Biomutant is the debut game by developers Experiment 101, and it’s an action/role-playing game that follows a mutated rodent that is an inhabitant of the New World, an Earth that has regrown after the human apocalypse. Here, it must travel across landscapes in order to stop the monstrous Worldeaters from destroying their new way of life.
This is a game that I have been eagerly anticipating. It was announced all the way back in 2017, even having a spot at Gamescom in 2018. However, it saw constant release delays due to the small team expending the game, which meant it was pushed back until this year. While I only heard of this game first at the start of 2020, my patience has been heavily rewarded. Biomutant is a wonderful experience, if a little buggy at the moment.
The first task that lays before the player once they start a new game is character customization. As someone who loves this aspect of a game, I was delighted to see the number of options that were available—not just in body type, but fur type, class, and abilities. For my playthrough, I chose the Psioni class, which possess magical powers. And, given the number of fur colour options that are available, my character was a bright green and purple rodent! The customization also reflects how strong each of your abilities are. For example, if the character has a broad body but small head, your intellect won’t be as great as other body customizations, but your strength will be higher. While I would normally just go with what I think looks good, this method made me really think about what I wanted my character to look like, even if certain attributes can be upgraded later.
After this, you are placed into this steampunk-ish world, where mutated animals now walk the land. The first aspect to notice are the visuals—Biomutant is gorgeous. Its mixture of green nature with the grey technology that mankind left behind is beautifully blended together, reminding me of Portal 2 in a sense. But here, there’s a much darker reason for that: corruption and pollution had eventually led to our extinction and allowed the Earth to try and repair itself, with interesting consequences. While this exposition is given to players in the first level, it’s a story that sticks because the result of these actions is everywhere here: all the enemies that players encounter are mutated in some way. Not just that, but the story is also a commentary on mankind, especially given the year it’s released and what current world events are taking place, whether this was intentional or not.
Aside from the exposition, the world itself feels grand and rich with its own new culture. The developers wanted Biomutant to have the feel of a martials arts epic mixed with the weaponry and combat of modern times, and that aspect is very clear. Each area feels different and interesting, and each creature that you interact with have their own rules to follow, whether it’s a tribe, an old friend, or a resident of a village that’s been destroyed. They all have their own history and story to tell, making this game consistently engaging. This is all accompanied by the occasional—but fantastic—narration of David Shaw Parker(Horizon Zero Dawn). The narration adds a fable-like atmosphere to the game; you really feel like you’re playing through an epic tale.
But it’s not just exploring that you must complete in Biomutant, there’s also combat. While the fighting is spaced out to let exploration be the main focus, the combat is fast paced. And, despite the numerous buttons, it’s surprisingly easy to pick up. The player also gets rewarded for each battle and task conquered. Players receive XP points, which can then be used for upgrading weapons and armour, as well as to increase certain attributes, an aspect mentioned earlier. This means that there’s an incentive to the fights; they don’t just feel like a chore or something that has to be done to progress.
Other rewards are found via character dialogue segments. This was an aspect that I particularly liked and had never encountered before. Depending on what dialogue option is picked, it not only determines where your story goes but it also rewarded me based on the class I picked. Because I chose to be the Psioni (Magic) class, this has a system called inner balance (dialogue options will determine whether other characters trust you or not). And, depending on what dialogue options I picked, the game rewarded me with PSI-points, which can be used to upgrade these magical powers. This is a great example of taking a system that has been done before (dialogue choices/trust system) and adding rewards to it. Like the fighting, there’s an incentive to talk to various characters that are encountered, whether it’s plot-dependent or not.
If I were to critique anything, it would be that I did unfortunately encounter quite a lot of freezing, specifically between cutscenes. While it’s a shame that bugs are a day one normality for games, Biomutant did go through a lot of patch updates, which improved the game’s performance. I also understand that this was a game made by 20 people so, in that sense, the game is still impressive.
Overall, Biomutant has been worth the wait and I applaud Experiment 101 on their debut game—I would go so far as to say I look forward to future projects from them. Not only have they made a fun game that echoes the atmosphere of an epic tale, but they’ve added something unique to familiar aspects of other games, like weapon and power upgrades. The game is also visually gorgeous and features vastly different landscapes in many levels—I found myself wanting to explore every part of the level I was in because of how interesting it was. It has been a long time coming, but it ultimately has been worth the wait.