For several years now, THQNordic has been hyping players up for their open-world AAA adventure, Biomutant. Now that it’s out, does it live up to the hype? No…not really. This is our review of Biomutant.
A Story to Save the World That Lacks Depth and Character
In Biomutant, you play as an animal-humanoid creature in a post apocalyptic world that has been ravaged by pollution, thanks to greedy and morally-corrupt companies. Keeping this world together, is a massive tree at the center of this area, known as the Tree of Life. However, there are evil, dark forces known as the World Eaters that are threatening its very existence, along with the lives of all those who inhabit this world. For absolutely no reason, you’re tasked with taking on this challenge.
In order to do this, you must align with characters who were once members of the tribe led by your mother. They are separated across all four corners of the landscape and each have their own way of defeating the World Eaters. Although, as you probably might’ve guessed, they don’t have the means to do it on their own, but require the help of a handy ronan to take down the World Eaters for them.
In addition to that, you’re told that you also need to unite the tribes around this land, in order to collectively take down the World Eaters and create a peaceful nation. You’re given this task in the name of your aforementioned fallen mother who once cultivated peace between the tribes. However, they only tell you that you can join one of two tribes, one that is all about unity and one that is all about eliminating the weak to create a nation of strength. What they don’t tell you is that there are far more tribes in this land than just those two, which is kind of a shame because there were others I would’ve much rather have joined or aligned with. Rather, you’re forced to conquer all tribes, which, if you’ve been cultivating a peaceful morality, conflicts with it.
If you thought that was it with forces of contention, you’d be wrong. Another character that Biomutant pits you against infrequently is your mother’s killer, Lupa Lupin. He’s a towering figure who once destroyed your entire village and killed your family in the process, when you were a young child. However, rather than becoming some big shot warlord after those events, your interactions with him are random and usually involve saving a goat or some other animal. He feels often like an afterthought, until much later in the game.
As you can see, the game isn’t short of stuff to do. In fact, I felt like it had the potential to really be a special and fun adventure. However, what kills it is the lack of depth with a poorly written script and the corners cut by having all characters speaking gibberish. Your only way of knowing what anyone is saying is through a narrator who just spouts the most nonsensical stuff that makes you question your own knowledge of the English language. No joke, at one point he said, “Your ears pooped!” after I defeated an enemy.
At first, I saw this narrator as a charming element of the game. He almost felt like a sort of Dungeon Master in DnD. However, the longer I played, the more his banter and translations became one of the most exhausting and annoying parts of the game. I mean you know even the developers knew it wasn’t great when they added a narrator volume setting.
What makes this game so hard to connect to, though, isn’t just the sophomoric version of Navi from Ocarina of Time. I had a hard time really caring for anything that was going on because of a script that was severely lacking. NPCs had barely anything to say half the time, main characters repeated dialogue in many instances, but in different places, and when they did say anything it didn’t make sense half the time.
One element that THQNordic input into Biomutant to try and force you to care about what was going on in the game was a Light/Dark feature. With it, your choices dictated your affiliation and unlocked new powers based on that. However, the choices you made didn’t really make any sense. For instance, if I saved someone who had been kidnapped, it gave me the choice to help them or not. If I helped them, I expected a new quest or something to come up. Instead, nothing happened but I got a light point. On the other hand, if I chose to not help them, I punched them in the gut for literally NO REASON. Why? Why am I punching someone I just saved in the stomach? What does that accomplish?
So far, this explanation of the Biomutant experience no doubt feels disjointed. That’s because the game in and of itself is a disjointed mess. It’s as if the developers had 30 ideas on a wall and decided to try and cram them all into this game. Yet, what would’ve made the game so much better was a heavy dose of self-editing. It didn’t need 3 main storylines, light/dark elements, a cooky, annoying narrator, or the dumb jokes that were included. A lot of these elements could have been added later as DLC or made into briefer moments to not totally take you out of the game. Even in open-world games like this, less is more.
Fast-paced and Fun Combat That Doesn’t Live Up to Its Potential
While the story elements are rough, Biomutant’s combat mechanics remain a somewhat bright spot. In combat situations, the game allows players to use everything from guns, two-handed weapons, dual-wielding weapons, hammers, clubs, fists, and special abilities like mutations and Psi powers. There’s no shortage of abilities to get you out of a confrontation.
What I really appreciated most about the combat mechanics were how unique each weapon felt. Smaller, lighter weapons made you into a speed demon, while larger, heavier weapons made you into a slow tank. It’s a bit of a trope in gaming that two-handed, larger weapons aren’t as fast as smaller weapons, but I still enjoyed the uniqueness that each weapon offered.
That said, even though the weapons felt unique and enjoyable, most of the time, it didn’t stop the combat from feeling one-dimensional. The reason for this lies in the very simplistic combos Biomutant employs. As you progress through the game, you are afforded with tokens that unlock new combos and abilities. However, these new abilities use the same button mechanics as every other weapon type and they generally have the same movements and effects.
Furthermore, encounters don’t offer enough differentiation to warrant using different combos. I found myself running into battle with the same routine over and over, fire gun, dodge in, using square square triangle, activate combo, dodge out, and fire gun. It was a pretty tried and true method for almost every situation.
If that didn’t work, though, I’d often just parry and counter foes, pop them in the air, and then do some aerial strikes. Or, if I was in a crowd, I’d use a mutation ability to pit foes against each other while I sprayed them with bullets. So, there is variety in what you can do in the game, but a lot of it was also just me wanting to try different things out. To find meaning in other features. No situation really forced me to rethink my strategy.
Unfortunately, in the hopes of finding a lot of meaning and worth out of different abilities, I was often left wanting. As I mentioned before, Biomutant offers several unique mutation and Psi power abilities. These abilities allow you to summon a fist from the ground, surround you in ice, and do a whole bunch of other things that in theory would make you feel like a badass. However, only a handful were ever useful. Most of the other abilities felt like a waste of time, because they didn’t offer much in terms of power or defeating enemies quicker. They really were all flash and barely any substance.
What I found most beneficial in terms of Biomutant’s combat mechanics was the weapon creation system. As you journey across the land, you pick up a LOT of loot, a lot of which is locked based on your level. If you’re patient, though, and pick up a lot of resources, you can wind up creating some of the best weaponry in the game. In fact, I found most weapons found and bought to be absolute garbage compared to the original weaponry I created.
I wound up creating an ice hammer that annihilated enemies, including big sub-bosses, and a semi-automatic rifle that shot out radioactive bullets. They were gnarly and I loved them, but it did take a long time to get to a point where I could build those premiere weapons.
With its brilliant customization and fast-paced style, Biomutant had all the potential in the world to have an incredible combat aspect to the game. Unfortunately, too simplistic combos and uninspired encounters held it back from being an innovative and exciting part of the game.
A Beautiful, But Buggy Open-World With A Frustrating Quest System
For all its issues, Biomutant really is a beautiful game. I played it on the PlayStation 5 and I very much enjoyed the vibrant colors and rich landscape this world had to offer. Almost all open-world games are being compared to Breath of the Wild nowadays and Biomutant was no exception leading up to its release. In terms of environment, it is no Breath of the Wild, but it has some of the picturesque aspects of it that make you really appreciate what the art team put together.
Unfortunately, I noticed a lot of times where latency issues caused the environment to not load as fast as it should have. So, it took a few seconds for the beauty of the game to truly be beholden. When it did load, though, there were some nice scenes.
With an open-map such as this, it usually leads to there being a metric ton of things to do. Biomutant certainly does have many errands and quests you can run as you traverse across the environment. However, the quests are just downright tedious in terms of the activities you have to do, the reasons behind them, and just the overall tracking system.
To start, there were so many instances where you were given a quest to go fetch something, only to come back and fetch something else and then something else. Or, it was a matter of finding boxes spread across the landscape or finding artifacts that literally had no payoff to them. It all just felt like busy work to keep you in the game.
What’s more, if you ever walked into an environmental hazardous area or you couldn’t open a door with the current version of your crowbar or metal fist weapon, you were forced to go on another quest to do XYZ until you could get a suit or a better tool to achieve something that may or may not have a useful payoff in the end.
If that isn’t bad enough, say you do get a quest that somehow pops up randomly and you don’t accept to immediately track that quest, it won’t show up on your map or in your quest log. It requires you to go all the way back to the area in which it popped up and track it at that moment. So, in essence, you have to immediately accept to track a mission, then go into the menu and change your mission if that’s not something you actually want to do at that moment. That’s a head-scratching choice the developers made as even the most basic of games will just automatically save quests in case you want to go back to them later. They don’t penalize players for not tracking a quest right there and then.
Should You Play It?
I went into Biomutant really encouraged and excited to experience this open-world that THQNordic had put together. What I was left with though, was utter disappointment for a game that was a mish-mash of hundreds of ideas that just didn’t work. All these ideas, features, concepts, mechanics, etc. made the game struggle to find its identity and thus made the game hard to connect to and enjoy.
I appreciate what THQNordic and their team were trying to accomplish with Biomutant. It’s full of potential, but suffers from cut corners and a lack of self-editing. In retrospect, Biomutant could’ve benefited from not being an open-world game. That’s a lofty genre to try and pull of with a debut IP. A linear title could’ve helped to introduce this world and its characters. Furthermore, it could’ve eased players into the true purpose behind Biomutant, rather than thrusting so much at players they couldn’t make heads or tails of it. So, unfortunately, no it is not a game I can recommend.