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Game Info:

Biomutant
Developed By: Experiment 101
Published By: THQ Nordic
Released: May 25, 2021
Available On: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action Role-Playing
ESRB Rating: T for Teen: Alcohol Reference, Blood, Crude Humor, Fantasy Volience, Use of Tobacco
Number of Players: Single Player
Price: $59.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you THQ Nordic for providing us with a review code!

The first thing that caught my attention to Biomutant was its colorful world. It goes to show what solid art direction can do to garner interest. Swedish developer Experiment 101 enters the open-world genre with their debut game Biomutant. However, this isn’t the first game that many of the team worked on as a handful or more have worked on games such as Just Cause 2 as Avalance Studios developers. So these guys have a general idea as to what makes an expansive open-world engaging to navigate.

Biomutant has the player control an unnamed anthropomorphic animal of unspecified sex. In this introduction, you’ll choose the race, class, and fur color of your mutant animal. There are no specific choices in terms of visuals, instead opting for a slider of sorts. Your character’s appearance, in the beginning, will change depending on if you specialize your starting stats into strength, intelligence, vitality, agility, and luck. After your visuals are to your liking, you can choose your class. Classes are mostly chosen depending on the starting abilities, such as the Sabetour having the ability to dual wield one-handed weapons, the Psi-Freak having a 20% increased energy regeneration, or Sentinel having 10% extra armor. In most cases, you’ll be able to earn the starting perks from leveling up, but a few are exclusive to said class, such as the Psi-Freak. There isn’t a lot of pressure on your choices as later in the game, if you happened to be unsatisfied with your physical appearance, it can be changed at certain points in a playthrough.

Thrown into a tutorial, Biomutant explains the controls by giving the player a taste of the fast combat that awaits you. Both keyboard and gamepad feel nice and every button/key can be remapped to your choosing. If you use a PlayStation gamepad, there is the option in the settings to change all button prompts to DualShock4. Unfortunately, after the combat tutorial, it decides to hammer you down with up to two hours of exposition and explaining the various mechanics. It would have been better if it was spaced throughout your playthrough. It’s a nasty pace breaker that leaves a poor first impression. Once the world opens up, Biomutant feels a lot better.

As I stated before, the world of Biomutant is lush, extravagant, and possibly its best feature. Experiment 101 used these bright cheery colors for the scenery in contrast to the more realistic and gritty style of the inhabitants. Somehow it manages to work. The open world is massive and outside of very specific areas, you can go wherever you want. In fact, you’re encouraged to do so as one of the first main quest lines is to ally yourself with one of the six tribes that border the edges of the Tree of Life. Each tribe represents a side of morality ranging from somewhat light, light, and maximum light, to somewhat dark, dark, and maximum dark. Since the player will eventually see all the tribes, you’ll come across some truly spectacular areas. Seeing what new areas are to explore is surely one of the highlights of Biomutant. A fun photo mode that can be accessed at any time is also available, letting you see the world from a new perspective. All the pictures I used for my review were taken from Photo Mode.

Biomutant
Highlights:

Strong Points: Large colorful world; refined crafting system; fast and fluid movement
Weak Points: Poor sound mixing/design; beginning tutorial is rough; unbalanced combat
Moral Warnings: Plenty of toilet humor; some blood effects on a few weapons; the psionic abilities tend to lean towards magic; morality system lets you choose the “dark” path, having you go on a quest to destroy the world; some NPCs smoke and drink

It’s such a shame that despite the excellent visuals, the sound design manages to be rather weak overall. A weird choice was the usage of a narrator, who commentates the journey, as well as translates for a few characters as everyone speaks gibberish. He, as well as the two beings who represent your moral conscience, have the only speaking roles in the entire game. The narrator will also inject commentary when you’re exploring the world. If you get too annoyed by the narrator, there is the option to decrease his commentary to zero, where he will only speak for the most important of cutscenes. But that isn’t what I personally felt was weak in terms of sound. I felt that the impact of sound effects was just too soft in and out of combat. Everything sounded muddled and distant. The visuals are perfectly fine, and even for certain moves, there are comic book-like words that pop up (these can also be decreased or outright removed like the narrator's voice). None of it sounded like hard-hitting bashes or slashes, but like soft slaps across a room.

In combat, the character has multiple tools at their disposal, such as guns, numerous weapons, hand-to-hand combat, psionic, and bio abilities. When leveling up, there is the option to add +10 to any of your stats. Each level up grants one upgrade point to use for moves or perks. Psionic and bio points are found in the overworld through shrines or bio tanks (as well as specific enemies). These points are used to earn new psionic or bio abilities that tend to scale in damage with your intellect stat. In battle, your furry fighter is fast, acrobatic, and versatile. At any point, you’ll have an option for whatever situation you’ll find yourself in. Visually, there is a ton of style to it, but when actually playing it, it is simple. There is one option for attacking, one option for shooting guns, and some hotkeys for bio/psionic abilities. Sometimes, you’ll combine a few button presses to do special moves to fill a Wung-Fu meter. A Super Wung-Fu state will happen if you use a combination of special attacks and activate it, granting powerful close combat abilities, as well as a pseudo-bullet time.

