REVIEW: Biomutant is a messy inconsistent beast of a game
Updated: Feb 8, 2022
I really wanted to like Biomutant. As an open world connoisseur who froths at the mouth at the mere concept of a huge world full of tasks, I was ready to gobble up what Experiment 101 had promised since the game's reveal in 2017. A world where you play as a mutated critter with a giant sword? Count me in.
Having played and enjoyed my fair share of mediocre open worlds, I was ready to embrace this game wholly, warts and all. But Biomutant offered me something I never knew possible: an open world I couldn't wait to leave.
Just the Facts
Developer: Experiment 101
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 via backwards compatibility*, Xbox One *platform reviewed on
Release Date: May 25, 2021
Key provided by Evolve PR.
Biomutant, developed by Sweden-based Experiment 101 and published by THQ Nordic, released on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on May 25. Since its launch, several major patches have cleaned up an experience that was initially riddled with technical issues. But I'm not sure it was enough to keep the game afloat.
In Biomutant, you play as a heavily mutated (non-specific) critter who has spent some time outside the walls of a burgeoning society after a traumatic event pushed you away from that world. Inside, a variety of tribes squabble over territory and major philosophical differences while the all-important Tree of Life slowly deteriorates at the hands of giant monsters known as World Eaters.
Finally ready to confront and move on from your past, you re-enter the walls to start your world-saving journey. And... it's a weird one.
Wandering through Biomutant's post-post-apocalyptic world, the prevailing feeling is that Experiment 101 put a lot of thought into the origins of this world, developing quite the book of lore — but forgot to craft one singular meaningful story in the process. Each of the game's main three plot lines feel shallow and the pacing is all over the place, with some major story beats coming out of absolute nowhere and then resolving just as quickly.
The tone is inconsistent, varying wildly between a wacky comic book and an impactful story about environmentalism. There's an East Asian theme to the world that has no real explanation. There's the narrator who dictates just about everything you do and serves as the only voice for the characters in the world. Said characters are half-baked, with each named character fulfilling some role (the chef, the drunk, the scientist) but providing essentially the same checklist of dialogue about your journey whenever you run into them.
The erratic nature extends across the gameplay for an overall frustrating experience.
Melee combat is stiff, and ranged combat only gets enjoyable toward the end, when it becomes overpowered. Most combat scenarios feels like a slog, although the boss fights with World Eaters are enjoyable, reminiscent of old-school multi-phased boss fights in PS2 games — as are the random mini-boss fights you can encounter.
But the minute you drop into a group fight, things feel unwieldy. It feels like it wants to be an action combat game like a Devil May Cry but lacks the free-flow nature you'd expect from a game like that. You can gain psychic abilities and special moves for each weapon type, but none of it is necessary. I dabbled with these moves, mainly out of obligation, but never felt like they truly helped me that much more than mashing buttons in combat.
Crafting is ridiculous, and the amount of crafting pieces you gather throughout your journey is actually too much. Think a Bethesda game amount of loot... but every time you pick something up you're interrupted by a presentation animation.
Crafting does serve one of the game's more interesting features, since building weapons and modifying armor gives you more control over your plan of attack. But you'd be just as well off sticking to the gear you find and ignoring this system altogether.
Moving through the world feels strange: Your little beast never quite feels fast enough or agile enough, and mounts only feel incrementally faster than traveling on foot. The coolest special vehicles and mechs are locked behind very specific areas, which makes traversing the giant open world a pain.
Graphically, Biomutant is a bit of a mess. When standing still, there are some vistas and moments to appreciate, but in movement, it all gets lost pretty quickly — lots of poorly aliased jagged-edged fur and grass. Animations are stiff and rigid, leaving characters looking and feeling like animatronics.
I appreciate the grotesqueness of the world and its inhabitants, leaning into generally uglier and creepier designs (in a good Aaahh!!! Real Monsters way), but even that starts to drain as you realize how lacking in variety the monster and enemy designs are.
My biggest issue comes in the game's overall design. Everything is a checklist that recycles across each region you clear, offering the same few activities and conversations on repeat.
As you clear out an area, you fight a few groups of enemies, loot chests, collect gear and mounts, and solve basic puzzles that amount to "align the colors to create a full circuit." They try to dress up these puzzles differently, but they all blend together and leave you unchallenged.
Even the main story arcs are about checking off boxes: killing the four World Eaters, flipping regions over to your preferred tribe, and finding four people to bring with you on a spaceship. And after you've completed even one region, you've effectively seen all that the game's other zones have in store for you.
Rather than providing one solid and engaging gameplay loop, Biomutant focuses on filling its 15 to 25 hour campaign with the same few rote concepts, rarely changing them up.
Anything I'm not directly talking about here is just... not in anyway noteworthy.
It pains me to say that Biomutant feels like a lot of rough drafts of ideas were cobbled together to create an incoherent whole. Experiment 101 has a lot of interesting things at work here and I really hope they keep making games, but focusing in one or two of their best concepts instead of tossing everything they have at a game would serve them well.
video games are good and Biomutant is . . . OKAY. (5.5/10)
+ unique world and concepts, pretty world when you look at it just right
- wildly inconsistent in every way, poor design choices hold it back, jack of MANY trades but master of none
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