Biomutant is a weird game. Weird in execution, weird by design, and weird by choice. It’s a fascinating project by such a small team. Made by nineteen people, Biomutant is incredibly ambitious in scope and what it sets out to do. While it stumbles in many areas, it’s a fascinating game, and this review took a while to put together because I delved deep into its funky depths to work out what kind of game it is. Hopefully, you’ll see why by the end?
It’s me again with a new review. I wanted to get this out earlier in June but found myself more to say than I expected. THQ Nordic’s latest big release has been building up for quite some time, with several delays to its development before finally launching on May 29th of this year.
Developed by indie Swedish company Experiment 101, this is one hell of a debut game in terms of size. When I found out how many people were involved, it surprised me a bit. It also surprised me that they originally worked on the Just Cause series. You learn something every day.
Biomutant is something you’d expect from a AAA size team to develop, not one like this. In that regard, a lot of work was put into the game’s marketing up until launch. Biomutant received a huge amount of attention until launch, assisted in part by its rather…questionable price tag. $60, or £55. That’s on the same levels as Wasteland 3, Iron Harvest, and similarly priced ‘non-AAA’ themes. If we remember how their launches went, it set alarm bells ringing.
We have to go into the pricing structure because it was such a big thread, but I promise to look into the game itself soon. One will look at 60$ and think: this is a AAA title. For Biomutant, it was a big risk. Video game pricing is weird, and I’m fascinated by the psychology behind it. Usually, for a small studio or indie title, pricing is much lower on expectations. When that expectation changes, there are usually questions to be asked and often backlash. It’s frustrating to see in the industry because it implies games are not deserving of their money. It’s a really difficult question to answer, and it’s something I hate asking myself.
Biomutant launched to some pretty mixed reception both by critics and consumers. There was a surprising amount of traction on social media regarding the reception, which I found interesting. Several people questioned the criticism of the game and whether it was right. Once again, I feel the price has to be mentioned. I have to say it: 60$ is very questionable for something that is not AAA’s quality, and it’s very unusual to do so. As soon as you price your product to be that, the expectations are there. If they are not met, the critique is justified. For all its ambition, Biomutant stumbles in many areas, especially polish, combat and gameplay. You’d expect more from a game of that price point.
Despite the initial stumbling blocks, Biomutant seems to have sold very well, and reception is on an upwards trend. This has been helped by the excellent post-launch support of Experiment 101, who have been giving Biomutant frequent patches to fix bugs and improve elements of their game, which is in a much better position than it was at launch.
So, how is the game after that long ramble, may you ask? Let’s go into it. As with my recent big game reviews, I review games based on these categories. I won’t go into too much detail, but I found a lot to say regardless.
- Performance and Technical State: How the game performs in terms of stability, bugs, all that lovely stuff. Is it well optimized? Can I finish the game without it breaking?
- Visuals: How the game looks and feels.
- The story, Writing, and Characters: How I find the game’s main story, how the characters feel, how the writing works, and voice acting.
- Quest Design: How the main and side quests work.
- Combat: Fighting, there’s a lot of it.
- Worldbuilding, Lore and World Design: How the world feels, discussing immersion, level design and the lore of the game.
- Game Mechanics: How everything ties together.
- Sound, Music and Voice: Pretty much explains it in the title, huh?
Performance and Technical State
Let’s begin with how the game runs. Biomutant felt pretty well optimized to me. I originally played on a ‘Gaming laptop,’ with GTX 1060 Max-Q 6GB graphics card, Intel i7 8750H, and 32GB ram, with the game installed on an SSD. Biomutant ran quite nicely on the laptop with 40-45 FPS on high settings, and you can probably push it to ultra settings and still keep a high enough framerate. While Biomutant is a pretty damn nice looking game with its graphics and lighting, the textures are still relatively basic which helps keep graphical fidelity down. However, I expect you’ll be able to run Biomutant nicely on any recent system.
In terms of stability and bugs, it held up well for me as well. I had a few visual glitches here and there, and I wish fallen enemies had collision on when they died: right now, you walk through them, which is a bit disappointing. II had perhaps one crash in over 40 hours of game time though I found combat had frequent frame drops when in battle with multiple enemies. Overall, the performance is decent and better than I expected. Of course, hardware and results may vary, and I can only comment on my personal experiences.
Biomutant is a beautiful game, and it holds up better than I expected going in. The world is vibrant with fantastic lighting, with a rich diversity of different biomes and textures in the post-apocalyptic feel. Of course, you wouldn’t expect something like this to be gorgeous, but you have to see it to believe it. Sure, it’s not AAA quality, but it punches above its weight in many areas. The diverse biomes and weather effects look great, with snow and rain looking good in particular. One of the best bits about Biomutant is its Photo Mode, which all video games should have. It’s one hell of a good looking game, and I’ve incorporated a bunch of images to show off some of the finer details. Sure, it’s not Cyberpunk 2077 level of gorgeous (which takes the best-looking game award in my eyes), but you won’t be disappointed with the visuals in Biomutant either.
