Approaching what might be a golden age for open world story games and graphic display on consoles, there are a lot of contenders looking to outperform with every inch of mettle they’ve got. Games like Horizon Zero Dawn are making waves in terms of presentation and gameplay, just by showing off trailers. A game that looked to do similar was Biomutant, promising a storied world and open-ended character customization that actively impacted your gameplay experience. What was released, however, feels like it had barely passed quality assurance and certainly didn’t go through the proper channels for gameplay testing. Of the many things Biomutant tried to be, my experience with it certainly wasn’t promising.
Biomutant starts you off in character creation, making sure you know that the way you create your character has lasting implications on your playstyle. If you want a physically stronger character, your size gets larger. If you want to focus on magic or “ki”, your head gets bigger. Along with the few different species of mutant, everything leans into the focus on building for a playstyle. That being said, I had felt next to no impact on the way I was playing, and defaulted to guns at almost every chance I was presented with. I specialized entirely for magic and walked my massive cranium through the tutorial, only to learn my lightning spell did about as much damage as the gun, and I could shoot it less. Not only that, but dodging consumes ki, so ensuring you’re really far away to just cast your spells was key. The gun, on the other hand, did not consume ki and had its own ammo system. You can dodge and shoot at the same time, and there’s no need to worry about ammo count unless you’re using a specialized form of ammo. There is no ADS however, and shooting is primarily based on general camera movement. There is also a heavy focus on melee combat due to the backstory of the player character, but it feels completely inefficient and clunky. There’s kind of a combo system, but primarily it’s just hitting the right sequence for a special move that can miss and locks you into that animation. The different weapons offered almost feel like a reprieve to melee combat, but it’s still just entirely more efficient to use a gun or magic.
The presentation of Biomutant’s story seems good on paper, but in practice gets annoying much more quickly than you’d think. Everything about the game is narrated by one man. By everything, I quite literally mean everything. None of the characters speak in any discernible language, it’s mostly Animal Crossing type gibberish. The narrator explains what they’re saying for you in the midst of the gibberish, and eventually you can skip to a textbox. While it makes it seem a bit more whimsical, that completely contrasts the tone of the game. Most things in the game are related to warfare and death, with overwhelming pollution after a toxic apocalypse being the main cause of these mutations. The focus, especially early game, shifts wildly from clan warfare to stopping monsters to rediscovering your past with little pause in between. You’re immediately given point A to point B quests and soon learn that your actions have repercussions. The only other characters to actually speak are your moral fairies, and they just banter about your decisions and whether you’re leaning light or dark. The major thing tied to the moral system is magic, but neither side detracts from the other. If you want a spell that needs you to have 10 Dark points, getting 10 Light points won’t take away from that. It seems less of a moral system and more a logging of actions for upgrade currency.
There were a lot of visions for Biomutant that really went half-realized. There’s a lot in this game and a lot of different avenues for things like combat and customization. Smaller systems like crafting were a bit more realized than the more overarching systems like general combat and enemy difficulty. Aside from looking very pretty and vibrant, Biomutant ends up being a very generic open world game with not a ton of depth. Further aspects hold it back, like imbalanced combat and storytelling that is grating at best, but there was an attempt made to make something big here.
Score: 5 out of 10
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro