Biomutant Review – Disposable Heroes
BiomutantMay 25th, 2021
The way humanity is abusing the planet and depleting its resources, there is no doubt that we are headed towards destruction. But if the post-apocalyptic world is as colorful as the one depicted in Biomutant, maybe things will not end up being so bad. Only if we can forget the giant mutated beasts threatening the Tree of Life and bringing the world to the true, ultimate end, that is.
In many ways, the whole Biomutant experience is exactly like the world where the adventure takes place. Everything looks nice and shiny on the outside, but a deeper look reveals how, in reality, things are not as good as they may seem. It a real shame, considering the potential the game had.
As already mentioned, Biomutant is set in a post-apocalyptic world. The Tree of Life, which has sustained all life on the planet, is threatened by the fearsome World Eaters, giant monsters that have been unleashed by an ecological disaster brought forth by the Toxanol corporation. Like every evil corporation worthy of its status, Toxanol had no regard for nature and the environment, literally bringing the planet one step closer to destruction for mere profit. The ecological upheaval has shaken the world as a whole, with many areas becoming inhabitable due to some terrible hazards, while others got abandoned and now lie in ruin.
It's in this ravaged world that the story of our fully customizable protagonist begins. Having lived a terrible tragedy that destroyed his home and tore apart his family, this lone hero sets out in the world to seek vengeance against the terrible Lupa-Lupin, who caused all the misery he had to live, not knowing that he will get involved in a fight to save the world from ultimate destruction, shaping it and what remains of society with his actions in the process.
Biomutant's premise isn't particularly original, but the unique character and world design, which makes it feel like a computer-animated movie, help it stand out from the competition. The story itself is kind of hit and miss, as characters do not receive any outstanding development, but the unique storytelling approach does somewhat help in this regard as well. Everything happening on screen, from the simple passing of day to dialogues and events, is narrated, making the atmosphere feel quite peculiar, although the narration and the gibberish acted dialogues do get a little grating over time. The tone of the narration is mostly witty and somewhat humorous, with a character in his later years named Out-Of-Date and the remains of a church called Hopehall creating creates a very peculiar dichotomy that works well most of the time.
Just like the story, even the Biomutant gameplay is hit-and-miss. There isn't anything inherently bad about it, no doubt, but some design choices can make it less enjoyable for some, depending on how much they can tolerate certain quirks.
As mentioned above, the main character in Biomutant can be fully customized before the adventure even begins. The character creator offers a wealth of options, allowing players to pick the character's breed, which scales certain stats, class, resistances, and main colors. Classes influence the character's starting equipment and abilities, and they do lock the character into a certain upgrade path, as it is possible to level up any stat freely, equip any weapon if the level requirement is met, use any ability and learn any perk. It mostly provides a blueprint for developing the character, making it easier to create a balanced character that can be fully viable for the entirety of the game for those who are not well versed in role-playing games.
Once you have created your hero, you are thrown into a linear area that teaches you the movement and combat basics. And it's here that the game's biggest issue comes to light: the combat system is not exactly good. Biomutant's action combat system is not too different from that seen in recent open-world RPGs like Assassin's Creed Valhalla and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, with players controlling their character and switching on the fly between different targets as they unleash regular attacks, ranged attacks, and special abilities, use items and parry enemy attacks with a well-timed button press.
The main issue here is not the lack of innovation but how combat actually feels. Controlling the main character feels terribly sluggish, and the complete absence of a lock-on system forces the player to constantly move the camera around to have a good view of the combat area. This system does sound good on paper, as it lets players switch between melee and ranged combat on the fly depending on the situation, but it works terribly in reality, as the player rarely has a good view of the combat area, resulting in enemies attacking and damaging the player without being able to do anything about it. The automatic targeting system is so bad that, sometimes, you will end up attacking a faraway enemy with your Wung-Fu abilities, which leads to a ton of frustration. Making matters worse are enemies that attack from off-camera without any visual clue that warns players of the incoming attacks. With all these issues, it often feels like one has really no control of what is happening in battle, and it's just raw stats, gear quality, and healing items that truly make the difference, not the player's actual skill. Making matters potentially worse is the scaling system that attempts to keep the challenge level balanced by adjusting the enemies' level depending on that of the player, a balancing shortcut that not all will appreciate.
It's really a shame that combat doesn't feel as good as it seemed in pre-release footage, as Biomutant features a decent enemy variety and some solid mechanics. The different weapon types feature different properties and attacks, including the Wung-Fu special attacks performed by inputting simple button combinations. If successful, these attacks let the player charge a special gauge that, once full, lets the character enter a special state capable of unleashing some particularly powerful attacks for a limited amount of time.