The Story, Writing, and Characters
Now we’re getting into the game proper. Biomutant is weird. I think I’ve mentioned that a few times. The story is…I wouldn’t call it bad, but it’s pretty generic. The world has been destroyed due to some global warming effect, and now the many mutants of the world are fractured and struggling for survival. Your character, created with a robust creation system and customization throughout the game’s events, must defeat the World Eaters.
The main plot revolves around the “Tree of Life,” which is dying. Being eaten alive by several different beasts, they threaten to kill the Tree before healing itself. There’s also the Big Bad in Lupus Lupin, your nemesis from your childhood days and responsible for the death of your mother. Biomutant really has the feel of a ninja furry animal world mixed with a little bit of Fable. Unfortunately, the story is told solely through one peppy, old dude narrator who translates the gibberish dialogue from characters, with no voice acting from anyone apart from the morality system with your devil and angel, a little bit like the Black and White days. Sadly the choices you make barely matter, with the morality being a plain black vs. white situation in many cases and just a reason to get skill points for boosts. It could have been done better.
Honestly, the story isn’t anything to go by, and I couldn’t really feel any emotion for the story at all. For an RPG, this isn’t a great sign. The narration doesn’t help this. The characters’ lack of voice acting was an odd design choice and not one who helps or improves Biomutant in any way. Instead, the narrator comments on everything, and while it’s sometimes charming, it can annoy the hell out of me after a time. Fortunately, Biomutant is great on accessibility options, and you can tweak the frequency or turn it off altogether.
While Biomutant struggles in the story and writing quality, I found the characters surprisingly well made. The world is rich in its own quirks, and it leans right into it with weird and wonderful names for everyone and everything. Goop, Moog, Out-Of-Date, Lump, and Gulp are just a few, and they ooze charm from every furry orifice. However, while I do like the characters, the fact they lack a voice hurts them. I wish they had voice acting for them instead of just a narrator. It’s just a weird design choice I wasn’t keen on, which considerably reduces the strength. You’ll find that to be a recurring theme in this review.
Another factor Biomutant has some struggles with, I’m afraid. While there is a big open world to explore and a torrent of quests, most of them are incredibly simple collectathons, tickboxes for the different locations, and a bunch of fetch quests. Now, this isn’t exactly a weakness in itself. Although, Biomutant is no different from most open-world games, if we explore this genre, many struggles with this issue: side content with little meaningful merit except for monetary items and little in the way of improving the story.
The difference between Biomutant and these other games is that main quests will carry something different or more interesting ways of playing in most of them. Biomutant rarely strays from this formula, and I’d say as much as 80% of the game’s quest design involves fetch quests or exploring locations. It’s more of a marker and reason for exploring the game’s rich world than a meaningful reward. That’s not to say they were boring. On the contrary, I had fun with most of the quests because it gave me an excuse to keep fighting, exploring the world, and grabbing loot, which is the game’s primary focus and the game’s strongest point. There’s not much in the way of diverse or interesting quests, and this really strikes home when we go onto the Tribe War.
Oh boy. So the world fractures into these different tribes, who are split into how to handle the Tree of Life. Half of them want to save it. The other half want to see it die, seeing the inevitability of death. So you pick a tribe and have to take over the rest. This is when Biomutant’s game design struggles most. Every Tribe conflict follows this formula:
1) Outposts that involve attacking it outright. You get a few helpers, but they’re almost useless, and you have to go through the same repetitive stages with no change.
2) You can usually take over one Outpost by convincing the village leader to surrender with a skill check. If you can’t convince them, it’s a simple battle sequence, same as always.
3) One outpost will require completing a small side quest, usually to sabotage or annoy the garrison. These are very easy, usually collecting moths or disrupting nests. Once this completes, the outpost is taken over, with no combat.
Once that’s done, you can take on the Hold capital. Again, you’ll be sent off on a small quest to pick up a helmet and have a trebuchet fire you over into the enemy base, and once again, the same multi-leveled, repetitive scenes. Finally, you take on the tribe leader and can convince them to step down. Usually, it’s just another fight. And this doesn’t change no matter the tribe. No differences, no diversity. It’s just the same.
As you can tell, I tired of this quickly. Fortunately, the game recognizes this, and once you’ve taken over two tribes, you get the option to end the Tribe war early and persuade the other tribes to join you, or you can finish them by force. I leaped at the chance to avoid having to do it anymore. It’s a shame because the Tribe war could have been fantastic. It’s probably down to budget constraints, but I hope they return to this later and spice it up because it’s a serious weakness that drags the entire game down. While many of the different tribe locations are identical in layout, some of the bases are quite nice, especially in the North and West areas of the map. They might have been fun to fight in.
