Does anyone else remember Elex? It was an action-RPG published by THQ Nordic. It had some cool ideas, attempting to blend sci-fi and fantasy, but it had terrible execution.
That, unfortunately, is what I thought of after playing through Biomutant, another action-RPG coincidentally published by THQ Nordic. There is so much potential, and I can see what the team at Experiment 101 was going for, but the final product ends up being a hollow shell of what could have been. Its combat is just alright, the story is forgettable, and it has some performance issues and visual glitches on PS5 (I played it through backward compatibility) that were persistent throughout my 18-hour playthrough.
That's not to say it's all bad. The amount of customization it offers is immense, and the world is broken up into unique biomes that are generally fun to explore. While I love the idea that Biomutant could be more than what it is, I can definitely see it cultivating a fanbase who appreciates it more than I did. It won't be a cult classic, but there's a spark of life in there hidden under a ton of mess.
Biomutant takes place in a world that's been forever changed by an earlier apocalypse. Players control anthropomorphic animals and are tasked with saving the Tree of Life from the Worldeaters, giant monsters that are hastening its demise. There's even a separate storyline between warring tribes that wish to either heal the tree or let it die. While this is going on you'll also be undertaking a more personal journey against a villain from your past.
Bottom line: Biomutant's interesting premise is soured by dull characters, forgettable stories, passable combat, and frequent performance issues. There could be a lot of life in this world based on what's there, but it just doesn't materialize into anything satisfying as a whole.
- Cool concept
- Wide variety of customization options
- World design is interesting
- Feels like a PS3 game
- Frequent crashes even after a patch
- Poor performance
- Bland characters and story
- Combat is just OK
Biomutant: What's good
|Play Time||18 hours|
In Biomutant, you're asked to customize your character right off the bat, selecting a class that determines your initial stats. It's a fairly traditional character creator in the sense that you're selecting a race, a class, and choosing which attributes you want to buff initially. Just because one race may start with a higher Vitality (health) initially doesn't mean another race can't be leveled up to have the same amount of health, and I like that you're not tied down like that. What your class does is give you some nice starting bonuses; the Dead-Eye class grants players a 20% damage boost after a perfect reload on a ranged weapon, for instance.
The customization really branches out with the gear, weapons, and powers you can equip as you play. I especially liked that different pieces of gear could change your stats — it wasn't just an armor rating. And most of them could be equipped with add-ons and upgraded at a workbench to be even more powerful. The same goes for weapons, but in addition to upgrading them, you can craft them from junk you find around the world. Crafting allows you to mix and match various parts to create something that only you may ever see — it's unlikely another player would make the same weapon if you get creative. It's not wholly original, but it's a system that works.
While I have complaints about the combat, which I talk about below, I like the different powers and biogenetics you can equip and how some of them are tied to your aura (dark/light depending on the choices you make). That said, I gravitated towards two powers, Freeze and Blaze, and ended up using them 90% of the time. When you combine your powers and the variety of gear and weapons to match your playstyle, it makes your character feel unique.
Aside from its customization, I also love the world design itself. It's full of warring tribes, distinct biomes, and even has some hazardous areas spread throughout that you'll need special equipment to explore fully. The Surfipelago, in particular, is an area you won't be able to fully explore until later in the game when you unlock the Googlide, which essentially acts as a jet ski.
Wandering around wondering what you'll happen upon next is always a delight. Sometimes you'll find an abandoned train station full of powerful gear, or find yourself in the middle of a monster nest. Either way, you usually end up with some cool items at the end of it, and the thrill of opening up a container to see what you might find never gets old.
Biomutant: What could be much better
Let's get the performance issues out of the way first. Within my first 10 hours, the game crashed five times, sometimes during combat and sometimes while just exploring or talking to an NPC. After it received a patch, it crashed only twice over the next seven hours. Additional patches might be able to fix these performance issues, and if a day one patch prevents any crashes, that's awesome, but I won't misrepresent my experience with the game and say it performed spectacularly during my review period.
On top of that, there were frequent frame rate drops and visual glitches. I'm not someone who tends to care about — or even notice — frame rate dips, but these were bad enough that even I took note of them. As for the visual glitches, most had to do with light not rendering correctly, and in one instance, half of my screen was pitch black just because of how I moved the camera. The visuals themselves also leave a lot to be desired because they look dated, quite honestly. Experiment 101 was going for a more stylized approach instead of hyper-realism, but it's not that appealing.
Regardless of these performance and graphical issues, Biomutant has other problems you need to worry about.
The characters and story are two aspects that I keep coming back to that just didn't work for me. Because the animals don't actually speak any language we'd know, a narrator voices over the entire thing. I didn't care for this approach, and it made me dread talking to NPCs because of how boring the "conversations" would be. None of them were all that interesting or memorable, either.
None of the characters were all that interesting or memorable.
The story attempts to be a commentary on climate change, describing a world in the "before times" that resembles our own. Toxanol (if you couldn't guess by the name) is the corporation that set off the apocalypse, polluting the environment and forever changing the ecosystem and its inhabitants. It's all rather heavy-handed in the ways it's presented, constantly alluding to our future if we don't do anything about it now (Obviously, our real world won't look like Biomutant's). Climate change in real life is an extraordinarily big deal — I can't overstate that enough — that our governments don't take as seriously as they should, but Biomutant's approach to it felt clumsy.
And I haven't even gotten into the revenge story that our protagonist goes through because of a predator that destroys their home and kills their parents. You eventually learn why this happens, and it tries to paint the big bad in a sympathetic light, but that also fell flat with the way my game ended, even with achieving a maximum light aura and making "good" choices.
Biomutant's combat also isn't that impressive. I'd end up just button-mashing my way through fights while occasionally using one or two special attacks when I was prompted. For as cool as the weapons can be, the fighting is lame in comparison, and there's isn't much depth to it. Most enemies require the same tactics, too, so while visually they look different, you're going to be repeating the same fights over and over and over. The only time this isn't true is with the four Worldeater bosses.
This isn't so much a complaint, but I also had to laugh when I saw that there were jean shorts you could find. Having a little furball run around in jorts is
Biomutant: Should you play it?
It's really disappointing to see Biomutant turn out the way it did it because I know people were looking forward to it, especially when so many games have already been delayed this year. It took me 18 hours for the credits to roll, and that was more than enough for me. I might go back to play Biomutant for some trophies, but I don't think I'll be going back for much else. If you were looking to buy a PS5 and wanted to pick up Biomutant, you can probably skip it.
A game needs more than interesting ideas to keep my attention. When the most important aspects of your game — its combat, the story, the characters — don't have a lot going for them, it's difficult to recommend. If this looks like a game you're interested in, I'd at least wait until it's on sale. The world of Biomutant may be full of wonder on the surface, but when you peel back its layers, you start to see the rot underneath.
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