Developer: Experiment 101
Releases: 2021 (PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One), 2022 (Playstation 5, Xbox X/S)
Genre: Action Role-Playing Game
Back for another round of community writing projects, for the Humble Choice of March 2023, I present something with more fur than usual. After I originally went to feature “Edge of Eternity”, fellow Blauguster Naithin was so unpleased with their game “Biomutant” that they put it down after around ten minutes. However, I was intrigued: My experience with “Biomutant” was that I knew it was a title that was originally hyped but failed to deliver and with only that short of a time to put it down the self-proclaimed “post-apocalyptic kung-fu fable” had to a game to be remembered … for all the wrong reasons. So, I swapped. My thinking was that in the worst-case scenario I would end up with a game that I can tear apart for all its flaws and we would still get an article about it for our series of posts. Well, something else happened: I have played “Biomutant” for 40 hours and completed the game and I am ready to tell you about a game that is not even that bad but leaves much to be desired in various places. As usual, there are articles for (almost) all the games from the Humble Choice, the links to which I have placed down below:
- Biomutant: The very article you are reading right now.
- Jurassic World Evolution 2: Paeroka from Nerdy Bookahs
- Edge of Eternity: Naithin from Time to Loot
- Hero’s Hour: UnwiseOwl from Leaflocker
- Rogue Lords: Krikket from Nerd Girl Thoughts
- Demon Turf: Kluwes from Many Whelps
- Golden Light: Magi from Indiecator
- Monster Crown: Krikket from Nerd Girl Thoughts
And with that, let me do my part and tell you a bit about “Biomutant”:
Let us start in a time before the game was even released, 2017 to be exact. In August of that year, the German gaming magazine Gamesmarkt leaked the existence of a new game called “Biomutant” to the world via some apparently mis-placed advertisement. Two days after that, the game was playable at Gamescom 2017 for the world to see, and Stefan Ljungqvist, a former member of the staff of Avalanche Studios which developes the “Just Cause” series, said that was basically ready content-wise. It had everything anyone could ask for: Crazy furry characters with swords and guns in a post-apocalyptic setting with major influences from Asian culture? Sounds like a money-making machine; and not just to me. The game was hyped like crazy after a few trailers were released, showing breathtaking vistas to travel through on feet or on unusual steeds as the stark contrast to action-filled fights in which psionics, melee, gun-fighting, and even martial arts blend into a fluid combat experience.
Then the game dropped, and as is so often the case the hype was overbearing. Think of what happened with “No Mans Sky”: Making your game the talk of the town sure helps sell it but those brought in by the hype are really the harshest and most unfair of critics since they allow no blunders whatsoever. The trailers did not lie as anything seen in them was doable and reproducible in the actual game, but players disliked the cookie-cutter approach to some of the gameplay elements, felt bored by doing the same thing over and over again, and understandably loathed the bugs and technical issues that came with the first few versions of the game. “Biomutant” would end up rating rather poorly for a triple-A title, with Metacritic listing a 66 out of 100 for the critic reviews and a similarly average 6.4 user rating when I wrote this article. And this is when the Humble Choice for March 2023 was released and where I stepped in to give my opinion about the game.
“Biomutant’s” story actually has three layers: The entire scenario of “Biomutant” only exists because of the mistakes of a corporation named Toxanol. Think of how corporations often pollute nature to save or make more money and then multiply that by a hundred because that is what Toxanol did. Or, as Reddit user Xenton phrased it: “Classic, clichéd megacorp: Privatisation to the nth level where capitalism becomes plutocracy. It’s as overt as it is uninteresting.” They managed to single-handedly pollute water, earth, and sky to the point of the atmosphere being so toxic that humans could not survive living on the planet any longer and took off in so-called “Arks”. However, after humans left, nature fought against its inevitable demise and sprouted a Tree of Life, which is currently the single reason why the world even exists anymore. Of course, nature had to change with so much pollution and radiation, which caused new flora and drastically changed the wildlife. While some animals grew into hideous monsters, some species grew more intelligent and are now reigning over the dying planet. They formed six tribes, which all have their own idea of what is needed to “save” the world; and sooner or later, your character will have to decide which tribe to support to reach the end goal.
And then there is your own personal revenge arc against a carnivorous creature called the Lupa Lupin. As a kidling living their life to the fullest, you underwent training your Wung-Fu with your mother one day when suddenly disaster struck. Lupa Lupin entered your village in the middle of the night, set fire to it as a distraction, and attacked your kin when they least expected it. You managed to escape the events of that night alive, if only barely, but your mother died protecting you from the beast, her lifeless body sunk to the bottom of the lake. Those events are still haunting you into your adult days and it is only a matter of time before you and Lupa Lupin meet again to finish what you could not do as a child. I am not too hot about any of the approaches since they all lack detail to get me invested, to be honest. I cannot change anything about the “evil company does evil stuff”-institution that is Toxanol, the six tribes are just a way to drive the player towards the endgame and can be split down the middle into the good guys that want to save the tree of life or the bad guys that want to see it destroyed for no particular reason, and while a recurring villain like Lupa Lupin is a videogame standard I feel like they left out a lot of potential options here and forced me to take the one route the developer had prepared; but I will get back to that later.
Before you can take part in any world-saving, you need to have character. Credit where it’s due, “Biomutant” has a pretty interesting character creation because you can “mutate” them to your liking. After the choice of breed, which will slightly alter your starting stats, you can further change your looks by focussing your character on specific attributes. A character with more vitality will look buffer while an agility-focussed character is slim and more agile-looking. After that, choose one environmental hazard you are resilient to (shown by the color of your right arm) before changing the fur style and color to your liking. And finally, we get to the choice of class, where we have six options available: Dead-Eyes and Commandos are skilled gunslingers, Psi-Freaks make the most use of the psi-powers you can learn throughout the game, Saboteurs and Mercenaries and dual-wield one-handed melee weapons, and the Sentinel gains an armor buff to start with. In my opinion, there are no right or wrong choices here since a melee character, just to name an example, can still work fine with ranged weaponry. Also, the bonuses from your starting class are soon outweighed by leveling and gear, so don’t think about it too hard.
Unfortunately, the start of the game and the tutorial sections are simply too long. If you see people putting the game down after only a short while, I cannot blame them. We get our first contact with Lupa Lupin, in a fight that is ended prematurely, and then get equal parts explanation and exposition shoved in our throats. Walking, running, attacking, dodging, attacking while dodging, parrying, all those mechanics are interspersed by flash-backs to the past in which we as a child learn about other mechanics like catching, swimming, crafting, and modifying; and it’s all a big bore. I did not care about the oldtimer Out-of-Date which I needed to save from some hooligans and neither did I care about some nagging furry mother constantly reminding me that we have to train today and that I better hurry up only for some other furry forcing me to do some stuff for them too. “Biomutant” improved by a lot as soon as I was freed of the shackles of the tutorial and the world invited me to learn and die on my own.
And as soon as I was able to explore the open world section of “Biomutant”, it did manage to get its hooks into me. My roommate described it as a “furry Far Cry” when he watched me play it, but knowing that one of the developers of “Just Cause 2” was head of development you really see resemblances popping up everywhere. The story of “Just Cause 2” was a short and silly trip over the map to give the player a basic skeleton to work with, but the major timesink is exploring and conquering the map. “Biomutant” works in exactly the same way: The main story consists of you either uniting the tribe or kicking them in the butt until only one is left while also taking care of the big monsters that are currently eating the roots of the Tree of Life which will inevitably destroy it. Put a meaningless boss battle at the end of the game and you have the same basic principle that “Just Cause” introduced, only with more hair and a crazier setting. If you look for a grand story of “Skyrim-esque” proportions in which you have tons of named and memorable characters to shower you in quests, well, then “Biomutant” might not be for you. The side quests you are given are either extremely short or just linked to collecting/interacting with all of a certain type of item so the setting has to do overtime since the story does so little of the work.
