Biomutant Review: "I Was Once a Strange Nameless Creature"

A character aiming in Biomutant

The game Biomutant is from the Swedish studio Experiment 101., first announced at the Gamescom exhibition in 2017, immediately caught the attention of the public. Just think about it: we were promised a “post-apocalyptic kung fu fable” – already sounds interesting! The roles are played by not ordinary people, but intelligent animals walking on their hind legs. The heroes can use various mutations, bioprosthesis, carry weapons – both cold and guns with pistols, use telekinesis or psionic attacks… It sounds too tempting to be true! But, fueled by the impressions from the trailers, many people added Biomutant to their wishlist.

And now the game is out. The players’ reaction – to put it mildly, is ambiguous. More negative than positive. Were the promises, as usual, a lie? Did they not give enough fluffiness to the animals, radioactivity to the post-apocalypse, polish to the gameplay, polygons to the weapons?

Let’s try to figure it out.

A character wielding a large weapon

The backstory, and the story itself, are simple – we’ve seen them a thousand times before. The chosen hero with memory gaps and a “burned down home” in the background, a crumbling doomed world, Devourer monsters, the Tree of Life that needs to be saved. As for the mediocre choices, we are offered basic “dark” and “light” sides, presented in dialogue and quest options – “help everyone, respect others” Light and “every man for himself, survival of the fittest” Dark. In the ancient and venerable Jade Empire from Bioware, similar “sides” (the Open Palm and the Closed Fist) were presented much better.

Playing Biomutant for the story is a lost cause. Side quests of the “fetch and carry” variety won’t sweeten the pill. But for everything else – please! For the charming big-eyed creatures, for the brightly-acidic and visually stunning landscapes, for the post-apocalyptic ruins where it’s so interesting to dig through for more crafting junk…

Yes, the game has crafting – and it’s very diverse and intriguing. You can upgrade existing guns and armor pieces (and all the upgrades will be noticeable to the naked eye!), you can collect new ones from components. There are also mounts – that’s something you wouldn’t expect at all! Fluffy, funny, capable of galloping and evading attacks in a spectacular way. There are puzzles. They are, admittedly, extremely simple, even a baby could solve them. There is a large, colorful, convenient map for exploration – and when we steer away from the starting story rails, the coveted open-world unfolds before us. Go right, go left, delve into underground bunkers, wander in the thickets of poisonous forests…

A character riding a mount

All these forests and bunkers, by the way, look quite good. Behind every hill, there is some interesting loot or a mini-quest to “collect all the collectible items” (although simple, still), the time of day and weather change dynamically, tails and fur get wet in the rain and fluff up in the sun, nature, having taken over abandoned cities, blooms, grows, and turns green. It’s beautiful.

As we progress through the plot, we also capture enemy forts-camps, “repainting” them in our color and earning reputation with friendly faction-tribes: a small drop of strategy! In the captured forts, there are shops and other useful places.

Even character creation is worth mentioning separately – where else will we be allowed to play with the genetic code of a fluffy-tailed little creature resembling either a raccoon or a lemur? A pleasant difference from another “create Homo sapiens number 3490”. And the appearance of the creature is always very charming, fierce, and cartoonish – as if it’s straight out of a new blockbuster from Pixar.

Character creation in Biomutant

Why were the reviews of Biomutant on the first day not just mixed, but downright Mostly Negative? (Now the scales have tipped back towards Mixed.) What did this cute Action-RPG, practically bug-free and with charming graphics, do to deserve such a reception? What are the downsides of the game?

Firstly, the price. Let’s just say it’s not humane. The developers were probably inspired by the hype of the “most anticipated game” and raised the price to the level of AAA projects. There’s no need to talk about European and American prices or the price on the PlayStation Store – it’s better not to look there, so as not to pour valerian in your coffee later. But Biomutant is in no way an AAA game, not The Witcher or Persona, and no cute lemurs will save the situation. Therefore, positive reviews from those who, as usual on Steam, got the game for free in exchange for a review, are drowning in a sea of outraged “what are we paying for?!” comments.

In-game dialogue scene

Secondly, the narrator. Yes, that guy through whom the game’s plot is conveyed to us (because the protagonist, traditionally, is as silent as a fish, and the dialogue choices are expressed, apparently, through gestures). He will be with you constantly, and if at the start of the game his phrases are endearing, then after two or three hours you will want to stuff your ears with cotton just to make him shut up. It’s a pity because the guy’s voice is very pleasant! But with comments on every action of the protagonist and every happening moment (“it started raining, and we will go”, “we found a useful thing in the trash can”, “hurray, a precise shot!”, “we took two steps, how good life is”), even Mother Teresa would lose her patience. Do you think I’m exaggerating? If only. And this is with the comments set at a 10% frequency, it’s scary to think what will happen if you turn the setting up to 100%. By the way, if you set it to 0% – it won’t help, the narrator will always be happy to explain to you what a broken refrigerator is, or serve as talking subtitles for the dialogue. The last fact means that there are no other voiced characters in the game. Animals communicate with squeaks, squeals, and murmurs, like aliens in KOTOR, and in terms of coherent speech, you will hear… that’s right, the same guy. Non-stop. In the third person. “He said, she said.” “The merchant is happy to show you his assortment of weapons.” Damn you, you blabbermouth! Just turn off the sound completely.

Tim Buckley wonderfully depicted how all of this looks in his gamer comic “Ctrl+Alt+Del”:

A screenshot referencing Ctrl+Alt+Delete

Thirdly – combat. It… is strange. It seems like there are a bunch of combo moves, but in reality, we only use two or three of them well. We simply shoot down big enemies from a distance, making sure to dodge. Empty the magazine, run around while the weapon reloads, repeat. We handle the small ones however we want, all that kung fu, or rather wong fu beauty is actually completely impractical if you have good weapons. In the end, fighting with small enemies is boring (they pose no threat), and to be honest, fighting with big ones is also boring (even if one swipe of their paw takes away half of your health, the main thing is to roll at the right time).

Image related to developer commentary

What do we have in the end? The action part of the ARPG is not as interesting as it could be; the RPG part is well thought out, but a significant portion of the atmosphere is killed by dialogues like “so-and-so greets you and asks how you’re doing” with the same annoying voice. What remains is a post-apocalyptic beautiful setting with fluffy inhabitants, exploration of the surroundings, and photographing landscapes (the game even has a separate Photo Mode for this): not little, but not much either. A cute game, definitely not deserving negative reviews on Steam, not even deserving mixed reviews… but also not deserving its price. Currently, the price tag for Biomutant is unreasonably high. I’m not sure if I can recommend it even with a 50% discount. Maybe someday, if the developers come to their senses and cut down their demands by a third?

(And for those who want to play a kung-fu fairy tale with choices, I recommend the same Jade Empire. Seriously, the game was released in 2005, and it’s still beautiful like a sunrise!)

Biomutant was released to the public yesterday, May 25, 2021. The game is available on PC (Steam and GOG), PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

PC, PS4, Xbox One
Action, RPG
THQ Nordic
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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