- Developer: Experiment 101
- Publisher: THQ Nordic
- Release Date: 25/05/2021
- Price: £54.99 / $59.99
- Review code provided by THQ Nordic
Introducing: Biomutant Review for Xbox Series S|X
Of the last five games I have played for review, three have been set in a post apocalyptic wasteland that is now inhabited and run by some lesser subspecies. I’m starting to sense a common theme in the types of games I am drawn towards here. However, instead of robots or vegetables, now is the time for rodents to rise up and lay claim to that which once belonged to man. Up for review is Biomutant, an action RPG that dares to ask the question, “What if small furry animals got intelligent enough to beat the living s*** out of each other, using a combination of kung-fu, firearms and telekinetic abilities?”.
The plot certainly peaked my interest, but would it be enough to keep me invested throughout the 20 to 30 hours run-time. If you’ve ever secretly harboured a fantasy of battling a pack of heavily armed stoats, whilst dressed like the lovechild of Master Splinter and Rambo, then you have come to the right place. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a more serious and gritty experience then Biomutant may leave you feeling a little ratty.
Post-apocalyptic-age, Mutant, Ninja, Rodents
The plot is as old as time itself. Humanity has succumbed to its own lack of respect for the environment and been wiped out entirely. The story heavily leans into this particular facet, constantly commentating on the folly of contaminating an ecosystem and its impact upon the environment. Occasionally it felt like I was playing a game made by Greenpeace. Anyway, in the primordial, radioactive ooze of our own destruction, new forms of intelligent life emerge, kickstarted by rapid biological mutations and that have accelerated evolution. You play the role of a smaller, bipedal, nomad with a tragic backstory. Devoid of a family or clan, you are forced to wander about the wastes, struggling to survive against the threats of a polluted wilderness and its ferocious mutated inhabitants. There’s also reference to some kind of tribe war, and something about a “tree-of-life”, but these two plot points mostly play second fiddle to the somewhat predictable but time-honoured story of a world gone bat s*** crazy.
Booting up the game for the first time will drop you straight into the character creation system. This will allow you to choose between a wide variety of stats to invest in. This is actually all handled rather well and will have a big impact on how you play the game going forward. As well as the appearance of your mutant rodent. Invest heavily in strength and you’ll look like Arnold Stoatnegger. Putting the points into intellect however, will give you the puny muscles and massive head of Megamind’s pet hamster. You’ll also get to choose the class of your character at this stage. Whatever class you pick, you will still get to take on enemies using a combination of melee, ranged and psychic attacks, but your base class will dictate which type of attack you are most proficient in.
From there you will progress through a bunker that serves as a training level. It is here that the substantial tutorial begins and boy is there a lot to learn. There are skill points to invest wisely, crafting mechanics to master and button prompts to commit to memory in order to pull off some of the more spectacular attack animations. There are a massive selection of combat options and perks to choose between. So many in fact that it is highly likely your character will bear little to no resemblance to mine. I went for a build with more of an emphasis on ranged attacks, which in retrospect was perhaps one of the safer but more boring options. During a battle I would, more often than not, fall back to using my ranged attacks to minimise taking damage. Towards the end of the game I had a few more skill points to unlock more interesting attacks, which I wish I had access to from the beginning.
I already mentioned the button prompts right? Well I’m not a fan of them. I hate that Mortal Kombat style of inputting exactly the right button sequence to pull-off a spectacular finisher. There are more than enough buttons on an Xbox controller to assign attacks to, without needing to feverishly tap out a three or four button code to inflict suffering upon your opponents.
Eat, Sleep, Raid, Repeat
The structure of the game is nothing you haven’t seen before and therein lies the key disappointment of Biomutant. Objectives quickly fall into a formulaic, predictable pattern. Repair or acquire a new mode of transport, collect small animals to fire out of it, use to fight giant monster. Rinse and repeat, ad nauseam. There is a basic morality system built in that is affected by your dialog choices. Your aura (how good or bad you are) can influence which tribes you are able to join and the ultimate outcome of the game, but it is used rather infrequently and bafflingly doesn’t seem to add much to the overall experience. You’ll still be completing the same mission objectives regardless of whether you’re fighting to save or destroy the tree of life. There are plenty of side quests to keep you occupied but personally I wouldn’t bother. There’s no great reward for doing so, except to grind for a few more experience points, nor are there any interesting vignettes within them à la The Witcher 3.
There are an impressive range of enemy types that are riffed upon throughout the game. I also thought the AI of these combatants was pretty advanced as well. Quite often, I thought I had reached a point of safety, only to discover that an adversary had pursued me up a staircase or through a doorway in an almost obsessive rage.
From time to time, you’ll come across one of the game’s many rotation puzzles, which are built into everything from TV sets to plumbing. Unfortunately these are far too easy, and far too frequent, to the point where it is not even funny. The penalty for messing them up is barely an issue as well. A small electric shock and you’re free to try again, as many times as you want.
The world map is big but not intimidating as can often be the case for open world games these days. As you explore, you’ll come across signposts, which hilariously must be urinated on to uncover the surrounding area of the map and unlock fast travel – this was a really nice touch. Sadly however, I found that there are times when fast travel was not available, which got a little annoying during some of the more mundane fetch quests.
There’s beauty in destruction
The world of Biomutant is very impressive. The landscape is littered with the ruins of the now extinct human population. Broken up roads, collapsing bridges and decaying fallout shelters offer some insight into the tragedy that befell those in the beforetime, and help to give the story some gravitas. There are a variety of different biomes, some of which have been heavily polluted. These help to inject some colour and variability to the already vibrant world. Expect to see, radioactive zones cast in a purple hue, barren wastelands, scorching volcanic landscapes and frigid arctic environments with heavy snowfall.
All dialogue is voiced by a single narrator who interprets what characters are saying and then translates it for you. This comes off as rather charming at first, but a couple of hours in I was beginning to get a bit sick of all conversations taking place in the third-person and hearing the same voice over and over. Another thing which gets progressively more irritating are the bizarre naming conventions the narrator uses for old world technology. So yes, I understand that the words for telephone and television might have been lost over the generations, but constantly referring to them as ring-dingers and eye-boxes feels a little silly and not in a good way. Aside from the overuse of the narrator, I have no other complaints with regards to the sound design. The orchestral soundtrack does a great job of building suspense, heightening combat and delivering moments of quiet serenity.
My main complaint with this game is that it is far too repetitive. Once you have conquered most of the world eaters, each encounter being more identical that the last, you’ll be tasked with wiping out (or unifying) the remainder of the tribes. There are six tribes in total and by the time I’d conquered the first two, I’d had more than enough. There’s just not enough going on in this game to keep me invested beyond the 20 hour mark. Now that might not be a problem for you, if money is no issue and you’re just looking for something to tide you over for a week or two, before the big games drop later this year, but I’m not convinced it is worth the hefty, triple A price point it is currently selling at.
- Massive selection of character customisation options
- Diverse enemy design
- Beautiful and varied environments to explore
- Repetitive missions and puzzles
- Annoying voiceover that replaces NPC dialog
- Complicated progression system that requires a substantial tutorial