The formula is basically always the same: You find a new place, which makes a list of collectibles appear on your HUD. To complete a settlement or place, you need to find all the items, characters, or points of interest listed, which normally results in you running through the place looting everything you can while fighting whatever opposes you. I have seen the combat of “Biomutant” being criticized by some people, but in my opinion, it is alright. There are a few hiccups like parries not triggering when they should have or my dodge button refusing to work with no reasons being shown as to why that is the case, but in most encounters, I was able to perform well enough to survive and even style on the opponents. Your choice of weapons can be anything from unarmed, one-handed melee weapons, or two-handed melee weapons to ranged options like shotguns, pistols, rifles, and automatic machine guns. On top of that, your character can learn Wung-Fu moves to introduce into their weapon-based fighting, which can be anything from a forward spiral while firing your automatic weapon to boomeranging your melee weapons around you while using a firearm. And with each tribe having its own tribe weapon which includes things like actual boomerangs or shuriken, you can experiment with your approach to effective killing even more.
So, two of the main drives to play “Biomutant” are collecting items and fighting enemies. To support this idea, the developer went out of their way to make a rather extensive weapon and armor crafting menu. You can dismantle any weapon in the game for its parts and glue them together to make something completely new and, in the best-case scenario, utterly deadly. This is where an amount of silliness entered the hodge-podge that is “Biomutant” because some of the options for weapon building are just plain silly. It is perfectly possible to fight using two toilet brushes as your gear of choice. Or you can attach some crazy huge blade to a knife handle for some terrible-looking results. One handle option is just a banana to which you attach whatever implement of doom you choose. But if you take it seriously, you can tinker with higher damage, element triggers, weight classes, attack speed, and crit chances, while ranged options are similarly diverse with different magazines, ranges, and accuracy values. And on top of that, you can plaster add-ons to whatever gear you use to increase the stats even further, which gets so crazy at some point that the fear of dying becomes zero.
You do not like using weapons at all and would rather play something more mage-y? Well, there are mutations for that. Biogenetics allows you to access a pool of abilities if you find Bio Points by opening containers or fighting specific enemies, which allow you to produce effects using your surroundings or your body as a catalyst. You can trap enemies in a Mucus Bubble you are rolling around in or play earth bender by raising a Mud Fist under your opponent to punch them into the air. And if that is not enough, some psi-powers can be unlocked with psi-points that you gain by praying at shrines. They are more classic RPG element-based than the biogenetics, but depending on your karma you can only gain one-half of the ability pool since they ask for both dark and light aura. But for that, you gain dashes that leave fire trails in your wake, AOE freeze spells, levitation, and telekinesis to only name a few.
This segues us into the karma system which “Biomutant” apparently needed for reasons unknown to me. Karma in “Biomutant” is as simple as it gets: You have a shiny angelic conscience for all the good stuff you do and a grim demonic conscience for all the bad stuff. Helping strangers in need by doing sidequests is a good action while killing pets right after you caught them is a bad one. The game tells you that you have both a current aura as well as a child aura, but what that means is that I helped people in the flashbacks and therefore everyone remembers me as being a good and light child; nothing more. I did every side quest in my quest log before I wrote this article, hence why my light level is so much higher than my dark one; and those dark points mostly came from activating shrines that give dark aura specifically. For my build, this made no difference since I did not use psi-powers whatsoever, but basing your magic system around the decisions of players to skip side quests seems ill-advised.
I was the goody-two-shoes character, helping whoever I meet and doing whatever I am told; and I tried to pick options that would reflect my character in role-play. That worked not as well as I would have liked. The tribe that reflects the “maximum light” status was the Myriad tribe, with which I stayed to the very end, defeating every other tribe and then letting them join my ranks. It did not matter what atrocities those evil tribes might have been part of, I forgave whatever they did in the past for a better future. Unfortunately, the entire Lupa Lupin storyline does not allow you any moral decisions worth mentioning. Around the middle part of the main quest, you get your rematch against the evil killer of your family; only to learn that he seeks revenge equal to the deeds that were done to them since your mother was the one who killed Lupa Lupin’s mother all those years back. On top of that, the idea of Lupa Lupin being a carnivore and therefore potentially a cannibal in a setting in which all animals are capable of intelligent thought was quickly debunked by the fact that all those intelligent mammals still hunt other animals for sport. And Lupa Lupin even tells me that he only hunts for survival since as a carnivore he needs to eat some sort of meat. I was ready to forgive him for all he had done, ending the spiral of violence and finding some way to still provide him what he needs to live; and then the battle triggered, leaving me no such moral options.