The World Eater quests are similar. You usually have to complete a small chain of quests to get an item or piece of equipment to help you fight the boss. Then you fight them in a multi-layered typical boss battle. I…I didn’t enjoy the boss battles much. It was a weakness in the game, but improvements to the combat in recent patches did make them more bearable. So they’re okay, I guess.
Biomutant is built around three things. Combat, customization with mutations and loot, and exploration. Combat is something that dominates the game, and while Biomutant’s combat isn’t perfect, it’s competent enough to enjoy.
It’s slow to start, not helped by the game’s frequent start-stop tutorials and all the exposition. In between all that, there’s a lot of floatiness to the way you fight. There are melee weapons and guns mostly, all crafted by the many different types of loot to find in the game. There’s a lot of Borderlands vibes in this game with all the enemies. Enemy diversity is big; there are dozens of varieties to fight in the open world, and they all fight in different ways, which helps build complexity. With the extensive crafting system and magical powers and mutations, there’s a lot to play with. With the game built around finding scrap and items, there’s a ton of variation, and you can make some really overpowered weapons. The devs tweaked the loot generation in a recent patch, which really improved things, and there’s now good variation in crafting materials. It’s still some ways from what I like, but it’s a big step forward.
I do have a few issues. The ranged combat is far superior to the melee, which does feel slow in comparison. Also, I wouldn’t say I like how the enemy AI works. If you withdraw even a small distance, enemies have a habit of just buggering off and ending the fight, and when that happens, they heal back up to full health. That gets frustrating because it limits your battle options and forces you to stay thick in action. Still, with all the options and ways to customize your tools, the combat does improve over time. It’s fairly easy, though, unless you ramp up the difficulty in the options.
Worldbuilding, Lore, and World Design
Biomutant’s open world is a strange one. In one way, it’s a little empty, but it’s a great backdrop to the game’s lore: a broken, destroyed ruin of what was once civilization, and the world now has grown over it, using their artificial corpses to keep surviving. This is when Biomutant flips the script. Usually, if you struggle with the story and writing, you’ll struggle in this category as well, but on the contrary, it does pretty well.
Many locations and villages are generic with ways to purchase new items and pick up side quests, but there are some fantastic biomes. My favorite ones are the jungle and snow biome, and the game’s great visuals really help the world design. Even if locations are a little generic and lacking in variation, there are some great-looking areas, and the exploration is a delight to go through. Biomutant tries to do many, many different things, and while it fails to make an impression on some things, at least exploration is fun. There are all sorts of tidbits and information about the world and what happened to it over the map, which helps sell the world to you. Visual cues can tell a story better than dialogue and story sometimes, and in these situations it’s where Biomutant shines.
While there are plenty of mounts and tools to help in your exploration, I would like to see fewer limits on them. Using stuff like the Googlide, the blimp, and the mech would be so much nicer if you could use them anywhere instead of in a certain biome, for instance. It doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to me.
Sound, Music, and Voice
Overall not bad, though there needs to be more variety in noises. Hearing the same bird cry every five minutes gets a bit frustrating. I’ve already mentioned the lack of real voice acting, which brings much of the game down. On the other hand, the narrator’s voice itself is good and relaxing. You hear it all the time.
The music is calming, and it helps drive the scene. Like with the overall sound, I’d like to see more variety, but I have no complaints with the music. It does pretty well overall.
Onto the fun part, the scores!
|The story, Writing, and Characters||5|
|World Design and Lore||7|
|Sound, Music, and Voice||6|
|Average Overall Score||6.7|
Biomutant has been a strange experience from beginning to end. It has a tough start with the endless exposition and tutorials, and many things about it strike as uncomfortable. I understand the rough reception it got completely because if you want to show off as an AAA-quality game with that price tag, you need to back it up. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite manage that. The quest design isn’t particularly interesting, and the story was middling. The irritating dialogue and frustrating opening further brought it down for me. For an RPG, that’s a problem. As a result, I cannot recommend Biomutant at least at its full price, and I hate saying that. I really do. I wonder if Biomutant were priced differently, it would be more accepted.
And yet… I was able to enjoy it a lot more than I expected. Sure, it’s quirky as hell and still needs work in many areas, but I had a lot of fun. The world and characters are incredibly charming, and I really enjoyed the exploration. It feels like a Borderlands/Diablo vibe with all the loot you get, and the devs have been solid with their post-launch support. You have to remember that only twenty people built this game, and that’s one hell of an achievement. Even if I feel it’s a little unfocused and overpriced right now, it has a promising future. I’d rather play Biomutant than Assassins Creed 47564, to be honest. If you can pick it up for around 40$, I’d say leap on that. We need more games like this out there.
You also get to play as a ninja raccoon. That alone is worth giving this game a fair chance. Sure, it has flaws and serious ones, but it’s an enjoyable enough romp. Just don’t expect too much.
- World is a joy to explore
- Beautiful visual design
- Deep character customization and fun powers
- Bland story and quest design
- Questionable design choices erode some of the game's strengths
- Fairly easy, frustrating boss battles