First Impressions: Biomutant – does it live up to the hype?
Great on paper, but does it hold up when it comes time to actually play?
It feels like an entire lifetime ago that we first heard about Biomutant in 2017. Then, in 2019, KnowTechie got to see it at PAX East. Fast forward to late 2020 and my son grabbed a copy of Walmart’s in-house gaming magazine because Biomutant was on the cover.
Now, in May 2021, like a fart in church, Biomutant has silently released and it seems to have made a big stink.
Even after playing it three years ago, I still found myself wondering just what Biomutant was. It’s easy to describe after playing, but I’m still not sure the game completely understands the concept.
Biomutant is an open-world hack-and-slash RPG with a lot of customization and crafting options. On paper, it’s not hard to see why Biomutant garnered significant hype within the last few months. Open-world RPGs are the flavor of the month and one with this level of customization and a unique world concept could stand above them all.
Biomutant tries. It really attempts to do a lot, and either the small studio broke off more than they could chew, or in the four years since the game was announced, it went through numerous creative visions. I lean towards the latter.
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You see, Biomutant is surprisingly pretty for a last-gen game. It also offers a surprisingly high amount of character customization and design for a small studio endeavor. There’s even a lot of combat flexibility with skills in both psi powers and mutant abilities that can be flexed into the weapons you use.
Speaking of weapon combos, the game’s “Wung-Fu” system is pretty standard for a hack-and-slash game, but different weapon types really jazz it up.
Sounds fantastic, right?
Biomutant is a jack of trades, master of none
I’ve put about 12 hours into Biomutant and admittedly have only really just grasped where the story is heading. The game’s first story beats have you dealing with uniting the tribes and standing against the giant World-Eaters. Unfortunately, I’ve just about completely lost all desire to continue this adventure. I wouldn’t call the game anti-fun but it doesn’t do anything exceptionally well.
That character customization from earlier? From my experiences, most of it doesn’t matter because dual wielding can’t match the damage output of heavier weapons. Guns allow you to put down a lot of damage with a lot less risk and those special attacks aren’t something you can lean on. Target tracking in combat can be frustrating at times, with many attacks not going where they are needed or enemies getting pulled into attacks that shouldn’t be. The game forces you to be a little more flexible at times, but overall, it’s very messy.
The story offers some options to change the path, but the light and dark system come out to “be a jerk” or “don’t be a jerk”. Early in the game, I was presented with a choice to join an alliance. I’m told to meet with a group that believes might is right or the other, that thinks that working together is the only way to survive.
I immediately beeline to team friendship and form an alliance. As I leave, I’m chastised by several villagers that were upset I considered team Conan the Barbarian. Except, I didn’t. The game, by default, believes I went to both places, kinda silly in my opinion.
However, if we are talking about the story, it also important to note this game is heavy on it. It’s not a great one, of course, but there is a lot of it. It’s supposed to be an emotional ride about running from your destiny and finding who it is you really are by cutting your own path.
Your parents die early in a flashback and it’s hilarious. Your mom (or Mooma) is a great protector of the village and founder of Wung-Fu. She dies so quickly, I thought it was a joke. Your dad (or Popsi) gets yeeted off the side of a cliff. I feel like this story was rewritten a lot.
The last major story gripe is that the entire thing is told by a narrator. He voices almost everything but your light side and dark side. Only, the game is voice acted as well. Each character you encounter that you speak with talks in gibberish, like in Banjo and Kazooie.
The game finds it relevant to let the speaker talk, and then the narrator tells you what’s up. It is a long process and with fairly weak writing and it doesn’t pay off at all. It’s also silly to hear the narrator say things in combat like “killed that one” or “slash!”
It’s not the worst game and there is fun to be had
I don’t want to sound like a wet blanket here. Biomutant isn’t the worst game I’ve played this year. Hell, it isn’t the worst game I’ve played in May. It’s not even an objectively bad game. It’s a good game with what seems to be development issues or a lack of polish. Movement is a weightless and icky feeling, but it is pretty to look at. I thought it was neat when I went running and my character ran on all fours and but its ears back. Biomutant is filled with things like that.
Many times, when I was playing Biomutant, I found myself in awe of the landscapes and the world. You go from murky undergrounds to lush woodlands and vibrant swamps. There is a lot to look at and if I were to judge the game on its own, it would actually outperform next-gen games like Immortals Fenyx Rising. The soundtrack isn’t bad either, pulling from eastern influences, but not feeling out of place.
There will be people out there that really enjoy Biomutant. I’m not far enough in to really score it fairly. I’ll just warn you that there was some sizeable hype for this game but it’s a middle-of-the-road product at very best. I’ll probably end up seeing the game to completion but I am going to spend more time with games that make me happy, over being frustrated and bored.
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