Together with Wung-Fu attacks, players can also equip four different abilities between Bio-Powers and Psi-Powers. The first type focuses on dealing altered status damage, while the second focuses on elemental damage. The abilities, which require KI to be used, are varied enough, and some synergize quite well, although the bad targeting system makes it hard sometimes to aim them properly. Rounding up the character customization system are passive perks that improve the character's abilities with melee and ranged weapons, bartering abilities, and so on. The system is quite deep, allowing for many different builds that lead to different play styles.
Thankfully, the exploration in Biomutant is a little more solid than the story and combat, despite not introducing anything truly new to the open-world formula seen in the past five years or so. Once the linear tutorial area has been completed, it is possible to explore the world fully. It's clear how Experiment 101 went with an approach similar to that of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, letting players explore the world at their own pace. While the whole map is indeed open right from the start, it will not be possible to truly explore every nook and cranny as some areas can only be accessed after acquiring the right vehicles, while others require acquiring the right protective suit that prevents various hazards from killing the character. Even with these locked zones, however, there's plenty to experience right from the start of the game: the different biomes all look great, and they feature a variety of locations like bunkers, ruined cities, caverns, and so on filled with some simple puzzles to complete and all sorts of loot.
The loot system featured in Biomutant is also extremely solid, leading to even more customization possibilities. All gear found in the game, including weapons and clothes, can be customized with tons of different items that will alter their stats, add elemental properties, and so on. As stats are extremely important in the grand scheme of things, due to the sluggish combat system, upgrading items will be extremely important later on, as enemies can hit very hard even on normal difficulty, and their level is always scaled to that of the player.
However, if you decide to strictly follow the story, you will not see a whole lot of this diverse world. The main story of Biomutant is rather short, taking only around 15 hours to complete, and focusing just on story missions will only take you to a fraction of the locations available. While the story's main focus is to defeat the four World Eaters gnawing the roots of the Tree of Life, players will also get involved in the Tribe Wars. These Tribes all have their own idea on how to prevent the destruction of the world, and players can choose to ally themselves with any of them, resulting in a definite change of their moral alignment.
The moral system in Biomutant isn't particularly deep, but it does influence things beyond the perception other characters have of the protagonist. Depending on the character's Dark or Light Aura values, it is possible to unlock different Psi-Powers. The moral alignment, and that of the tribe you choose to ally yourself with, also influences the story's outcome, adding a little bit of replay value much needed for such a short tale.
Although the main story is a little short, Experiment 101 did a generally good job making each story mission distinct. All the battles against the World Eaters are very reminiscent of the boss battles seen in the 3D entries in the Zelda series, forcing players to expose weak points to defeat these massive beasts. Outposts conquering, which is part of the Tribe Wars questline, is also quite varied, as players will have to accomplish different tasks to conquer each one of them. Interestingly enough, it is possible at times to avoid battle altogether and persuade the Outpost leader to relinquish it without shedding blood. This is only possible depending on the character's stats, which adds a little more depth to the character customization system beyond simply increasing combat stats.
Unfortunately, side missions are not as varied. While they do provide additional information on the lore and characters, these are mainly fetch quests with occasional combat and puzzle-solving. They also grant some decent loot, so there are some incentives for going through them, despite the lack of variety.
One area where Biomutant delivers is the visuals. The game's world looks beautiful even at low settings, featuring some great-looking textures and lighting effects that make each biome pop with colors. Characters look quite detailed as well, contributing to making the game look like an animation movie. The PC version of the game is also incredibly well optimized: the game had no trouble running at 1440p resolution, 60 FPS, mostly high settings on a dated system powered by an i7-3770 CPU, GTX 980 Ti GPU, and 16 GB RAM, also thanks to the dynamic resolution setting that lowers resolution in case the game cannot keep up with the targeted frame rate. On a more modern system powered by an i7-10700 CPU, RTX 3070 GPU, and 16 GB RAM, the game had absolutely no trouble running at 4K resolution, 60 FPS, max settings. No matter your system specs, the wealth of graphics options will allow you to tweak the visuals so that the game can run properly at your desired frame rate.
At the end of the day, I cannot say that I hated my time with Biomutant, but I really cannot say that I wholly loved it either. While there isn't much wrong with the game, not counting the terribly sluggish combat, Biomutant doesn't excel at anything except for visuals and atmosphere, featuring only a competent open-world experience that fails to surprise players lacking any real standout feature.
PC version tested. Review code provided by the publisher.
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Biomutant is a competent open-world role-playing game featuring a charming atmosphere and some solid RPG mechanics. Sadly, it fails to stand out due to its by-the-books open-world formula and the sluggish combat system. While the game does work for the most part and there are some interesting ideas here and there, there isn't a lot that Biomutant does better than most open-world games out there, resulting in an experience that is somewhat forgettable.
- Charming atmosphere
- Solid RPG mechanics
- Good main story mission variety
- Big open-world filled with locations to explore and secrets to discover
- Great visuals and optimization
- Mediocre and sluggish combat system
- Short main campaign length
- Uninspired story and characters
- Doesn't really try to do anything different