Lupa Lupin is definitely an afterthought that the developers put into their game because there would have been no opposition after uniting (or defeating) the tribes. And the entire tribe war is not really worth that much talk anyway. You basically need to knock down three outposts in a mix of combat and minigames to conquer the map, and then you can engage the main fortress of the tribe you are dealing with. I assume that there is some major battle against the tribe’s leader for some people because I did not trigger any of those encounters. The argument of them simply handing their fortress to me to live in was so enticing that the two leaders I faced simply surrendered. And the other three tribes acknowledged my power and offered peace immediately. It is cool that “Biomutant” offers the option of winning such battles in a non-hostile way, but I would assume that you need to have a charisma-based character to do so. So, imagine my surprise as I went for that option twice for shits and giggles with my all-strength- and vitality-packed character with the argumentative power of a rock and the opponent seeing the wisdom of my probably mono-syllabic phrases and surrendering right away.
If you think about it, the game has some very fundamental flaws if even the main attributes in a role-playing game do not work correctly. I went with strength and vitality, which I found to be a fun and safe combination. Agility seems good since more movement speed allows for faster travel and better kiting with ranged weapons. And Intellect is probably very important for builds that try to make the most out of psi-powers. However, in a game as loot-filled as “Biomutant”, the idea of charisma only improving the prices of merchants is silly. There might be some other use for it, but I did not encounter said use in the 40 hours of game time with around 85% completion. And luck, while increasing the chances for loot drops as well as crits, is also basically a throw-away stat since your weapons can get to fairly solid crit rates on their own and I personally did not need even more loot than what was clogging up my inventory already.
“Biomutant” just stays behind its potential, which I find more frustrating than it being simply bad. There are so many examples where I would have liked more engaging gameplay. The puzzles you encounter regularly to open doors or activate old-world technology are all too easy. I had ten intellect, the starting amount, which meant that I have the minimum number of tries to solve the puzzle; but they are still way too easy. And even if I make a mistake and fail it I just get a shock for 200 health, regenerated in no time, and try again. Or why does the narrator speak for everything in the game? I can understand the need for a narrator in general, and I might even get behind a translation of the “Banjo-Kazooie”-like gobbledygook that the resident furries are speaking, but why must the narrator not just translate but paraphrase what they say? And he not only describes what they say but also describes their emotions as if reading a script in the same style he does for the entire game.
Why use gimmicks for the boss fights like using certain mounts when I never fight like that in the rest of the game? Why allow hazard zones to become completely irrelevant after a certain while when your equipment alone gives you bonuses that add up to one hundred percent even though they do not look like they should? Why does Out-of-Date have an ark that we need to fly to space with if the planet is saved anyway? Why can I only save four other people, and why can I not revert the choice when I meet someone who deserves it more in my opinion? Why not give the players some vanity slots so they can look however they want while still gaining all the benefits from their good equipment? Why can I not buy or modify tribal weapons, which will therefore eventually drop in usefulness even though they have an entire moveset dedicated to them? This is just the thing with “Biomutant”: There is so much good here and so much wasted potential that could have made “Biomutant” the 2021 game of the year it was hyped as before its release.
However, you can say what you want but the game looks stunning and the premise was good enough to water the mouths of tons of players all the way back in 2017. Experiment 101 has clearly shown that they are capable of greatness, they just need to go all the way. If anything, the developer managed to get on my map, and whether they try to make “Biomutant 2” or give a completely different IP a go I am sure that it is worth taking a look at. At the end of the day, “Biomutant” probably gains the achievement of getting every single school grade on their resumee: Utterly forgetable characters, bad story, lackluster quests, good combat, great visuals, fantastic setting. If you are even slightly interested in getting the Humble Choice for March after reading this article, I would honestly tell you to get it because “Biomutant” is an interesting experience if you get past its many failings. But if you want a few tips for your enjoyment with the game, please do the following: Mix up melee and ranged combat rather than just sticking to one type, play the main quest up until you get the steed that traverses water, and for the love of god use a controller.
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