Gaming is a lot more complicated than it used to be and this has resulted in a variety of problems. Increased cost, frequent issues and, most notably, delays. Unfortunately, I fully understand why they come about but it has become an increasingly hot button issue. Any time something is pushed out players get angry, but the alternative, things like the divisive experience known as Cyberpunk 2077, isn’t positive either. Following a number of delays and setbacks, it looks like Biomutant is set to stun but with such a large world, will it make things work or get crushed under its own weight?
Biomutant has one central story that is conveyed through several side stories that give the player character depth. For the characters emotional journey, it’s dealing with a fearsome beast known as Lupa-Lupin, who personally hurt the player character and countless others along the way. In terms of development, it’s which tribe you side with, what they stand for and how that defines you as a person. For the actual adventure itself, it involves defeating monsters known as Worldeaters and doing something with the Tree of Life, with a failsafe being you need to pick a couple characters to place on an Ark to essentially bring about a better world. It’s a lot to take in and almost none of it is worthwhile.
Given the overall scope of Biomutant, it’s really hard to unify everything in a way that makes each path unique. I personally sided with the Jagni, simply because their Japanese armor resonated far more than brutal militants or peaceful creatures in a helmet, resulting in very little change to the adventure. Most dialogue about my tribe is that they’re jerks, outside of notable exceptions like Honki, who cares far more about profit than morals, though the core experience is about the same. Go to a rival tribe, do a quest, take over their land and then determine how you want to deal with them. On a second run I gave the Ankati tribe, they’re light instead of dark like Jagni, but the differences were largely superficial. I heard different things about my clan, but I still used the same tactics to conquer an enemy. The only real difference is instead of non-violent measures, I could elect to kill leaders with Jagni, a choice that has little to no impact on the overall adventure.
All the other stories have similar shortcomings. Lupa-Lupin is supposed to be a tragic character that likely exists to make the player character see the folly of a life of anger but the reveal comes far too late and does very little to really make players invested. By that point, Biomutant makes it pretty clear what it wants you to know and it made the actual conclusion feel more scripted than it should have. As for the Worldeaters and the Tree of Life, it all leads to an “unusual” ending that was pretty obvious if you pay attention. This just leaves the Ark, perhaps one of the most frustrating mechanics.
For the Ark, players are asked to find four NPCs that you want to save. Biomutant makes a rather big deal about picking the right four, not that it matters whether you pick four at random or skip a few, there is just a lot of restrictions for no real payoff. Basically, certain characters you meet will have a unique name, function and quest line. At the end they typically mention the Ark and you either save them or tell them they’re going to die. I found no way to delay answering or changing my answer, so maybe I wanted to save Sol because he is a book loving nerd, only to find out better options aren’t out there. Or, maybe I just realized Noko is too kind to die but I already told her she was done and that seems to be it. So, you really can’t play it coy and then pick the best four, it’s more pick four and hope you don’t regret your choices.
While this extensively covers what the story is about, Biomutant is an open world game with a shockingly high amount of exploration, details and elements. But, at the same time, Biomutant suffers greatly for countless choices along the way.
The reason why I started this review talking about delays is because it makes total and complete sense why Biomutant was delayed. I’m not talking about glitches and errors, though I experienced many that I will discuss later in this review, there are just a lot of ideas that don’t feel fleshed out, not unlike the aforementioned story.
A good starting point for this issue is the world map. It’s massive. Like, to the point where it takes a while to transverse the world. Once we start looking at sections little annoyances come up. Regardless of where you want to go, I can’t just throw a waypoint on it. Instead, it’s limited to characters and fast travel spots, which can just be fast traveled to, plus quests, that also offer a tracking function, along with venders, crafting stations and things like that. Since quests offer a waypoint-esque marker, doing so offers no function, though I often did it because my quest tracker would glitch and not show correctly. And, most, if not all, venders and upgrade stations are by a fast travel station, so instead of looking for 30 seconds, there is a helpful waypoint. Needless to say, waypoints didn’t do much and they were often poorly handled. They’d persist after traveling to the point, even though I enabled the option to remove them and it points to the literal location instead of the one or two possible paths that lead into the location, making them feel dated and outright unhelpful.
