*Disclaimer: My Xbox deleted a lot of my screenshots for some reason so many of these are from near the endgame or new game plus
Post Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Martial Arts, Anthropomorphic Animals, and big open worlds, all of these things have crossed over at some point, from open world sci-fi games like Horizon Zero Dawn to animal-filled martial arts movies and shows such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise and the Kung Fu Panda trilogy. But putting *all* of these things together at once? I would say the first piece of modern media to do this (at least as far as I know) is THQ Nordic and Experiment 101’s Biomutant. Does it mesh all of these attributes together successfully? Well, it depends on who you ask, but from my experience Biomutant is a decent try at combining a ton of familiar elements into something new and unique, but unfortunately has some trouble hitting those marks.
In Biomutant, you create an anthropomorphized mammalian mutant character from one of six breeds, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, some have higher intellect and may be better at using psi-powers, while others have higher strength and may work best with melee-based classes. While your preference may depend on your gameplay style, your choices don’t restrict you as much as they seem, as you still can use every type of weapon. Skill, and power, some may just take longer to obtain than others depending on what kind of combat you want to focus on first.
I chose the Primal breed, because to me it was one of the least ugly looking, and resembles the cover character. Focusing more on strength and agility, my character turned out looking a little bit more like an upright version of Red XIII from Final Fantasy VII…well, before equipping some useful yet wacky looking helmets that is, but more on that later. The story of your character is that when you were younger, a villain known as Lupa-Lupin, destroyed your village and killed your mother, who also happened to be the creator of Wung-Fu. Whether you choose revenge or forgiveness is up to you. Meanwhile, the four World-Eaters are causing major distress to the Tree of Life, which will end up destroying the world if something isn’t done about it, but you have to decide whether the world is worth saving, and see which tribes ideologies align with yours so that you can either unite all six tribes to help, or dispose of any that get in your way. It has all the characteristics of a story from a martial arts film; unfortunately, you never feel all that invested in any of the characters and by the time you learn a little more about some of the more important ones, their arc has already ended. There’s also a narrator to help translate the Banjo-Kazooie-like language of these characters, which is fine, but he also comments whenever you’re in combat, which can get kind of annoying. You can however, change the frequency at which he does so, so you only have to listen to the narrator when talking to other characters, and even then you can also change the voice to another language if you choose. The world is also a strange yet gorgeous one, and the easily activated photo mode only exemplifies that. Unfortunately, none of the music really stood out to me and was more just the generic type of music you might expect from something with as much Asian influence as Biomutant has.
Regained memories of your past serve as different tutorials for crafting, swimming, and other things, but interrupt your exploration a bit too frequently during the beginning of your first playthrough. An option to skip these sections would be ideal, as they all feel like they take longer to complete than they should. You would think making a weapon in your childhood memory might somehow affect the weapon you started with, but you don’t regain your “first” crafted weapon until near the end after you defeat the villain who destroyed your home, and by that point it’s more just a symbol of being able to confront your past.
The weapon types in Biomutant include one-handed and two-handed melee, ranged, and unarmed. There are dual wield skills for both one-handed melee and ranged weapons, the former of which I was able to have unlocked at the start due to choosing the Saboteur class. For the first half of my playthrough, I used the dual wield one-handed weapons I started with, customizing them along the way. Eventually, after defeating the rival tribe known as the Jagni, I gained access to their tribe weapon known as the Jagni Staff. While legendary tribe weapons can’t be customized, they’re still some of the most powerful ones in the game, and proved to be rather useful as I progressed. They nearly made crafting weapons feel completely unnecessary due to how strong they were, but could get boring due to the lack of combo variety all weapons in Biomutant have. Each weapon type only has about three different attacks, so you notice the repetitive nature of combat, especially when you aren’t using a combination of melee attacks, ranged attacks, psi-powers, and bio mutations.
One of Biomutant’s biggest faults is that there’s no proper lock on, it’s an odd choice but I got used to it pretty fast. Sure, I still missed a little more than I would like to in the beginning when it comes to ranged weapons, but it didn’t hamper the gameplay nearly as much as I thought it would. Weapons also don’t show what stats they mesh best with, if any, and it’s kind of unclear how much your stats affect your damage output. Some weapon parts are also level-gated, so you can’t use them for crafting until you’re strong enough, but I somehow never found this to be an issue.
While the crafting mechanic is interesting and can provide you with some unique and funnily named melee and ranged weapons, making these weapons doesn’t only require the necessary weapon parts, but also materials you can find by searching through garbage piles and dismantling the parts you don’t need, and also costs a certain amount of money. Early on, it seems as if you never have quite enough money or materials for crafting, even if you’re doing your best to explore every nook and cranny of each area you can reach. This becomes much easier over time, and once you can explore more freely, having a surplus of parts you might not use otherwise is useful when you’re just a few pieces of material short. You can also upgrade weapons at work benches, but this never seemed necessary to me. If you want to make your weapons as powerful as they can be, you’re going to want to gather as many materials as you can, as maxing out the quality of each weapon takes up a much larger amount of materials than just crafting your own and switching out parts every so often, so it really just depends on how much time you want to spend playing and your feelings on minmaxing. You can also purchase outfits, weapons, and parts from vendors at outposts and scattered throughout the world, which are great if you need extra parts to craft certain weapons or need more materials.
