Biomutant is unique, no dispute there. Its open-world is gorgeous and fun to be in, with lots to places to discover, loot to obtain, and bad-guys to beat up on with a stylish and satisfying combat system. But this is let down horrifically by an outdated morality system and generic story told in such a way that it loses the brunt of its allure and impact.
What do you get when you mix the post-apocalypse with furry anthropomorphic creatures, an open-world, and a colour pallet so outrageous it would make even a unicorn abstract artist say, “That’s a bit much”? Biomutant. But style and premise alone do not make a game, and Biomutant, while competent, falls short on a few key fronts.
Once upon a time, the world ended
For all intents and purposes, Biomutant starts strong, in terms of premise and presentation. Humans, being horrendously wasteful creatures, have effectively polluted themselves into non-existence. The world is now a bizarre fantasy post-apocalypse wasteland inhabited by similarly quirky creatures that have evolved out of the new and suitably extreme conditions. At the heart of this world is a strange, mutated (I’m sensing a theme here) Tree of Life from which all life in the wasteland is sustained.
However, the Tree has become sick, and what’s more is that several massive monsters, known as World Eaters, are gnawing at its roots, and this threatens to kill the tree before it can heal itself. Enter you, playing as a bipedal rodent with a big gun and a bigger sword (or some other equipment set depending on your class) with an unknown backstory and some kickass Wung-Fu (that’s the game’s martial arts school) skill. Your job is to beat up the World Eaters and save the Tree.
Biomutant’s character customisation screen is really unique. You’ve effectively got a ring with a handful of traits (strength, speed, intellect, etc.) along the outside, and you move a little cursor around the inside of it, choosing which traits you’re leaning towards. Your character’s build reflects this, often to a comical degree, and makes for some really interesting creature creations.
You’re given the option of joining one of two tribes of similar creatures to you, namely the Myriad and the Jagni, both of which have different motivations and idiosyncrasies. There are 4 other tribes that you can help your own conquer or ally with throughout the game.
This is where I find my first gripe with Biomutant. See, this first choice (which tribe you team up with) is reflective of the game’s binary morality system. And this system is so binary it makes the original Fable look like a master class on philosophical ethics.
To put it bluntly, in any given scenario the game gives you two options: pure good, or pure evil. There’s no in-between, no grey area. The Myriad are total hippie peace gurus chanting for unity of the tribes and selflessness, and the Jagni are the Empire from Star Wars. Sure, your character’s own moral alignment is on a sliding scale between the two, but the choices you’re making are completely binary. Seriously, the first decision I made after leaving the tutorial was whether to help an injured rodent like myself or leave him there to fend for himself. When I chose to leave him because I wanted to get to the main quest, my character gave him a sneer and uppercut him so hard he blacked out. So I guess I’m pure evil then.
What’s worse is the whole narrative is told by a grandiose omniscient narrator. Every. Single. Beat of it. Cutscene? Narrator’s there to tell you what you’re watching. Picked up an item? Narrator reads the description. Wandering around the admittedly gorgeous open world? Narrator’s waxing lyrical to you about the moral implications of our actions.
If that wasn’t jarring enough already, the narrator reads you the dialogue. Seriously. The characters in Biomutant speak in gibberish, and the narrator reports it back to you along the lines of, “Sounds like he’s saying he wants you to find X and take it to Y.”
It makes it impossible to connect to any of it because there’s that one extra layer of separation keeping you away. What’s more, is that Biomutant’s plot and narration try to deal with high-minded themes of moral fallibility and familial loss, but any gravity this builds is swiftly undone by the narrator slipping into the twee language the game uses to name parts of its world. The World Eaters are called things like Porky Puff and Jumbo Fluff. This and the fact that the whole thing is being told to you by a detached narrator makes the story pretty forgettable. Even a chore to be honest.
Everybody was Wung-Fu fighting
Fortunately, the gameplay is solid. The open world is pretty great, with varied environments, loot to be uncovered, and enemies to be fought. You unlock a few different traversal systems as you go, including a hang glider a la Breath of the Wild. You run around the world discovering things and finding upgrade materials for yourself, your weapons, and your mounts. Customisation is pretty open here. I had a particularly good time running around in a duck-headed mech suit curb stomping my puny foes into oblivion.
Biomutant’s combat is also good. Not great, but good. You’ve got a range of options when it comes to taking on enemies, like guns, swords, fists, and a magic-esque system, and all of them are viable. Melee combat feels like a watered-down version of combat in the Batman: Arkham series, and effectively turns into “press square until you press triangle” if you don’t feel like getting technical with it. There’s a healthy handful of weapon types, each with a unique move set and fee. You spend upgrade points in skill trees to unlock new moves, as well as cool powers that act as flourishes to your BNB combat. Some of them are pretty simple, like a fiery dash, and others are chaotically genius, like spawning a sproingy mushroom under an enemy to send them flying. It’s fun. Enemy designs are unique although lacking in variation, and most encounters have you square off against a handful of small goons and one or two big ‘uns. The options you have at your disposal are enough to keep most encounters enjoyable and fresh.
The only time combat really gets shaken up is in the boss fights against the World Eaters, but I’m not sure it’s in a good way. For the most part, you spend these fights restricted to one of your mounts and utilizing ranged attacks, kind of just hitting the bad guy until it dies. It’s a bit of a let down. Still, the core of the gameplay is solid.
Biomutant is unique, no dispute there. Its open-world is gorgeous and fun to be in, with lots to places to discover, loot to obtain, and bad guys to beat up on with a stylish and satisfying combat system. But this is let down horrifically by an outdated morality system and generic story told in such a way that it loses the brunt of its allure and impact.