It would be hard for me to write this review and not state that for a while I was worried about this game. Experiment 101 first announced Biomutant back in August 2017, and for around four years, we heard very little about the game. But, credit where credit is due, the small Swedish studio has managed to deliver the title to PC, PS4, and Xbox One and after spending a pretty rigorous amount of time playing through what Biomutant offers, I'm left with varied opinions.
The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, a world where the only remnants of humanity are the overgrown and ruined infrastructure that is left over from our collapsed civilization. With the world now inhabited by strange, wonderful, and usually terrifying beasts, you play as a genetically altered mutant, a creature proficient in a new style of martial arts that mixes melee, ranged, and ability-based combat called Wung-Fu. Using your abilities, you have to travel across the broad open-world to meet eccentric characters and help them defeat four powerful and vicious creatures known as World Eaters that are threatening the sacred Tree-of-Life that stands at the centre of the map. With each decision you make having the potential to cause an impact beyond what is immediately obvious, it is up to your character to save the world or be an instrument into its demise.
At the beginning of the game, you have to create your mutant by fiddling with a pretty hefty amount of customisable options. First of all, you have to select a breed, where there are six options, and each excel at varying things such as better strength or having higher resilience, and once you've selected the breed, you then get to choose the ways you want to split its core attributes by moving a multi-directional slider around until you get the right balance of the five attributes that define your character's abilities in-game; strength, agility, charisma, intellect, and vitality. After this part, you get to fiddle with how your character resists the different types of elements, where you can become very resistant to heat but less so against the cold, for example, before choosing how your fur looks (with another multi-directional slider) and picking a colour scheme defining your look. Last on the list is choosing a class type, where there are five options, each of which offer unique traits. As an example, the Dead-eye excels with ranged weapons, whereas the Psi-freak is a more versatile ability user.
This system is much more diverse than I originally expected and allows you to create some really unique characters, even if most of them look like absolute abominations that would make even Dr. Frankenstein shiver. It is a lot to take in at the beginning of the game, and all the RPG stats and traits are basically impossible to keep tabs on and understand for a first-time player.
There are so many different RPG mechanics that it's actually a little overwhelming, and it could do with trimming in places. Not only will you have to improve your character's core attributes when it levels up, but you also have the option to unlock a broad range of abilities and skills that open new Wung-Fu techniques, Psionic abilities, and mutations. These are for the most part just new combat combos and moves to help bring down your foes, but for some reason there are three separate types of upgrade points to have to earn, to be able to unlock moves and abilities that seem to be very similar.
You might think that all of this would make for a really unique feeling combat system, and in theory it does. However, the combat is so easy and the enemies are usually thoroughly underwhelming that it makes it difficult to justify spending time unlocking new abilities when guns and swords do the job more than fine. This is without a shadow of a doubt one of my biggest irks with Biomutant, as all of the RPG systems flow into the combat, and yet the combat isn't challenging and never asks you to differ from the very core components of shooting and slashing.
The gunplay does feel pretty good, while the melee combat is significantly less so, but they are both incredibly easy to pick up and use, and you don't need to be a combo-genius to exploit the Wung-Fu techniques either that require certain inputs to perform. The general point that I'm trying to convey is that there is a lot going on in Biomutant, and it's hard to not see it as a bloated RPG that's quite shallow on the inside, despite the absurd amounts of statistics and traits to keep tabs on.
Strangely enough, this translates to the open-world. The map of Biomutant is pretty large and features a bunch of different biomes to explore, each with several places of interest dotted around, but it feels quite empty. Don't get me wrong, you'll have places to visit and loot so that you can further develop your character and gear, but unless you are following the main campaign, or doing some side quests (of which there are plenty), the map does feel a little bland. Perhaps it feels that way because of its size, of which it is rather sprawling, but I really didn't feel much need to take a trip off the beaten path at all as I was completing the main campaign.
This brings me to one of the most disappointing parts of Biomutant, which is the main storyline. Defeating the four terrifying World Eaters make up a good chunk, and completing a Tribe War fills up the body of what remains. The World Eaters are by far the biggest boss fights you'll have to face, and unfortunately they are no more challenging than regular combat. Sure, they introduce some cool new mechanics that often surround a unique mount (rideable vehicle or animal), but despite offering some cinematical awe, there's not much to really harp on about.
The Tribe War on the other hand sees you conquer a bunch of outposts run by rival tribes who don't follow the same ordeals of your tribe. You have to complete a range of tasks to claim these outposts, to then be able to meet with the Tribe Sifu (leader) to discuss terms or face them in combat to pacify that tribe. The main issue is that if you choose to go down the path of the full war, you will be doing pretty much the same three tasks when claiming outposts each time you face a different tribe, just in a different region, making the whole war feel incredibly dull pretty quickly.
And if that all isn't enough, Biomutant has a narrator that comments on pretty much every single move you make, in a David Attenborough style fashion, which is a concept that becomes mind-numbing after the first couple of hours - thankfully you can turn the frequency of this down in the settings.
What I will say is that this is not a poorly made game. Biomutant looks great and the world and the creatures that inhabit it are weird yet gorgeous. It offers such a complex range of options that are quite often a little much, but they do provide a lot of depth to this RPG. And then, there are the moral dilemmas that you will be placed in, decisions that will actually drastically affect the game, such as whether you choose to execute the rival tribe Sifus or instead welcome them into your tribe with open arms.
The choices you have to make really sets this game apart from other RPGs and taking a minute to consider your actions is absolutely important, that is if you want to save the world or see it fall further into disarray. And, for those that aren't happy with the choices they made, there is even a New Game+ mode available right after the campaign finishes, a mode that will see you maintain all your gear and abilities, but with the ability to replay the campaign and make better choices than you did the first time around - you can even join a different tribe than the first two that was posed to you on the first playthrough.
What I will say is that Biomutant absolutely outperformed my prejudicial expectations. This is a game that plays well, looks great, and is built in a world that I wouldn't mind returning to in the future. Yet, when I stack it up against the titans of RPGs that have debuted recently, it's hard to see a competition. Will Biomutant provide an enjoyable experience unlike anything you've ever seen before? Yes. But does it feature components that will disappoint? Also, yes.