|RELEASE DATE||May 25, 2021|
|PLATFORMS||PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC/Steam|
Okay. I know this review is a fair bit late. Had a lot of trouble with the playthrough that ended up delaying things – on top of some minor backend troubles on the site.
Thankfully, recording the playthrough is now done, and the site is back up and running. As such, it’s time to get this review cranked out.
It’s…okay? It serves its purpose at the very least.
That said – it’s just that: okay. It never really rises above that, and it never really finds its stride. It feels as though the plot just doesn’t know what it wants to be about – and ultimately ends up suffering for it.
There’s a story in the background about how Toxanol, an energy company that is seemingly an Exxon or BP kind of thing, ends up ruining the world – but this never amounts to much other than window dressing.
There’s a plot about a tribe war between the 6 different factions in the world – but this ends up feeling disconnected from anything else outside of the fact that you need to solve the issue before the end of the story.
There’s also a plot about your character’s past, and your quest for vengeance (Or forgiveness) of the vicious Lupa Lupin. And again – it feels disconnected from anything else.
And then there’s the main plot, about the World Eaters that have been eating at the roots of the Tree of Life. If they aren’t stopped – the world will end. The issue here is that it never really feels like the stakes are present. You never quite feel like the World Eaters are actually doing much of anything.
Again – the story is okay. It’s serviceable and it’s far from the worst thing I’ve ever played. It’s just not the most engaging thing and all of its parts just don’t ever seem to gel together. They all feel like separate plots that are just happening at one time with little significance to each other.
I wanted to enjoy the plot more – but by the end of things, I ultimately found myself not really being concerned with the overall outcome. You could remove more than half of the plotlines (Both main story and side quests) here – and nothing would really change.
It’s disappointing, but, if you can tolerate the disjointedness of everything, it’s still enjoyable, but lackluster.
Much like the story, the overall look, and sound of Biomutant is a bit of a mixed bag.
On one hand, the world is vibrant, colorful, and gorgeous. Grass and flowers sway in the breeze. Surfaces become shiny and slick in the rain. It’s a nice-looking game for the most part.
On the other hand, the game has a lot of technical and performance issues along with weird choices in direction. It hitches all the time – even when playing it from a fairly snappy external hard drive on a PS5. Thankfully, though, I only ever had 1 (one) single, hard crash.
The hitching was definitely the worst part, though. It was to the point of making recording the game for the channel a nightmare – videos were constantly going out of sync, consistently.
I’m also not the biggest fan of the fur rendering used here. It’s really weird-looking. I get what they were going for, but it doesn’t quite pay off. I don’t know if it’s an Unreal Engine thing or if the art team just couldn’t get things the way they may have wanted – but it could be a lot better. Characters just look like they’re covered in weirdly colored grass more than actual fur.
Now. As far as direction goes? The choice to have the entire game be narrated like a documentary is an interesting one. The problem is that it’s a bit too much. The narrator narrates everything. From you solving a puzzle to every line of dialogue that gets spoken to you. And I mean every line.
At launch, the game would double up on dialogue. See – characters speak in a gibberish “language”. Originally, you would get the gibberish line, followed by the narrator reading it back to you. This made conversations take twice as long as they should.
Thankfully, a recent patch allowed for the ability to control the frequency of gibberish and narration – even allowing you to turn one or both off. Doing so allows you to either have subtitled gibberish, or spoken dialogue from the narrator.
Unfortunately – both are from the narrator’s perspective – so the subtitles are just the narrator’s lines without his voice. This means that characters don’t really get to develop any real personality of their own.
I really wish the narrator weren’t so prevalent throughout the story. Things would be so much better if the characters could just stand on their own. After all – your character is a mutant from this world – why do they need a narrator/interpreter to translate everything? It’s weird. And it’s especially bad when lines are just repeated, over and over again over the course of the game.
If I have to hear that “That’s enough electric current to initiate the actuators and activate the framework” after solving a puzzle again, I might scream.
I think the thing that starts to wear down on me the most, though, is the overall quality of the dialogue. It starts to hit Cloud Atlas levels of “True True” really early on. Every single thing has some weird alternate name and it feels forced. It’s hard to take, especially when it all comes from the exact same voice 100% of the time.
You can only hear someone talk about the “back-in-days” and “gunsflexers” for so long before you end up wanting to throw said “gunsflexers” (dumbells, by the by) at them.
It’s like that scene in Rick and Morty when Summer was in the Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic world. The bucket head guy was talking about the “boom-booms” and the “before-fore times”. Only here it’s played 100% straight.
There’s no “Jesus Christ, did the boomy-booms blow up all your wordy-word books?” “You mean ‘Dictionaries’?” moment. Even one little joke like that could have made things a bit more bearable.
This is where the game struggles, I think, the most.
A running theme you might notice with Biomutant is that stuff often feels like it just doesn’t matter ultimately. That theme is at its worst in the gameplay.
The overall combat is fine. It’s no Devil May Cry and it’s barely up to scratch in comparison to even the older God of War titles – but it works. Mostly. Targeting enemies is, quite literally, hit or miss. Sometimes you’ll attack what you actually want – other times you might swing wildly in the wrong direction.
