Welcome To Biomutant
It feels like a lifetime ago when Biomutant was announced. In fact, the first cinematic reveal was way back at E3 in 2017. Developed by Swedish team Experiment 101, Biomutant is a fun, open-world romp that suffers from a repetitive mission structure, an annoying narrator and a story that doesn’t quite hit as well as it could.
However, the gameplay is undoubtedly moreish, although don’t expect to spend more than 20 hours with this one. The world is also pretty barren – despite its biodiversity – and there are some mechanical issues that are hard to look past.
In an age of 100+ hour Persona games and bloated Assassin Creed titles, it’s somewhat refreshing to find an open world like this that strips everything back for a smaller scale. Don’t me wrong though, it’s still too big for this game, with large stretches of roaming through empty wilderness or rolling hills, but it’s at least aesthetically pleasing and a shorter distance than the many mile treks seen in other games. (Hello, Valhalla.)
Biomutant has a lot of moving parts here – some that work better than others. The story is pretty barebones in truth and the opening few hours are particularly rough. If you stick with it though, the game does open up a bit and it’s here where Biomutant is at its strongest.
The main plot revolves around the Tree Of Life which is struck by a natural disaster and becomes polluted by poisonous oil beneath the soil. Here, themes around global warming and climate change seep into the story, and it works pretty well to give this some depth.
The tree though is split into different roots, which come under threat from five different creatures who begin slowing gnawing at them. These are known as the World Eaters. Your role is to go after these creatures, destroying each in turn to save the tree and allow it to heal. Sounds simple, right?
Well, things are complicated further by six tribes fighting over the land; three want to heal the Tree of Life and three want to expand their territory, using the chaos to seize power. This feeds into the game’s Karma system (more on that in a bit), as you control a mutated mammalian warrior who’s tasked with healing the world.
After designing your character through a pretty robust and well-worked creation system, the game thrusts you into a 2 hour tutorial that’s pretty rough around the edges. Numerous flashbacks bog down the story further, while the game is absolutely relentless with its narration. While quirky and somewhat charming, it doen’t take long before it starts feeling grating.
There’s a bizarre triple layer of translation here though that just does not work. You’ve got the basic subtitled version of what’s being said, the jibberish spoken by the natives and then an abridged version translated by the narrator. It’s incredibly jarring and absolutely ludicrous that the game even includes this.
To be honest, the game would have been stronger and more quirky had the narrator just tried to put on a different voice fir every character. There are options to turn this guy down but it’s still enough to irk you while playing.
Aesthetically, Biomutant looks gorgeous and on Playstation 5 in particular the draw distance is particularly impressive. There’s a wide range of biomes to explore, with your usual suspects including deserts, polar regions, biohazard nuclear plants and a lush jungle.
Each of these areas hold their own range of creatures, with a pretty varied enemy design. At least to begin with anyway. Once you start hitting the upper-echelons of level 25-30, most of the enemies will feel very samey and to be honest, I found myself running past most minibosses by this point.
These enemies do have their own attack patterns, while the enemy ranks are split into simple grunts, medium-sized enemies and towering mini-bosses. These bosses can sometimes have multiple stages of attacks too.
Depending on how you’ve chosen to play, the attacks you play with are split into several different options. You’ve got your guns and ranged attacks, which are in turn split into six different weapon types. Melee is quite straight forward, with a satisfying hack and the added ability to upgrade to include special moves and super attacks using this game’s form of chi.
This chi can be earned through “light” or “dark” options, which feeds into the Karma system of the game. Good actions equate to light points while bad options…you get the point.
There are essentially three different upgrade points here, which are all used for different things. “Upgrade Points” can be used to unlock new special attacks or grant perks to your character. These range from an extra chance of gaining loot or adding ranged weapon power.
The other two split the powers into Psi points and bio points. Both of these can be used to unlock new abilities to use in battle, including telekinesis, lightning powers and even a bubble that cocoons your character and sticks to your enemies.
There’s a great range of attacks and part of the fun with Biomutant’s combat comes from mixing and matching different weapons and skills to find a play-style that suits you. Personally, I found using a variety of all these attacks worked best.
The menu to showcase all this is incredibly busy though – and needlessly so at times. Biomutant is in desperate need of a more streamlined system and it does take a while to get used to all the moving parts and how they work in tandem.
The game also includes a crafting mechanic on top of all this, with an overly fiddly menu that breaks down each individual body part. On your travels you can unlock different outfits, trinkets and armour to upgrade your gear. This is done using different crafting materials, including wood, plastic and rubber. See what I man about moving parts?
Alongside combat is traversal itself, which is alleviated somewhat by mounts, boats and even a mechanic hand that fires missiles used to get around the world. There is still fast travel though, with numerous signs that can be *checks notes* urinated on to unlock for the future.
That’s just as well too because the missions and story will have you traversing all over the place. It’s also this part of the game that will be make or break for many people. The main missions themselves will probably last around 10 hours or so if you blast through, but there are a litany of different side quests that could easily push this up to 40+ hours. While that in itself is fine, there is a lot of repetitiveness with this.
There are over 15 different collectables to grab, 11 separate mini-bosses held up in forts to conquer and 31 prisoners in cages to free. If that wasn’t enough, there are four different suits to unlock to brave the elemental areas along with dozens of boxes scattered about to upgrade your mekton (think Avatar’s mech-suits) and water mounts. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
There are so many missions here but all of them feel very similar. The age old quote “wide as an ocean, deep as a puddle” comes to mind here. This is the sort of game that’s best to play for a few hours at a time too, rather than blasting through in quick succession – which would explain some of the low review scores. Having played this on and off since release, the studio have been receptive to changes and actually a new update a few days ago improved the loot system a lot.
Given the small team that have been working on this, Biomutant does have some impressive elements. The combat is responsive and consistently enjoyable throughout, while the quirky characters you meet along the way have their own personalities and charm. This is a fun, vibrant adventure and a classic AA, mid-sized game that’s sorely missing in the gaming world.
Away from the diluted AAA experience and the quirky Indie market, Biomutant slots somewhere in the middle, taking the best and worst aspects that these two extremes have to offer.
Sure the game is a little janky and a bit rough around the edges, but given the small team that worked on this it’s certainly an admirable effort. Oh and that’s before mentioning that there’s no microtransactions or predatory loot boxes here either. For that alone the game is worth playing and supporting.
It’s not going to win any game of the year awards but it’s a fun romp nonetheless. If you’re looking for a simple open world experience and don’t mind a few faults with the story and mission design, this one should keep you busy for a while.
All of our videogame reviews are also featured on OpenCritic