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PLATFORMS: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (BC), Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S (BC), PC
RELEASE DATE: May 25th, 2021
DEVELOPER: Experiment 101
PUBLISHER: THQ Nordic
ESRB: T for Teen
Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by THQ Nordic for the purpose of this review. The game was reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Gaming Instincts is an Amazon affiliate and does receive financial benefits if you choose to purchase this product on this page.
Biomutant represents a bizarre blend of influences that, if not for a range of production issues, may have actually come together in a compelling fashion. It comes across as an attempt to merge Mass Effect with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, albeit one that is compromised by the limits of time, budget, and a lack of development experience. The resulting mess, though indisputably ambitious, makes for a game that feels untested and is hard to recommend.
Setting and Gameplay
The game takes place in what seems to be a post-apocalypse universe that somewhat resembles earth with furry type mutated creatures inhabiting the world. The game's story is super basic and after about an hour or so of gameplay you are put in the open world of Biomutant. In a nutshell, you play a furry creature that goes through a series of basic tasks in and personal memories that act as tutorials to learn the fundamentals of the game's mechanics such as combat, traversal, etc.
Later on, you find what has happened to the world and how it became polluted with toxicity, mutants, who was responsible for it and what you have to do in order to save it. If you are looking for a ground-breaking and deeply emotional story telling then you must look elsewhere because you won't find it here. The plot is extremely simple and only really exists for the sole reason of having an excuse to explore the game's world. While Biomutant's world may seem interesting at its first sight, but as you continue throughout you journey you start to realize that it is extremely bland, reused and just poorly designed.
Once you start the game you are instantly thrown into the character creator just like in any other RPG. In the character creator, players can pick primary and secondary fur colors for their little cute (or not so cute) furry friend, body type and so on. You are able to pick preset "archetypes" that fit into a variety of different fighting builds. For example, on preset build focuses more on physical strength for close ranged combat with melee weapons, while other class may focus on psi-powers which is the game's equivalent of magic and spell casting. Then, of course there is the ranged weaponry preset which is best used for those who prefer going in with guns blazing.
Here is where Biomutant suffers the most and it is its core gameplay systems. The developers had this ambitions idea of "Hey, we know people really love Zelda: Breath of the Wild and other franchises such as Witcher 3 and Mass Effect. Let's take inspiration from those titles and create our own unique universe and make it really fun and interesting to play in" Well sadly for Experiment 101 that didn't really end up boding too well. Biomutant has many different RPG systems that may sound really good and interesting on paper but are actually horrible and poorly implemented.
The game has a crafting system, upgrading system for gear and weapons. As you explore the world and kill enemies you can find gear and weapon parts that you can either dismantle for parts or sell for Leafs (game's money currency). In the main menu you have the option to mix and match whatever gear or weapon parts you want to create loot that would fit your play style. You can craft a two-handed sword that has its own special sets of attacks based on its weapon class, or go more for a dual wielding 1 handed build instead. Players can do the same thing their gear pieces such as legs, chest, head and so on. Depending on the parts you choose, you can create armor that's more geared towards radiation, flame or cold that keeps your furry friend from getting hurt depending on the environment.
The problem with these systems is that the player's choice is meaningless. Simply because the game is easy. I was playing the game on Hard difficulty, it took me about an hour or so to get used to the game's mechanics and controls and how the game was designed. At first, I was afraid that I might of picked the wrong build or that I am not really being efficient with my choices, but as the hours went by I realized that this game's core systems are poorly executed and might as well not even exist because they add absolutely nothing to the game's overall gameplay experience.
The combat system is also poor. Not only is the combat system repetitive, it also feels weightless and most importantly delayed and unresponsive. I cannot explain how many time's I've died to enemies because of the unresponsiveness of the game's controls and delayed input lag. Just as a quick note here, I am a massive From Software fan and I have plenty of experience with Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Sekiro which are all considered RPG/Action Combat games where frame-perfect parries and dodges can mean life or death for your character.
