asian music, much like the game’s made up Wu-Fu combat style that’s clearly inspired by kung fu.
Speaking of the combat, there are three different methods of combat that you’ll use to fight creatures around the world: Melee, Magic and Guns.
As for the melee
- It’s pretty standard hack and slash, combo-based, melee combat.
- You have a number of elemental magic abilities to choose from, and of course you unlock more of them as you level up.
- You can fire electricity at enemies, and eventually unlock an Emperor Palpatine-like lightning ability that chains to nearby enemies.
- You have a fire-based ability that lets you dash in the direction you’re holding the left thumbstick, and you’ll leave behind a trail of fire that deals damage over time to enemies that run into it.
- There are also some biohazard-based abilities that sicken enemies for damage over time as well.
- There’s a variety of gun types, from pistols, to rifles, to shotguns and automatics. And if you pair jumping with your gunshots, there’s a brief window of bullet time. And if you pair dodging with your gunshots, there’s some flippy, slidey, quick-firing that happens.
Depending on your class and how you’ve levelled your character, you’ll be more or less efficient with one or more of the different fighting styles.
However, you’ll use all three of them to an extent regardless of which path you’ve chosen, bouncing back and forth between the three fighting styles as you wait for your magic to recharge and guns to reload.
I played a more magic-based character, but found myself relying on guns about as often as I used my magic-based abilities while I waited for my magic to recharge.
The guns feel fine, but the mechanics aren’t the most satisfying. You’ll point your crosshair in the general direction of enemies, and an auto-aim system takes over.
As for the magic – some abilities feel more fun to use than others, but I suspect laying down a path of fire and biohazard and then electrocuting everyone like Emperor Palpatine has a very different feel than the more melee focused character builds.
The game, to an extent, feels like “Skyrim” in that even if you choose to make your character more of a melee-focused character in the beginning, you can switch gears and build more into magic abilities as you go. You’re never locked into one play style and locked out of another.
There’s also a crafting system in the game, so you can make weapons and upgrade armor. So much like a “Fallout” game, you’ll want to loot everything, even if it’s only to break it down for crafting material.
I ended up making a very powerful shotgun that I used for much of my play through.
To really get the most out of the crafting system you’ll have to do a lot of looting, but rest assured, there is loot everywhere.
Every new place you go, a list of things you can find will pop-up in the lower left-hand side of the screen. And I suspect, there are a lot of players, like me, that found it hard to move on to a new area until I had checked off the whole list.
But I did eventually get to a point where, between my magic abilities and my powerful shotgun I had made, I really didn’t feel the need to scavenge for every last piece of loot.
And I almost regretted it as I got toward the end, because, without spoiling anything, there is a bit of a difficulty spike that had me wishing maybe I had crafted some better armor. But, otherwise, I did not find Biomutant’s combat to be particularly difficult. So I kinda just stopped worrying about upgrading my weapons and armor part way through.
In addition to the multiple forms of attack, there are multiple main storylines all happening at once.
First there’s your character’s personal journey as you enter memories of your childhood, how you learned to fight, and what a big influence your parents had on you, and ultimately what became of them.
You have to face a main villain, who has terrorized the whole world, but had a personal connection to you and your family in a way I won’t spoil.
Then there’s the unification through conquest storyline that involves picking a side in the faction war that’s happening. It plays into the morality system, where you can either embrace the light or the dark, or become some mix of both. Either way, you’ll get to choose the corresponding faction, and then it’ll be your job to lead a campaign of conquest that plays out somewhat similarly to clearing out enemy encampments in an Ubisoft game. As you defeat enemy tribe leaders, you’ll get the choice to add their survivors to your ranks, and you’ll gain the special weapon type their faction was known for.
However, it’s not all combat here, Biomutant breaks the formula up by giving several ways of capturing an enemy base. You might try talking your way through it by persuading the enemy to surrender, if your skills are high enough. You might take out some key defenses that causes the captain to surrender, or you might just enter and fight everyone to the death.
The variety here ended up being a welcome addition.
Another of the main storylines is the Worldeaters and their threat to the tree of life. There are four giant monsters to defeat, and each of them requires you to come up with a different piece of tech to put you on a level playing field before you can fight.
I used a big mech-suit to fight the first Worldeater and hopped aboard a jet ski-like water craft to fight the second. And maybe, I’ll avoid specifying how I fought the last two, in case that’s considered spoiler territory for some.
And finally, there’s the related storyline revolving around selecting the world’s best and brightest to leave this place behind on an ark-like spaceship. But you only have so much space available, so you’ll have to make some tough decisions about whom to take with you.
For me, I played a character aligned with the light. I united the tribes, took down the world eaters and generally left the world in a much better state than it was at the beginning of the game – which is why the whole ark subplot feels awkwardly tacked on in a way that makes no sense at all. I can maybe see the need for it if I had played a dark character that left the world in shadow, but not for my play through.
Despite my issues with how the ending plays out and its performance issues, I think Biomutant is the kind of game that will, in time, be remembered fondly.
It’s fun, it’s pretty to look at, and there’s a lot to do. It has a certain, undeniable, quirky charm that really never wore off on me. And that’s despite the fact that all the characters speak in mumbly gibberish, and then you have to wait for your automaton to translate. But at least the voice of the automaton is pretty pleasant.
It’s a flawed game, but an enjoyable one nonetheless.