Review: Biomutant more than makes up with charm and depth what it lacks in polish
At E3 2017, we got our first up-close look at THQ Nordic’s Biomutant, and boy was it a doozy: an open-world action RPG set in a colorful, post-apocalyptic world where humans are but a myth and animals have evolved to take their place. What really caught our eye was how the world’s inhabitants seemed to have evolved based on their environment: a snow leopard that’s literally a giant snowball in human form, for example. The game also promises huge questlines and a complex, interwoven story, all of which eats away at the game’s main issue: a lack of polish.
Biomutant is unlike any game I’ve played. It’s not an open world RPG, like you might think at first glance, and it’s not a deep and expansive RPG like you might expect from a game with a name like this either. Instead it’s a side scrolling action game in a very unusual setting that makes the entire experience feel fresh and unique. Bionuts are mutated human and animal hybrids that were created in a lab accident a few years back. They’re now a thriving and colorful community living in the forest. The game is all about exploration and combat. You play as a biomutant, and you have a lot of tools at your disposal to achieve this. You have a close combat weapon,
Biomutant is one of the most charming games I’ve played all year. The graphics are great, it’s got a unique premise, and the combat is fun and fluid. But Biomutant is still very much a work in progress. It’s rough around the edges, and doesn’t have the polish you’d expect from a game that’s more than a year from release.
Biomutant is a game that makes a quick first impression. The game doesn’t hide much, as it quickly introduces you to combat, world building, story, and the open world itself in about twenty minutes. Of course, not all of these experiences will be the best possible, and that’s partly because Biomutant is very clear about his sources of inspiration. Biomutant builds on some of the best games in the genre, like Batman: Arkham, Breath of the Wild, and Ratchet & Clank. While it doesn’t always live up to these inspirations, it combines them all into an entertaining and immersive title that more than lives up to the charm of the trailers and promotional material.
All Terrain Wung Fu Style
Battles are an important aspect of Biomutant, and you’re thrown right into the fray as soon as you start a campaign. Throughout the story, you fight all kinds of creatures. From small mammals like your character to giant monsters and everything in between, fighting these enemies will take up most of your time as you progress through the story. The developers have opted for an Arkham-like combat system. Some enemy attacks are telegraphed and can be parried if they are properly received. Some attacks can be parried, giving your opponent a chance to counter, while others must be dodged. Skills can be upgraded throughout the game to acquire new ones, all under the umbrella of a martial art called Wung Fu.
Everything goes as planned, but the fight itself is spongy, to say the least. The movements aren’t heavy or cumbersome, and the animations show subtle sliding and gliding as the game tries to keep up. The good news is that while it is very noticeable and a bit annoying at the beginning of the game, you get used to it quickly. Battles become more fluid as you gain skills and abilities that you can use to bridge gaps and transitions between enemies. As a system, it will never reach the heights of the Arkham series games on which it is based, but overall it gets the job done and has a style all its own with a mix of close-quarters combat, distance combat and mental combat.
A truly open world
Speaking of strengths: Biomutant has two things it does so well, that feeling energized in combat becomes a non-issue for many players. First of all, the game offers the player a real open world to explore. From the moment the campaign starts, you can go anywhere. With a few exceptions, you can explore the entire map, because wherever you are, the enemies are matched to your current level. Although some parts of the map are locked behind various environmental effects, this is mainly for difficulty reasons rather than to hide content. Some areas are hot, some are covered with an oxygen-reducing resin, and some may be radioactive. The solution to these problems is simple to search and retrieve.
Get armor that is sufficiently resistant to a certain type of danger, and you can completely ignore it while exploring the area in question. The map is full of stories and side missions, secrets, NPCs to talk to, and other things to see and do. The absence of a map allowed me to spend a few hours, freed from the need to do anything and let my curiosity lead me to the map, wherever it takes me. While you can always open a map to figure out which way to go, Biomutant is incredibly careful to push you in a certain direction. The game is more interested in showing a strange structure through the fog or climbing a hill to discover a massive ancient statue in connection with a quest than in placing a landmark on the screen. Secondly, the story, creature design, world design, and conventions used in the game are all charming.
In many ways, Biomutant is like a children’s fairy tale. The little furry creatures live in a post-apocalyptic world and spend their time collecting plastic bottles and rubber tires and fighting enemies called Jumbo Puff or Pooh Hulk. The constant storytelling is engaging and keeps the player immersed in the story, even if they have spent two hours doing nothing related to the story. The game gets a little worse when it comes to some of the dialogue and conversations between the characters. Since the developers clearly wanted players to be able to pause the campaign at any point to focus on exploration, there is a certain sense of disconnection at times, but it’s not a huge problem.
The depth of the game is most evident in the character creation and crafting system. Everything counts when you create a character. Your stats influence your appearance and vice versa. Whether you want to play an unwieldy fighter who can do damage or a nimble shooter who can fire from a distance, your character gets the right look. Over the course of the game, you create many different armors and weapons from the hundreds of different parts you find while exploring the world. Again, each individual component affects the final product and influences the statistics and effects in different ways.
I never got tired of the endless hunt for parts, always wanting to build a better rifle or pants. The fascination of creating my own device down to the smallest detail was unexpected but certainly welcome. The variety of builds, both in terms of your character and the weapons and items you use, really adds a lot of depth to Biomutant. Biomutant is a varied game that encourages experimentation and exploration, so naturally curious players will have fun with the system they find here.
I played the game on a Ryzen 3700x, GTX 3070, and 32GB of RAM and it ran like a dream with max settings. The graphics options are impressive and the cover often overlooked elements like screen shake and field of view. While Biomutant lacks the luster of the games that inspired it, that doesn’t matter in the long run. The more time you spend with the game, the more time it has to work its magic, taking you into a beautiful and well-designed world and giving you the freedom to see and do what you want.
It’s this central freedom that Biomutant handles better than any other open-world game I can think of, and that’s where the real appeal of the title lies. Biomutant is a wonderfully relaxing game that rewards curiosity and exploration. Combined with the beautiful graphics and the slightly dark world-building, this makes the game a storybook that keeps you turning the pages.
|+||The story is fascinating and exciting|
|+||The RPG systems are incredibly deep, especially the crafting.|
|+||The battles are a little spongy at first, but only get really fun as you unlock additional skills.|
|+||The game looks great.|
|–||The game lacks the polish that its predecessors did.|
Disclosure: This review was written using the game code provided by the publisher.The latest game from developer Experiment 101, an indie studio formed by ex-Just Cause and Dead Island developers, is out now on Steam. After spending many hours with it, I’m convinced that Biomutant is more than a charming distraction, as it offers an engaging and polished open-world thanks to its deep combat system and RPG mechanics.. Read more about biomutant gameplay and let us know what you think.
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