Biomutant's combat system is basic, it's based of combos system just like most hack'n'slash games, but also with addition of RPG elements such as weapon damage and the addition of being able to use ranged weapons. The game has dodge and parry mechanics as well. There have been countless times when I press the parry button and my character just sits there for at least a second or two before the animation plays out of him trying to parry an attack. If the parry misses, I am then being bullied by a pack of mobs that start hitting me and then it just chains into a stun-lock and drains my health down to zero.
There have also been plenty of cases where I try to dodge roll out of trouble but the character is still frozen in place because my parry either failed originally or is still stuck in an animation from a previous hit from an enemy. I have played many games with unresponsive controls and horrible input delay, but Biomutant is on a whole different level. This happened throughout almost every single encounter over the course of my 20-25 hour playtime of this game on hard difficulty and it was not fun. We are in the year 2021, this type of coding and poor play-testing is absolutely unacceptable in this day and age. I love challenging games and I am quite patient as a player, but what I am not patient with is bad coding, unresponsive combat mechanics. controls and poorly designed game systems.
Exploring the world in Biomutant also feels bland and uninspiring. After about an hour or so, players finally get to explore and see what's the world is made of and sadly, the world of Biomutant feels lifeless. While the game is set in post-apocalyptic setting that doesn't mean that the world still has to feel lifeless. The world is riddled with same-looking environments, small variety of enemies with copied-pasted animations and class-types. There are also NPCs that you meet in the world, that speak in a gibberish language and give you pointless quests that serve no interesting purpose when it comes to the game's lore or rewards. The only good reward in these quests are the experience points so you can level quicker and become more overpowered.
As you explore different places, you will come across puzzles that require you to match white and yellow colors on different types of objects such as TVs, phone booths and so on. These also count as collectible like quests, they are spread across the entire map of the game and are all exactly the same in principal and offer absolutely nothing unique in return. I understand game developers have to reuse their assets in order to create things to a certain extent but Biomutant reuses so many assets, that it almost feels like the developers did not care about making an immersive or an interesting world whatsoever and were looking for an easy way out.
For example, one of the side quests asked me to find 5 and solve 5 phone booths puzzles that are spread across the entire map, but another asked me to find and solve TV puzzles. The puzzle is exactly same, but laid out in a different pattern and you also have to solve them in less than 10 moves which by the way is extremely easy, because all players have to do is match colors. Imagine doing about 10 types of such side quests across the entire world map, but only on a different type of physical object. I have completed over 50 quests during the process of this review and still have 40+ more of sidequests to do that are all basically copy and paste. Lazy design at its finest.
Another side quest asks you find 23 poisoners that are imprisoned in a cage, once you free them you have a choice to either kill them or save them. Killing them grants you Dark points and saving them grants you Light points. This game even went as far as adding evil/good "choices" to your character that don't really matter either at the end of the day and are only there to make the game feel somewhat unique when again, another aspect that is badly executed. Biomutant has a mount system too. This is probably the only mechanic that is somewhat properly implemented and is quite useful in the game. You can acquire different mounts throughout your journey. They are easy to use and control and make traveling the world a lot faster and easier.
The game also features Tribes feature where you can find tribes and either befriend them to fight along your side and use them to kill other tribes or vice versa. One tribe believes that peace is only obtainable through killing others and restoring order, while other tribe believes in unity and fighting together to save the world. During this review, I went with a purely dark path and joined the tribe that believes that the world can only saved if there is only 1 tribe in power. In all honesty, I had no care for any of the tribes.
Biomutant does a poor job of making the players care for any of the characters, I never felt bad for killing the prisoners that I freed or the tribes that I've killed, simply because the lore is just boring and not interesting. At first, I tried listening to the dialogue and see how I would feel, but the narrator's horrific and obnoxious "old-grandpa" telling me a bedtime story type of a narrator pissed me off even more. He pissed me off so much that I started skipping every single dialogue possible, regardless if it was a main questline or a side quest. Thankfully, I later found out that there is an option turn off the narrator completely. While having that option is nice, you still should strive for good writing and a solid narration that doesn't bore the player.