Speaking of unhelpful, for an open world game, Biomutant seems dead set on making the experience as unenjoyable as possible. In addition to the aforementioned inability to mark random places with waypoints and said waypoint doing nothing more than literally telling you where to go, the map really falls short. Not only are there locations that simply aren’t marked, even some that hurt consistency, like Fluff Hulk Nests get labled, yet the top right location in Kluppy Dunes is completely unmarked despite having a Nest, I can’t even track my progress in any given location. Maybe a Gutway has some loot I missed or there was a Clearway that has something notable, I can’t see on the world map. Biomutant will tell me if I visit but after a while I started looking at the map unsure if unmarked locations were intentially unmarked or if it was a new location, along with no understanding of how thoroughly I explored making things extremely frustrating.
Similar things can be said about gameplay too. As mentioned, there is loot and you’ll get a lot of it with unique designs and there is even a crafting system to go with it. However, it falls into the same category as Borderland’s billions of guns and none of them are good.
Initially I stuck with the starting sword and some gun for quite some time. I want to say I didn’t change either item until level 18, though I can only confirm my gun worked that way. Instead of constantly switching gear, Biomutant lets you change the stock, grip, base, magazine, add mods and more to whatever you’re using. It allows players to have a more personalized build and make the most of whatever drops they get. The downside is that they’re not really that specialized in terms of quality.
Prior to level 18 I got a gun part I felt was overpowered with a level requirement of 18. Along the way I obtained gear I wanted to build with it and made the gun at level 18. I didn’t replace a single piece until after hitting the level cap of 50. A lot of this had to do with a lack of specialized builds and options. I could change my stock, even on my top tier creation and gain a little more range or more armor pierce, at the cost of outright damage. These numbers balance out in the grand scheme but, realistically, I could strafe around any enemy, regardless of type, size or number and outside of armored enemies, kill them without really struggling. So, why would I be concerned about a marginal increase in range or decrease in damage if it doesn’t impact my experience? Melee, unfortunately, falls under one of many shortsighted ideas.
Early on, around level 18, I found a squareblade with overpowered being sold by one of the venders. Unless you want to get more into the magical side of Biomutant or just care about enhancing dialogue, attributes don’t do much. I never needed health or more energy, I just walked around things and shot them, so I invested heavily in drop. Since overpowered increases damage by 2 percent per 10 units of strength, I just invested in that. As a result, even after finding the legendary Pri Murgel Sword, my old one out damages it. Even with the best mods I have it falls short. This could be corrected by adding a respec, though such a feature does not seem to be present, so I effectively made it so my level 18 sword has made practically everything else obsolete.
These flaws extend beyond weapons and also into gear. One piece of level 30 gear, Dark Leather Dou, is just hands down better than literally anything else. It starts by giving 60 percent resistance in flame and ice, 30 resistance in radiation and 42 in biohazard. On top of that, it gives massive energy reserve, regen, four mod slots and 63 defense. Out of all the items I have, anything with more defense has trade-offs, like Prosthetics Arms increase defense to 73 with no add ons, resistance or perks and Leather Dou gives more of another helpful resistance but no additional perks and fewer add ons. With the best four add-ons I have, it boosts defense to 120 and my critical chance to 42 percent. I found almost every piece of armor has a best in slot that is so far and away better than everything else it makes loot meaningless.
To offset this, loot can be sold or dismantled. Unfortunately, there aren’t many venders with great loot and the ones that are, you might not find in time to be relevant. For many, it will likely mean you need to dismantle loot and even this is somehow poorly conceived.
When dismantling an item players are given a number of resources in up to five different categories. I have many that give a few in some, some that give a couple in each and a select few that give multiples of each. The first problem is, each category caps at 99. Dismantling beyond that, finding resources in the wild of whatever basically gives nothing. From there the cost is absurd. Low level gear uses modest sums like two of each category, with my aforementioned Dark Leather Dou asking for 32 in each category for nine defense. To max out my amazing gun, the last category took 64 in each slot. Let that sink in, it takes 64 materials in every slot in a game that caps off at 99. And even then my damage increased by 27, making it about a 6 percent increase.
