Developer – Experiment 101
Publisher – THQ Nordic
Platform(s) – PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
MSRP – $59.99
Release Date – May 25, 2021
Disclaimer: Review Copy was Provided for this Review
When I tell you I knew absolutely nothing about Biomutant a few short weeks, I mean it. This game seemingly came out of nowhere even though it’s been announced since 2017. My interest in Biomutant came about due to a couple of the gameplay videos I’ve seen in recent weeks. What I saw in those videos for those few short minutes convinced me that I wanted to give Biomutant a try.
Aside from those gameplay videos, I didn’t see anything else that this game had to offer and that’s the way I wanted it. Similar to Returnal, a game I recently played and reviewed, I wanted to go in knowing as little as I wanted so that I could be more surprised by the final product.
One thing I did do a ton of research on before delving into Biomutant was the actual developer, Experiment 101. Until a little while ago, I had no idea that Experiment 101 is made up of only 20 developers. The size of the team makes sense considering how long this game has been in development. I didn’t know what to expect when it comes to the size and scope of this game but after 25+ hours with Biomutant, I can comfortably say the size of the studio makes me appreciate what they accomplished even more.
Biomutant has a storyline that fluctuates based on the decisions you make in dialogue, combat, and other miscellaneous activities. The world of Biomutant is operated on the power of the Tree of Life, but the Tree has long been devoid of power due to a plague that hit the world many years before. Besides the damage to the Tree of Life, the plague caused oil pollution, mutated creatures, and an overall malignant land.
You play as a rabbit-like creature whose goal and past depend on the way you play. Biomutant has an aura system that has a fracture between light and dark and it’s up to you to choose your path with your actions. This review will be from the standpoint of someone who played the entirety of Biomutant favoring the light aura. The light aura has a meaning of compassion and respect that is the catalyst for your entire journey. I have yet to play through Biomutant following the dark aura, but it’s safe to say I have every intention of doing so.
The light aura path led me to do everything in my ability to restore power to the Tree of Life. 4 large unearthly mutated creatures known as the World Eaters have each taken over a branch in the Tree of Life. You must defeat each World Eater to free each branch in the Tree of Life from corruption. To get to these World Eaters, you’ll encounter a collection of quirky characters that will help you along your journey to free the land from the hazardous pollution it has become known for.
Along the way, you’ll encounter tribes who have long been at war since the plague hit and it’s up to you to defeat them all and decide their fate. The plot has a similar feel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild but it works for what it’s supposed to achieve because you have a set goal and stick with it throughout the entire game with a few hiccups in your path here and there.
The story of Biomutant doesn’t take itself too seriously, it is filled with a ton of charm, entertaining moments, and the feeling of choice doesn’t feel like an illusion like it does in many other games. I did get a chuckle occasionally out of the dialogue and the narrative kept my interest for a majority of my playthrough. David Shaw Parker plays the role of narrator extremely well and his delivery of lines led to why I enjoyed the dialogue so much. If I had a minor nitpick, it would be that a couple of character exchanges can overstay their welcome and feel a bit bloated in terms of how much useless dialogue you have to go through to get to plot progression and interesting lore. Overall, Experiment 101 did a great job on the plot and narrative structure, I can’t wait to see how dynamic the darkness aura feels in comparison.
Biomutant is set in a third-person open-world environment. I had hoped that Biomutant wouldn’t feel too stretched out and endless in terms of length like other open-world titles. I’m happy to report that this game feels like the perfect length and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Biomutant reminds me of Ghost of Tsushima from the standpoint that I constantly stray off from the main plot in favor of world progression.
Traversing in this world feels so satisfying because you feel rewarded for your exploring. There’s something of worth in every nook and cranny and it gives you a sense that your long expeditions matter. Traversing to find loot and mustard creatures wouldn’t feel as enjoyable as it is if it wasn’t for the in-depth and broad span of the upgrading and crafting system.
If there’s a fault that I think Biomutant may have with many people, it’s the fact that they throw a lot at you at the beginning of the game. There’s a lot to take in from the aura system, tribes, armor, melee, guns, mutations, upgrade & crafting systems, and so much more. It was a bit overwhelming for me at first, but I adjusted relatively quickly.
Upgrades are available in the form of upgrade points that are obtained by leveling up. Upgrade points can be used towards Vitality (Health), Strength (Melee Damage), Intellect (Power), Agility (Move Speed), Charisma (Barter), and Luck. Besides upgrades, some abilities are unlocked by points that are obtained from defeating certain mutations and engaging in specific dialogue. Certain abilities are excluded or obtainable based on whether you have more of a light or dark aura.
