by Adam Nix
reviewed on PC
Biomutant was a game expected to release with a splash. The publishers, THQNordic, had spent the last four years flaunting beautiful landscapes, interesting combat, and a moral system that would give players story changing choices. THQNordic succeeded in providing all of these things, but fails to stick the landing on anything besides the gorgeous world they created.
Biomutant takes place in a post-apocolyptic world destroyed by pollution where players take on the role of an anthropomorphic animal. Looking like some combination of a rat, a cat, and a possum, you run around this world trying to stop 4 large creatures from destroying it and the "Tree of Life" at the center of the world.
Biomutant follows the footsteps of many RPGs by providing for character and role selection at the beginning of the game. Players can chose from ranged combatants like the "Dead-shot", who specializes in guns, to magical characters called "Psi-Freaks" that use psychic mutations as a form of violent magic.
The game does a good job of making each class look cool and unique. Whether you chose a close-combat class, long-range class, or psychic class, you can expect to be satisfied with the general look and feel of your anthropomorphic creature. I chose the dead-shot myself, a gun slinging cowboy of sorts and loved the eye-patch and "rebel cowboy" type clothing I started out with.
I really did enjoy creating my character, even with the lack of knowledge on game stats, but the real issue with classes in this game is that I never really felt any major differences or benefits in buffing up different stats.
Stats are broken up into Vitality, Strength, Intellect, Charisma, Agility, and Luck. As a Dead-Shot, I immediately wanted to start upgrading my ranged damage, but quickly found out that there just wasn't a stat for that. Strength increases melee and intellect increase psychic damage, but the only thing you can do to increase ranged damage is find better weapons or upgrade luck to increase your critical hit chance.
What's even more frustrating is that I never even felt the need to upgrade any of my abilities in the first place. Every single fight felt unbalanced; They all favored me, mostly due to ranged attacks being far superior to close range combat. Most creatures in the game have some kind of ranged abilities such as throwing things or shooting at you with their own makeshift guns, but those were extremely easy to avoid and damage done with my own weapons was always far superior to theirs. In contrast, close-range combat more dangerous and too reliant on combos that didn't always work as expected.
Often times, I found myself ignoring the chance to upgrade my armor, craft new weapons, or buy new equipment simply because combat was never any issue. Each piece of armor and weapon you have has the ability to upgrade "notches" on it. For instance, you might have a jacket with 3 notches tat can be upgraded with different trinkets and do-hickeys around the world, but I never noticed or cared about any of these due to my issues with the combat.
As you level up in the game, you unlock new combos to use during combat. The combos themselves look really cool in practice. After relatively simple button combinations, you can watch your little rat-character do spinning dives, flips over enemies, and swirling sword attacks. Although the animations themselves look great, the combat and the timing needed to make these combos work made everything feel so fluffy. It just didn't feel good to make a combo happen. Even outside of combos, all combat had an airiness to it that felt off.
For instance, I duel wielded pistols for most of the game. When shooting, a little circle would show up on the enemy you are locking onto and numbers would pop up all over the character being shot at with critical hits displayed in red. Due to the flurry of numbers and lack of precision needed to hit targets, I never really knew if I was aiming well or if it even mattered how I aimed. It almost made the ranged combat feel automated. Psychic abilities felt similar to ranged, where melee was the one I used the least due to my class. That being said, due to the combos for melee and ranged feeling so clunky, fighting with a variety of melee weapons never worked out well.
Story and Morality
Even with a fantastic and beautiful world to explore, the story itself felt patched together and nonsensical. The entire game is narrated by a David Attenborough-like person who describes elements of the world, makes witty comments, and even tells you what other NPCs in the story are saying to you. Within the first hour, it was extremely annoying and I quickly found a way to turn it off in the settings.
The main story elements involve a "Tree of Life" that is being damaged by four monsters for no apparent reason. If the monsters destroy the tree, the world will be over. You can chose to be good and save the tree, or evil and destroy it. The game even provides for a chance to leave the world and go to space with 4 friends of your choosing if you do decide to be the bad guy.
I chose the good path and fought these monsters. Some of the high points of the game were messing with the boss fights where interesting mechanics were brought in for a moment, but even with some clever ideas in these fights, the bosses themselves didn't peak my interest. There was no reason for me to care about them, the tree of life, or anybody around me. It all just felt so bland.
Every once and a while, the story would push you to handle other issues like confronting someone involved in your mother's death, or working to unite the tribes of this world through conquest. Being an open world game, I would have preferred to have the choice to tackle these missions like side quests, but the game would randomly tell me that I couldn't fight these monsters anymore and had to do this other hollow story-line.
Instead of offering me actual choices, the game provided a morality system where I could chose between a good and bad choice. With that, personifications of my imaginations in an angel and devil on my left and right shoulders would try and convince me to do the right thing or the wrong thing. What bothered me so much about this is that there was no in-between. My choices were as ridiculous as "murder the animal or pet the animal" or "destroy the world or save the world." Maybe it would be interesting if I planned on playing the game a second time, but I saw no reason to jump back and forth between such black and white choices.
A Meaningful Mess
I hate to see Biomutant falter in so many ways. It is easy to see that the team tried to make something beautiful here. The art, world, character, and custom design are all fantastic. The animations are fun and interesting. Unfortunately, none of this changes the core issues in this game. From unbalanced and boring combat to an unimaginative and nonsensical story, this game falls short in so many regards. I look forward to what THQNordic does next, but Biomutant just didn't work.
Gorgeous world, Interesting animations
Unbalanced combat, Bland Story, Forgettable upgrade paths, Black and White Morality System