Fighting can be somewhat unbalanced as I went for a melee-focused build for my playthrough. With guns and bio/psionic abilities, there isn’t a huge commitment to using them as you can parry or dodge whenever you want (as long as you have enough energy to dodge). With melee, you can only dodge or parry when you’re not already in an animation. Combined with the fact that not all enemies stagger when hit meant that I had to rely more on my guns than I wanted to. Guns may not scale with your stats and are only affected by your crit rate, but they can easily become overpowered due to their high base stats and perks that make them even stronger. I found it to be strange that despite guns being a rather influential form of combat, there is no lock-on system.

Another highlight of Biomutant is the crafting system. Throughout the world, you’ll loot lots of goods, which you can use to outfit your weapons and armor. For people who like aesthetics, you can eventually turn a good-looking but weak weapon into something comparable to legendary parts by refining the weapon parts with materials. With crafting, there is a base for all weapons and at any point (with the correct materials), you can swap them out with other parts. There is never a moment that the weapon you’re carrying will become “obsolete”, because you can simply swap out the parts. It may end up looking like a mishmash of junk parts, but you’ll never have to bench a weapon you like for the one you don’t just because of higher stats. The crafting is highly rewarding.

Biomutant
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 73%
Gameplay - 14/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 4.5/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 81%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 8.5/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6.5/10

In my initial playthrough, it took me 17 hours to see 90% of the map, complete the main quests, and do about 33% of the sidequests. The main quest line seems to be rather short. If you beeline towards it ignoring most other things, a player could probably complete it in less than 10. Of course, the meat of Biomutant is within its side quests. I’d probably say it’d take around 30 hours or more to 100%. Some side quests become borderline padding with some being fetch quests that have the player going back and forth across the map. It’s a shame because some of the best side quests (that I’ve experienced) were locked behind some of the more boring ones. All of them are worth doing as it’s another excuse to take in the great visuals. There’s plenty of secrets that are behind side quests too.

The biggest concern of morality with Biomutant is its crude humor. Sometimes it gets disgusting such as this gem of a quote: “A flush-stool from the Back-In-Time. It’s an Apparatus that sink-sunks yellow-juice and Brown-bobs. Let’s try out the Brush-away, see if you can off-chase some drip-droppings” (gag worthy, yuck!). It doesn’t end there. The Jumbo Puff boss has a moment where during the last phase, it eats you and you have to work your way out of its digestive system. If you enter the fail state during that phase, the Jumbo Puff poops you out, then proceeds to sit on you while your head is stuck in its butt. There’s also more poop-related humor with a collectible being poop. The main method of acquiring landmarks for fast travel is to urinate on them, thus "marking your territory."

In terms of violence, it borders around the typical weapon-based and martial arts violence with some deaths here and there. There are some instances of blood such as when using the grappling hook weapon, enemies will sometimes bleed. Sexual content is non-existent (to my knowledge). There are skirts and stuff your character can wear, but I assure you, none of it is meant to be “sexually appealing.” Supernatural is a bit harder to determine as the psionic abilities are almost like magic, and some creatures are walking skeletons, but everything points towards mutations instead of magic or some form of the occult at play.

Ethics can be complicated. I had my character do a balancing act between moral alignment with said character leaning more towards dark than not. There’s an overarching theme about forgiveness and revenge, and you can make choices such as killing wildlife or leaving characters for dead to increase your dark—or save others to increase your light. Depending on what side you align, characters will help or refuse your help. Most of it is fluff, simply affecting certain dialogue, but there are a few side and main quests that are directly affected (including the ending) on whether you are light or dark.

Biomutant is one of those games where the developer just added everything they love in life. Kung-Fu and John Woo films, guns, scavengers, the environment, Planet Earth commentary, and flashy visuals. Experiment 101 almost didn’t seem to care whether it fits in or not. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. There are some flaws such as unbalanced combat, glitches here and there (I ran into a few soft locks and some strange stat bugs), weak sound design, and a below average first impression. There are also some very strong points such as the environment and crafting system. Biomutant does get better as it goes further into the experience and ends up being a fair open-world product best played in short bursts. Experiment 101 has since released an update for Windows platforms (version 1.4) that addressed many issues such as the easy overall difficulty, guns being stronger than the rest, the tutorial being long and tedious, as well as other fixes.

A good amount of replayability exists with New Game+ skipping the tutorial and letting you choose other factions/alignments to side with. The morality is strange because the preachy nature about how “taking care of your environment is a good thing" is beaten over your head, and the almost juvenile toilet humor aims for children—yet the philosophical aspects of ethical decisions target adults. People looking for a diet or Ubisoft-lite experience with stunning visuals will feel right at home with Biomutant (and opt for the PC version if capable due to native 4K and adjustable option settings). Other people on the fence may want to wait for a sale.

About the Author

Cinque Pierre

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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