Crafting can seem a bit confusing at first, it’s a thing you’ll have to take time to fully comprehend. With all the exploring you’re bound to do it’s likely you’ll end up in the same situation I was in where you have more resources than you know what to do with most of the time. You can scrap resources for parts to help with crafting or sell them to collect money that you can then use to buy clothes, weapons, and materials for.
You can craft addons for your clothes and weapons that add to their overall durability, protection, and damage. I do enjoy how you can truly feel the difference in combat when you’re using items that have been elevated from crafting. Like I mentioned earlier, elements like this make me appreciate that Biomutant was made by a developer of 20 people.
Speaking of combat, let’s talk about how it feels since it’s what you’ll be engaging in for the majority of the game. Combat is an odd one for me because I like it 75% of the time but there’s that 25% where I don’t enjoy it. There a 5 combat classes to choose from at the start of the game in Dead Eye, Commando, PSI-Freak, Saboteur, and Sentinel. There’s also a Mercenary class, but it’s locked behind a pre-order. I played all of Biomutant with the Dead Eye class which mixes in melee with ranged weapon damage. Dead Eye also has an exclusive ability where you can perform an instant reload by pressing a button when you are low on ammo. Dead Eye as a class is more suited to my playstyle with a mix of close and ranged combat, but there are 4 other classes to choose from so it’s likely you’ll find one that caters to you.
Enemies can feel easy to walk through early in the game. The more you progress throughout the world, the more difficult and plentiful the mutated creatures will get. You’ll engage in groups of enemies throughout pockets of the land. You’ll even find tribe outposts where each outpost has a different way to go about approaching It. You’ll have times where you’re battling your way through, then you might spread out a sea of wasps throughout the outpost so that they’re forced to evacuate, or simply bring a peaceful end through conversation.
I already brought up player abilities you can use, but I never mentioned transport abilities. You can use a trusty steed, a gigantic mech, a large rideable hand, and much more transport options to help in combat when the situation permits it. Most of these transport abilities have their use in boss battles against the World Eater which are by far the most fun I’ve had when I’m playing Biomutant. You go from the inside of a mech firing bullets at a World Eater to being inside its stomach and damaging its core and it’s done to perfection and just shifts so naturally.
There’s a couple of sore spots for the combat, one being the dodging mechanics. I find that the dodging can be especially clunky and doesn’t work when it should. The combat can take a hit in terms of framerate because of how much is transpiring on the screen at once. This leads me to my biggest issue with Biomutant, its performance issues.
I know that this game was made by an extremely small development team, but it’s hard not to notice all the optimization issues. My game crashed twice throughout my 25+ hour playthrough and the first crash I had was a really bad one. I played the PlayStation 4 version of Biomutant via backward compatibility on PlayStation 5. Just want to make it clear, if you’re looking for graphics along the lines of Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Last of Us Part II, you’re not going to get it here.
Textures are muddied on tons of surfaces, plus pop-ins are extremely frequent the more you play. The framerate isn’t a constant problem but it does intrude here and there, especially near buildings, villages, or as I mentioned just a bit ago, in the heat of combat as well. I don’t know how performance is on Xbox and PC, but I would think the issues are similar on that front as well. These issues weren’t a massive deal-breaker to me and I suggest it won’t be for many others as well, but they definitely altered my experience.
I can’t believe that a game I didn’t know about a few weeks ago turned out to be one of my favorite games of the year so far. This game has been in development for a long time and all things considered, I think Experiment 101 should be extremely proud of what they have accomplished with Biomutant. I finished this game and I’m only 42% in overall completion, I beat it in 25-30 hours and I’m sure if you did all the side missions you could easily double that. Yes, this game isn’t anything you haven’t seen before in terms of its open-world design. Some may see that as a fault, I personally don’t.
Chatter for this game has gone up substantially over the past couple of weeks, mostly due to recent social activity from the publisher, THQ Nordic. After sitting down to play it, I hope for nothing but success for this game when it releases in a few short hours as of this writing. Biomutant is filled with a fun narrative that doesn’t feel bloated, engaging combat & open-world mechanics, and a character creator that I spent forever in. It’s a shame about some of the performance issues as they do leave a bit of a dent in the overall quality but not enough to bring down my experience substantially. From what I understand, developer, Experiment 101 wants to keep their identity in terms of their small team so it’s probably going to be a while until we see their next game. Whatever they decide to make next, Biomutant has assured me that I’ll be there when the time comes.
Biomutant is a sleeper hit for 2021 and is up there with Returnal and It Takes Two as my favorite games of the year so far. Tons of dynamic and well-done aspects make me sit back and remember constantly that this is from a 20 person dev team. Performance issues aside, Biomutant is an entertaining open-world voyage that I’m glad I sat down and spent time in.
Rating - 8/10