Overall, Biomutant is a perfect example of what happens to a game when its too ambitions. This issue in the game development is known as "feature creep" where the designers and core development team have all these great ideas on paper for a game project. Instead of just creating one or two ideas that are well-exectured, they decide to bite more than they can chew and end up hurting the game in the long run.
Visuals, Audio and Technical Prowess
The audio in Biomutant is nothing special, I would argue to say that its poor as well. Throughout the entirety of my 25 hour or so playthrough, I've only heard two or three tracks that are constantly repeated based on where you are on the map. The music would also snap in and out of different tunes at weird times. As soon as my furry friend walked into a building a specific music track would start playing, as soon as I get close to a wall the game starts considering that I am outside the building and starts playing a different track that's normally played outdoors. This doesn't make any sense and seems very in consistent and also throws off the player. While it doesn't really detract from the game's gameplay experience, it still impacts the immersion of the game in a negative way.
The characters speaking gibberish at first was funny, but then it just became obnoxious and not funny anymore and got old real quick. During the main questline, I could not take anything seriously, due to how everything was portrayed. To be quite honest, I am not sure what the developers intent was when they made the characters speak in a gibberish language. I assumed it was for humor, but if that's the case then why have a narrator that speaks clearly in English and is explaining what the creatures are saying? Again, confusing and doesn't make any sense. Maybe I am reading too much into it, but the intent to me was not clear.
The game was reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Biomutant played at a silky smooth 60fps with HDR and looked quite decent. However, it's very clear that this game was developed originally for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The visuals are not mind blowing, there are also some very low poly and low-res textured assets that are easily noticeable. Normally, low-poly with low-res textures are usually showcased from a far distance, but many of the assets here were seen close up and they looked very pixelated and ugly. The game also has consistent LOD (level of detail) issues and pop-in Unacceptable for a system like Xbox Series X and I am 100% confident its not a hardware problem, but rather poor coding and optimization.
The game is not a looker by any means, but I do not think it tried to be. Overall, the audio is not very good, the visuals are okay and are acceptable for when the game was being made at the time. However, if we are too judge this game based of 2020 standards or later when it comes to visuals, then its quite abysmal and looks like a high-end mobile game with many overly repeated assets such as the enemy variety types and copy-pasted animations and same looking environments across the entire world map.
Oh also, the game has an amazing habit of kicking you out of the game into the Xbox Series X main menu every-time you die. At a few points during my playthrough, I kept dying in a specific combat section due to issues discussed previously that plague the combat system. After my character's death, I would click load checkpoint only to be thrown out into user interface of Xbox Series X. This game to me about 4-6 times in a row in the same area in a span of 10 minutes. This became extremely infuriating and made me take a break for about an hour. Absolutely unacceptable.
Biomutant is an embarrassment and is one of the worst games I've played in probably the last decade or so. It's a game that severely suffers from an identity crisis and doesn't know what it wants to be. Is it an open world action game that resembles Witcher 3 mixed with fast paced hack'n'slash combat? Or is it Zelda: Breath of the Wild with an amazing sense of exploration? The answer is that its neither, its just a bad game all around. There is nothing good about it. The combat system is weightless, repetitive and as previously discussed very unresponsive with horrible input lag and just not fun. Exploring the world is not fun, everything is the same, if you've done it once then you've done the whole game.
The game has no soul or anything that's remotely interesting. It's also riddled with horrible boring side quests and a ton of random and quite frequent crashes. The game is a $60 and its a complete rip off. Do yourself a favor and stay as far away as possible from this game, and also be a good friend and tell your friends to read or watch this review f they are even thinking of spending a dime on this. If I am being quite honest, the one thing that Experiement 101 did do right is calling the game Biomutant because that's exactly what this game is - a Biomutant that belongs in the dumpster that is full of toxic waste.Stay tuned at Gaming Instincts via Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook for more gaming news