The premise of Biomutant is interesting to say the least, and with it being Experiment 101’s biggest (and only) title yet, there is a lot of promise to live up to. If you consider the amount of RPG’s out these days, especially those with open worlds to explore, there is an abundance of competition that Biomutant is going up against. The real question is: what sets this game apart from the rest, and is it enjoyable enough to recommend?
As I entered into the menus and was prompted to create my own character, I was delighted. Apart from being the most adorable fox-like persona my heart could wish for, I really appreciated the character creator. You see, when creating my character, the system provided to you dictates that the body type of your character is dictated simply by the attributes you have chosen. Simply put, if you choose to play a tanky, highly-damaging character, your body shape will mutate into a broad-shouldered, buff type. If you choose to be ninja-like and quick on your feet, your character will appear more lanky and nimble. Most would say this is a negative, and would say that they would want to dictate how their character appears down to every miniscule detail; I for one am glad that I do not have to go through a list of finicky sliders to choose every little aspect of how my character should look. I can appreciate that “mutating” your character against some chosen attributes makes the choice at the beginning easier and quicker, and allows you to get into the game a lot faster. No matter which class you end up choosing, you will still be adorable after it all…and isn’t that what really matters?
The game really impresses with its environment and aesthetic. The UI is simplistic and clear, which makes things easy to navigate. The world itself is super vibrant, almost like someone cranked up a saturation filter over the entire game—but this is a good thing in this case. The environment is one of the game’s strengths, in terms of its visual appeal and vibrancy. Although being pretty, the environment itself leaves a bit to be desired, in terms of feeling a bit empty. With such a large map, there is often many places to go but nothing to be found. When you enter buildings, items within the environment that you can collect are highlighted for you to see. This is nice, as opposed to searching any and every environmental item which may or may not have something to pick up—which is something a lot of games do. The thing is, some location feel empty; apart from having a couple collectable items strewn about, there is not much to see or do. Building sometimes are quite empty, and travelling between points of interest can sometimes be a bit boring. Luckily, there is fast travel, so that becomes less of an issue with time.
Now to the nitty gritty: the game’s message and overall tone. Within the first five hours, the game absolutely charmed me. With its adorable designs, different approach to character creation, and what looked to be a promising start to what could be an interesting journey. The narration, performed by David Shaw Parker, is performed excellently. Everything is eloquently said and in such a reassuring manner. Unfortunately, after the five-hour mark, I began to notice the narration would kick in at times and would state something generic and almost “preachy” in a way, as if to say we should be searching for enlightenment at all times, even in the most of mundane moments like walking down a dirt path. Simply travelling between two points of interest, when nothing substantial was occurring, the narrator would talk at me. Without any context, this narration encouraging me to live “in the moment”, which was trying to be profound, really just became annoying and exhausting. Luckily, I discovered that this impromptu narration can be disabled in the settings.
Further to this, the narration was reflective of the agenda or storyline within the game which, in my Humble Opinion, was a struggle to find an interest in. The story focuses on the need to save the Earth from the corruption that has befallen the Tree of Life. You do this by visiting all the roots of the tree, and endeavouring to take out the World Eaters which are causing this corruption to spread. As the protagonist, it was hard to connect with the story and take the mission seriously, as the game exudes silliness on almost every level. Don’t get me wrong, some of it is well-placed and appreciated; however, the game is reminiscent of Ratchet and Clank in the fact that due to the tone being set; the humour being used; the silly names given to characters, objects, and locations; and the cartoon aesthetic crossed with the comic-book style; the game exudes a juvenile feel. Maybe this would be more impactful on a younger audience, but I struggled the see the importance in the story, and it did not encourage me to be engaged by the story or be impacted by what was going on around me. Much like a Ratchet and Clank game, my approach was to have fun; kill stuff; get better gear. I did not expect an intriguing story, nor did I get one, which I think is to be expected by a game which presents itself in the way I have outlined.
Something that was counterintuitive to my immersion within the game and having the opportunity to form a connection with the protagonist and his objectives to “cleanse” the world of this corruption were the dialogue trees within conversation. The game provides dialogue trees when interacting with others, often giving you the chance to learn something about someone or a piece of history. Once you select one option, the other option is bypassed and disappears completely. This makes sense in terms of having the player decide to be “good” over being “bad” by selecting a sole response; but, if the game is simply providing context and information in the form of dialogue to the player, why not let me hear both options? This would have helped strengthen the connection between the player and the world, as what is provided to the player in terms of the story itself could use some bolstering.
Something I did enjoy was the chopping and changing of armour and weapon types. It was really enjoyable to have the ability to customise both the ranged and melee weapons to perform to how I preferred. This was done through finding weapon and armour parts, which are strewn across most locations and are quite easy to find. The starting weapons were quite bland and slow, and it took about five to eight hours to start finding interesting attachments that would turn some boring weaponry into something worthwhile to use. The game, like most, suffers from the trope where a lot of the “high-end” armour and gear don’t make any sense if all equipped at once, nor do they form a cohesive look. I ended up choosing gear that fit a “ninja” aesthetic, instead of min-maxing our gear. Priorities, right?
This is Experiment 101’s first big title, and it is a promising start. Unfortunately, the hype has been building for this title for a long time, but that is a risk developers and publishers take by announcing something they are working on years before release. I think there was an expectation that this game would be unique, and immersive, and polished. It is some of those aspects in small ways. The character designs are unique, the crafting system is immersive and really enjoyable. The polish is not quite there, but I did not encounter any noticeable bugs or glitches: the game was playable. The title did not quite live up to the expectations, but that also is in due part to the AAA price tag. The game is not a “bad game” at all; it needs more work; it needs refinement. There is a lot of potential here, and as an introductory game from Experiment 101, it’s a commendable attempt at an open-world RPG. There are some wins to take from the development in this game to whatever they choose to produce next. Oh, and thanks for having the hindsight to let players turn of the narrator: my sanity has been redeemed.