You can lock on when the game feels like letting you – until you decide to shoot at an enemy, and then you unlock for…some reason. It’s really odd, especially since there is absolutely no ability to aim down the sights of your guns. You’re stuck dealing with a finicky soft-lock that sometimes just doesn’t work.
Thankfully you don’t have to deal with an actual ammo limit – just a small cooldown once you empty the magazine. Otherwise, gunplay would go from “needs work” to “nightmarish”.
Now, outside of combat, the game can actually be really fun. A lot of your abilities (Mutations and Psi Powers that you can unlock by collecting Psi Points and Bioblobs) can also be used as movement tech. This can be really interesting as you can get to places in ways that maybe weren’t entirely intended.
I’m always a fan of combat abilities that double as movement abilities. I just wish that it was put to better use here.
Unfortunately, while it can be fun to explore and experiment with using these abilities to get to different places – the reward usually isn’t worth it.
There are no real platforming challenges with a nice bit of loot waiting for you at the end or anything. It usually amounts to “I found a cool way to get to this place that I could have just climbed up.”
Again – that feeling of things ultimately not mattering. The aura/karma system too – pretty much affects some dialogue here and there, abilities you can unlock, as well as some later game choices/the overall ending. It doesn’t really need to be there – and it’s made worse by the two conscience characters that represent Light and Dark. Their interactions just feel annoying instead of charming like I’m sure was intended.
Even leveling up – which is very simple to understand, thankfully – doesn’t have too much of an effect on anything. Leveling your stats will give you a small increase each time – things like intellect give you better Ki (stamina) reserves and recharging. What matters more, though – is your gear.
And you will find lots of gear over the course of your adventure – but most of it will be useless. Especially once you’ve crafted your own stuff and upgraded things that you like. You’ll pretty much never find anything better.
At least useless gear can be scrapped for parts or crafting resources that you can use to further improve the things you have.
However, that also leads me to the biggest flaw of the game: repetition.
There are so many repetitive quests in the game, it’s ridiculous. That Tribe War I mentioned earlier? The way it’s handled is that you go through and take over the various outposts of each of your rival tribes – they each have 3 outposts and 1 fortress. They all play out almost exactly the same – with one or two exceptions to very specific objectives.
Even the dialogue you get after taking an outpost doesn’t change between tribes or even between outposts. It is always the exact same scene (Just with a different tribe leader) with the exact same dialogue. Every. Time.
Puzzles, side quests, story quests – so many things are just doing the exact same thing over and over again with slight variations. One World Eater prep quest may have you collect 5 little rubber duckies. Excuse me. Gumducks.
Another will have you collect 5 Guppos.
Thankfully the boss fights are at least varied enough that they don’t all feel identical – but boy do they tend to follow the same overall patterns.
This was the part of Biomutant that almost drove me away from it entirely: the sheer amount of repetitive tasks that ultimately rewarded me with nothing. But I’ll go more into that when I get to the replay value.
Look. If you can deal with the janky combat, unrewarding exploration, and having to do the same tasks over and over – you can likely have a good time here.
There’s a good, enjoyable game underneath the messy exterior – it just might not be worth trying to get through that exterior.
And here we are – the replay value.
Remember what I said about things ultimately not paying off in the game? About how repetitive things can be? That’s the biggest knock against the game’s overall lasting appeal.
There are a ton of side things to do in the game. Tons of collectibles, a bunch of side characters to meet and do quests for, etc.
But the payoff just isn’t worth it for most of them. Some characters reward you with upgrades to your tools: like the Klawbar (Used to open doors and can be upgraded to open some containers in the world) and the Klonkfist (A weapon that can also be used to break down specific weak walls. Can be upgraded to break down other, specific weak walls).
Others might reward you with a mount, and others reward you with gear (That often isn’t better than anything you might have, depending on when you complete said quests).
The collectibles are the biggest offenders, though. There is nothing I hate more in a game than collectibles that don’t give you anything for finding them.
And there is nothing you get for finding these things in the world, other than experience. That’s it. Collected a full set of frysparkers? Good job! That quest is now cleared from your journal.
They also make up a bulk of the puzzles in the game – so I hope you like solving different iterations on the same kinds of rotation puzzles.
At least trophy/achievement list (Which I platinumed, I might add) is an easy one. Even if it’s not worth going for full, 100% in-game completion.
New Game+ also does change the game up just a bit – enemies are at least a bit stronger, but overall it’s the same game – you just have everything you did at the end of your initial playthrough. Weapons, gear, stats, abilities, levels – everything.
So you can use it as a means to play through the game again and see the choices you didn’t make without having to start from scratch.
Overall: Biomutant just seems to get in its own way a lot. There’s a cool, weird world to explore here – but doing so just isn’t quite worth it.
There’s a good game in here, somewhere. It wants to come out. But it’s buried beneath a ton of weird design choices and unnecessarily repetitive gameplay. When that good part shines through, it shines brightly – but it’s very quickly snuffed out again when all of the other flaws rear their heads.
A bit of polish and refinement, though – and this could be great. There’s potential here. I want more of this world – it’s fun! It’s colorful! But those great parts just can’t get out from under the problems for me right now. Thus, at a full $60 USD, it sits squarely in “rental” territory. I can’t reasonably say there’s enough here to warrant the full price.
It could be a lot better, and I really hope that Experiment 101 gets to make a sequel so that they can improve on what’s good here while buffing out the rough patches.