We caught up with producer Stefan Ljungqvist and discussed the various ingredients that are going into the promising open-world action-RPG.
Recently Gamereactor had the opportunity to talk to Experiment 101 co-founder and producer Stefan Ljungqvist about the studio's upcoming game, Biomutant. Here is what he had to say about an open-world RPG that is due out this year and eagerly-anticipated by many here at the Gamereactor office.
We really like the design in Biomutant, especially the protagonist. Can you tell us more about him/her?
SL: I prefer not to give you too much detail about the protagonist to avoid spoiling anything, but in general you can say that part of the game's story focuses on who you are, who you were, and the reason why you are in this place. There's a family theme here and this part of the story brings you back in time, rather than telling us everything via cutscenes.
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Why did you choose to have a raccoon as the main character?
SL: The game does not have a specific 'protagonist' if you mean it as a special character that everyone plays (like Ratchet), and the creation of your own Biomutant is an important part of the game. One chooses one of six DNA strands and can then freely/softly mutate anatomy and appearance within the boundaries of that DNA strand. You can also re-seed the genetics within the same string and get new parameters, so there is quite a lot of freedom in terms of character creation (and this step is just one of the elements). It might also be worth mentioning that this affects your character's attributes; it is perhaps even more important since Biomutant is an action-RPG. Regarding our version of the main character, I definitely understand why you mentioned raccoons but it is not a raccoon per se, but a mutant that has certain traits of raccoons, but also Boston Terriers (I have three), cats and other mammals. Internally, we sometimes call the characters "muppets". I promise you can create your own, much more unique character than the one we showed.
What impact will the game's karma system have on the adventure?
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SL: The most important thing is probably the choice of which tribe you choose to ally with. There are six different tribes in the world and, to put it simply, one can say that half are 'red' and half are 'blue' (think dark and light). The choice you make here - you can change during the course of the game - will define the final stage and the goal of the game, which is equal to the tribe's goal. For example, a red tribe can have the goal of wiping out the other tribes and letting the world go down and start again, while a blue wants to unite the tribes and save the Tree of Life and the world. The karma system and the choices you make also affect the dialogue with the characters you meet, and in some cases their fate as well. In some situations, you are faced with choices that can give you PSI points, and these can be used to unlock PSI mutations in 'totem poles' in the world. There are, like Infamous, mutations that belong to a certain karma, but of course, there are also those you can unlock regardless of karma.
What have been some of your sources of inspiration for the battle system?
SL: We've heard others say it's a mix of Devil May Cry, Ratch & Clank, and Arkham over the years and we can't argue with that. The most important thing for us is for the game to be freeflow, i.e. that it gives the player the option to cancel/switch an action without having to stop moving or force you to watch a cool animation. This makes it possible to be creative when mixing gun-play, melee and mutations freely.
Given that several playing styles are mixed together in Biomutant, have there been any particular challenges related to that along the way?
SL: The biggest challenge still remains, to make everyone realise that this is an open-world game with a structure similar to Zelda: Breath of Wild and not a linear game. I think it can be hard to see this based on the videos and demos we've released so far, but it is an incredibly important thing to make sure people understand.
It sounds like there is a lot of replay value in Biomutant, but how long do you think it takes to play through the campaign once?
SL: There are three parts to what you probably mean by the campaign; backstory, Tribe War, and Fate of the World. My answer to this last year was "at least 10 hours", and that's still true, but it will take considerably longer than that for most. I find it hard to see how even those who just run through without stopping at a single character, taking a single side-quest or exploring the 8x8km world at all, will be able to do this in less than 20 hours.
Often vehicle-based sections can underwhelm in action games, so how do you go about making sure these elements are interesting?
SL: In Biomutant, the more distinctive vehicles have a specific focus since the biggest boss fights are designed around them, ie. you will meet the boss in a vehicle - if you can call a mount a vehicle in one case. Then there's a Mekton (Mech), a Googlide (a waterski) and one is an Octosub (submarine). The first two are upgradeable, which is more or less a prerequisite if you are going to have a chance against each boss, and all have some special function related to other beings in the world. In addition to this, one uses vehicles to be able to travel through/to certain areas. You can't swim, so using Googlide becomes a necessity, eventually also the upgrade for when there is contaminated water further out that you can't pass without it. Like Mekton, Googlide also has a few other mechanics, such as being able to loot in specific places, a mud cleaner to suck up oil, a hook to be able to drag items that are in the way of various interesting things/roads, and so on.
Do you think it is a risk to launch a brand new game series for consoles that are on the way out?
SL: I guess you think the risk may be that there will be games for the new generation that are catching all the attention. We don't think about those things; it can happen even during the current generation. The publishers are quite keen not to release games at the same time as larger titles for this reason. I think it is much more important for us, especially as game developers, to put our focus on making the best game possible. The new consoles are obviously much more powerful than the previous generation and this generation has even more interesting aspects than the previous generation, purely technically and from a wider perspective than just hardware. We don't see it as a risk, rather an opportunity for the future. Our focus now, however, is to complete Biomutant, and ensure that it is as good as possible.
Is there anything you can tell us about Biomutant on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X?
SL: Let me say this: you will be able to play Biomutant on your new console.
A cliché maybe, but what are you most proud of in Biomutant?
SL: It's probably the collaboration and community we've built in the studio, which has enabled us to develop this game at all. Biomutant is a joint effort, where most of the design comes from us as a group.
While we still don't have a firm release date and plans can always change, Biomutant is heading to PC, PS4, and Xbox One at some point in 2020. In the meantime, if the above isn't enough mutant-chatter to satisfy your curiosity, see below for our interview with Ljungqvist last year at Gamescom.