Biomutant (Review): A Work in Progress

Thanks to Marvel, when one thinks about the word “mutant” they tend to think old guys who can bend metal or angry Canadians with claws. Biomutant tells a somewhat a different story, and instead of using humans who have mutated into more animalistic forms, they use animals who have mutated in more humanoid forms. The result is somewhat messy, although, in that mess, lies plenty of potential.

Before I say anymore, I am going to be completely forward with you. I had planned to have this review done weeks ago. I had planned to have this out on the same day the game was released. After all, I was given a review copy, so why wouldn’t I? The truth is this, much like many others, Biomutant was one of my most anticipated games of 2021. Ever since it was revealed as a “post-apocalyptic kung-fu fable” back in 2017, I’ve been incredibly eager to get my hands on it. It took several years to make it to its release, but when it landed, critics took the game’s feet right out from under it, giving it sub-par reviews, all for the same reasons. In fact, it was barely able to rise above an average Metacritic score of 60. After getting my hands on it, I could see why.

This is where my procrastination comes in. I played about ten hours of the game, and turned it off. At first, I intended to write a disappointing review, echoing what many others have said, but then I was surprised by the way Experiment 101 (the developers) have responded to the feedback. Instead of burying their heads and moving on to something else, they’ve listened to the fans and the critics and have become determined to make the game better. Instead of promising things and fixes and not delivering most of them like 2017’s Mass Effect Andromeda, the team over at Experiment 101 fully intends to follow through. They’ve even already begun releasing patches to fix some of the more surface issues. That being said, I’m going to tell you my initial thoughts, but this is will be more of a review in progress. I plan on going back and restarting the game in a few weeks, once more of the bugs have been fixed. I really wanted to love this game, and I hope that I still will.

Please don’t take this to be my final thoughts, because they aren’t. This is more of a first impression.

Biomutant is a game that has more potential than even its developers seem to be aware of. It has potential that expands through every aspect of its storytelling and gameplay. Because of this unrealized potential, the game is somewhat disappointing.

To summarize Biomutant’s story, there’s a giant tree that is very originally named the “Tree of Life.” Fitting to modern and retro narratives alike, natural disaster strikes the tree, creating pollution and welcoming dark things to further its destruction. It’s up to you to travel to the roots of the tree to take on the creatures that are helping speed along the tree’s death. You also have to deal with six tribes who can’t decide whether they want to heal the tree of expand their power. Like the many other games that make use of British narrators, your choices affect the story, so choose wisely.

Before throwing my critical stick into the spokes of Biomutant’s bicycle, I want to talk about things I like about the game. First of all, I like the freedom of choice the game offers. There are clear influences from games like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Final Fantasy VII, and even Borderlands in the way the game doesn’t prioritize where you go. You are free to explore things at your own pace and decide which path you will take from beginning to end. It also offers you skill trees that are easier to navigate than most. To top things off, the world is very beautiful, and while not every aspect of the game has the same level of polish, the color pallets that are used are vibrant when they need to be and dark when it serves the narrative. This is something many modern games struggle to balance, especially with HDR settings on modern devices often overshooting or undershooting the lighting in the room. Biomutant was pretty easy to look at.

Please remember that this next part can change when I update this review. When it comes to the negative things in Biomutant, they’re not unplayable bad, they’re just not fully realized, thus making them bad. The most noticeable negative thing in the game is the narrator. Much like Fable, there’s a British narrator that talks you through most of the game, taking characters that seem interesting through written dialogue and removing any emotion one might feel from the story. Seriously, with a little voice acting, the entire feeling of the game could have changed for the better.

When you start the game, you’re put through a character creator after an opening cinematic. For people like myself, who like to have a balanced experience, you’re out of luck. Trying to keep your character’s skills balanced will result in your character not having any skills to speak of. As you move the dot towards the different sides of the attribute circle, your character also changes appearance. They become frail if you choose intelligence, and they become neanderthal-like if you choose strength. I tried to move more on the strength side, and my character’s head shrank, while the body grew. When I moved it towards the intelligence side, my character’s head grew as the body shrank. Is it too much to ask to be smart and strong? Have they never heard of Tony Stark or Steve Rogers?

Once you create your character and choose their class, you’re placed through one of the longest tutorials since Assassin’s Creed III. It’s in this tutorial that you find out what the game’s story is about, while also finding the game’s biggest flaw. The flaw I speak of is the combat. It’s here where you can tell that Biomutant really wants to be a certain type of game, but its not sure what kind of game it wants to be. You can use melee weapons, you can shoot, you can do both, you can do many things, depending on what class you chose, which creates all of these secondary mechanics that are incredibly difficult to keep track of. I found myself having to constantly reopen the control scheme to figure out how to do things. While I appreciate what they’re trying to do, it just feels like too much.

Finally, the combat is not satisfying at all. While the game moves at a pace similar to Devil May Cry or many other action RPGs, taking down an enemy just doesn’t feel right. While it doesn’t lack sound effects like in Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, it lacks something else, but I’m not quite sure what that something is. It just doesn’t feel good.

I know the game was put together by a small team, and it hit a lot of bumps in the road on its way to release, but it feels like a game that should have been released on the Xbox 360. Though, again, it has the potential to be an incredible modern-gen game. With the patches being released and support it’s being given, I can see this game being amazing by the end of the year. I fully intend to start over and play the entire game in the coming weeks. I love the idea that this game has so far presented to me. Now I want to play the experience it was meant to be.

Played On: Xbox Series X

Reviewed by: Josh Pederson

(Please note that for this review, Pop Culture Cosmos/Game Source did receive a review code/model/sample from the company/developer/public relations firm responsible for distribution to the press.)

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