Besides melee and ranged weapons, you can also unlock a small variety of mutations and psi-powers. Mutations require a certain amount of bio points to unlock, which you can gain from defeating certain types of enemies or from finding bio containers throughout the world. These are the types of powers I use the least as time went on, but the two I unlocked earliest– moth mouth and vile bile– proved to be rather useful early on, as the first temporarily brainwashes humanoid enemies and connects to any others near your target, and the second creates an acid puddle that enemies are poisoned by when they step in it. Psi-powers are also quite useful, but a bit more difficult to unlock. To gain the psi-points you need for unlocking psi-powers you have to find Psi-poles throughout the world, as well as through some of the choices you make. Additionally, to unlock any psi-power you also need to have the appropriate level of light and dark auras, which you gain from the different choices that you make via main quests and side quests. Unfortunately, even if you explore a decent amount of the world, it can still take quite some time and quite a few completed side quests to unlock psi-powers, particularly the most useful ones. If you prefer taking your time and doing side quests and making sure you unlock everything before finishing your first playthrough it is an option, but making the point requirements smaller numbers in general, may have really helped the game be more enjoyable and not drag on as much.
That being said, I had plenty of fun mixing up ranged and dual wield melee attacks with the mutations and psi-powers that I was able to unlock. The psi-powers I preferred to use the most were the sizzle ball and freeze powers. The first allows you to either throw a volley of fireballs or throw just one bigger fireball depending on whether you tap the corresponding button repeatedly or just hold and release, while the second creates a small frozen area and ice spikes on the ground, causing enemies not only to temporarily freeze, but also to slip and slide all over the immediate area. I also unlocked the blink technique which I thought would be like teleportation, but ended up being more of a dash. It would be beneficial if you could regain points from unlearning techniques just as an easier way to try out new techniques and combinations.
Standard enemies seem rather spongy no matter what difficulty, and even when you’re at a high level, groups of enemies take a bit longer to take down than you might expect. More powerful ranged weapons help a lot, particularly with bigger enemies who can grab you, and I found myself taking down the bigger enemies first before focusing on all the smaller enemies around them.
So we’ve gone over offense, but what about defense? Well besides your basic vitality stat which increases your health, there’s armor found around the world that you can equip. From my experience, the only matching armor sets come from the six tribes, and you’re more likely to mix and match more powerful armor you’ve found around the world as your journey continues. Armor pieces include Head, Face, Torso, Legs, Left and Right Shoulders, and Back. Face is the armor you’ll find the least of, so you may keep a piece equipped for the rest of your adventure if you manage to find one. Head armor consists of a variety of hats, masks, and helmets, of which helmets are typically the strongest. Unfortunately, this means you may not get to see your character’s face often and you may see a duck or weird purple koala staring back at you, rather than the ronin rodent you started out with. Torso and leg armor are pretty self explanatory, with plenty of different jackets, shirts, pants, and skirts you can equip, and back armor is just a backpack that helps slightly increase your armor rating. Shoulder pads can be annoying if you prefer the left and right to match, and it might take you a while to find two of the same type, and even then their stats may not be the same. Most armor pieces can also have add-ons put on them to improve your armor rating even more, although these add-ons are typically different from the ones you put on your weapons. The lack of hand and foot armor, while an interesting choice, doesn’t seem to matter much, with many pieces of leg armor also having connected foot pieces. It could be seen by some as a detriment, but it’s nice to have a few less pieces of armor to deal with.
Some armor can also increase your resistance to dangerous biomes, and can provide a little extra support to your natural resistances that you may have unlocked by spending bio-points. There is also at least one armor set that makes you completely resistant to a specific type of hazard, but it’s not clear whether there’s armor like this for each type of hazardous area, so it’s best to spend a few bio-points on resistances if you can. Luckily most of these hazardous areas can be avoided if you don’t have the necessary equipment, but may be beneficial to explore later on for extra parts and rare items.
Over the course of your adventure, you acquire several different mounts and vehicles. The biological mounts are faster than running but it never felt like the increase was very substantial. The few vehicles you obtain are useful for traversing through rougher areas and help provide a faster alternative than just going around, however, going around these sections may be useful for finding weapons parts and other items you may not have found otherwise.
The four big bosses, known as both World-Eaters and Puffs, while interesting in appearance, are all relatively similar mechanically. These bosses can be fought in any order, as long as you’ve encountered the right characters for their respective quests. The first World-Eater I encountered in my first playthrough actually happened to be the most unique as it’s the only one that literally eats you and you can die from…well…getting stuck in its butthole.
The second World-Eater I encountered happened to be the most difficult and there’s a bit of a contrast between what you’re told to do and the easier method. You’re also stuck on a vehicle for the first phase of all of these fights, which decreases the opportunity for cool martial arts boss fight moments. If your game is a martial arts fantasy, players likely want to see some cool martial arts action especially when it comes to bosses, not running around in a vehicle or on a mount for half (or more) of each boss fight.
I played more of new game plus than I expected, because I wanted to see how things might have changed from my first playthrough (and needed to take more screenshots, of course). In new game plus, you start at the Tree of Life and have the choice to join any of the six tribes, the issue is you don’t keep the fast travel points you’ve unlocked, so you have to re-explore the map to find out where each tribe is located unless you can conveniently remember.
Also remember those mounts and vehicles I mentioned earlier? In New Game Plus you only keep the last biological mount you used and have to re-unlock the others, meaning you have to fully redo the questlines that give you them. This wouldn’t be so bad if it just automatically gave them to you once you reached the right characters and talked to them a few times, but you have to redo all of the material gathering as well. Additionally, you also have to re-obtain any side quests you didn’t finish in your first playthrough, which you will once again have to remember the locations for.
Biomutant is a cool game with gorgeous visuals, plenty of familiar mechanics, some neat ideas, and a lot of heart, but as a whole has a very flawed execution. The lack of combo variety, repetitiveness, and unengaging story keep it from living up to its full potential. It would be interesting to see what the team at Experiment 101 could do with a sequel by taking criticisms to heart and building on the mechanics they already have in place. If you still have any interest in Biomutant now that many initial impressions have been revealed, then I’d recommend at least trying it and playing past the first few hours at the very least.
A code was provided by the publisher.