Come the end of Biomutant the experience is filled with choices that don’t make a whole lot of sense. There are countless villages, though most offer nothing of value besides a fast travel spot. I found 17 mounts, though many of them are repeats and not even decent repeats like there is a blue, red and green Gnoat (it’s like a horse) and a robotic version of it, but then there are the Yrpsnout, Miffbutt Gnoat and Miff Gnoat, which seems to be the same thing with a different name. There is a boat with many customization options, but it only works in certain waters and is outright inferior to the shark you can unlock, though the shark can’t collect loot from the ocean. Every boss has a unique vehicle associated with it, half of which really have no point in existing outside of the boss fight. I got at least 15 identical quests from various NPCs to kill the same enemy, someone referred to as The Lotus Captain, which even after killing him I can no longer finish the quest and have nine stuck in my log. There is a capture system, though I couldn’t find a way to look at your captures or do anything besides farm it for what is quite possibly the worst karma system I’ve seen in any game.
Usually karma systems are panned because you make choices that lead to the same conclusion. It was one of the worst elements of inFAMOUS and many others. In Biomutant, it often makes light to be anything that isn’t absurdly bad, with dark being extremely bad things. The best example of how bad it got was during the Pyromaniac quest. One of my Jagni clan mates tasked me with burning down a village (he does it a few times). I agreed to see what would happen and the most surprising thing was agreeing to just follow orders gave a point of light. Come the end, of a system that only requires 30 in each category to obtain every perk, I had 233 light. A detail that persist in New Game +, so if I wanted to go evil, I’d have to capture and kill a good 200 animals just to even out my karma.
A lot of this would be okay if two things were true, gameplay was exceptionally fun and there were fewer glitches. Initially Biomutant presents itself as a game where good fundamentals are important. Block, dodge, parry and use special attacks to generate power for an ultimate attack. Over time enemies became increasingly large, hostile, powerful and overwhelming in terms of numbers. Given enemies scale with you, slow motion when dodging makes it easier to mess up your timing and even with amazing stats there are moves that can kill me in seconds, I found most fights boil down to, like I previously mentioned, strafing. Large and melee focused enemies will play a never-ending game of catch up, with ranged enemies trading shots until they’re all dead. It isn’t great, especially whenever I dropped this tactic and was punished shortly after.
Now, let’s talk about glitches. Full disclosure, I played on my PlayStation 5 with the original version and version 1.3 and am not going to mention anything that stopped happening in the updated version. The only exception to this is crashing, which I think was corrected, though at that point I did not play more than a few hours to say if it was corrected, lessened or I just didn’t move around enough to crash Biomutant.
While I played rather extensively to earn my platinum, PlayStation 5 indicates I experienced 64 crashes prior to writing this review of Biomutant. I think most of these stemmed from Biomutant having too many things happening at once. Things like leaving a mount somewhere persists, unless it’s called to you, and eventually I think it was just too much to handle. Most of my crashes were just playing for a period of time and then out of nowhere failure. I did experience some weird quirks that caused crashes, such as bringing the shark to Gaga Grampus Bay crashed my system a good four or five times before I changed mounts to get there. Several others were detrimental to gameplay. For example, my resistances were reset twice, my armor does not track the amount correctly often showing one number and giving another vastly different one. I have 12 quests in my inventory that I can’t complete because either I previously did it or the quest itself is glitched. I’m frequently unable to look at or mess with weapon/armor add ons unless I back out and reopen the item multiple times. Some performance issues here and there. Plus unfortunate choices like long load times, even on PlayStation 5 (loading a save takes about 40 seconds) and auto saves happening in situations where it’s entirely possible for progression to no longer be possible.
Another common debate in the gaming community, especially after some games going to $70, is quality versus quantity. For the longer time I’ve always favored quantity, though believe in a healthy mix of both, but Biomutant makes a compelling case for why quantity is bad. There is no need for over a dozen mounts, plus a weird ridable hand, when one mount is outright better than the rest. No one wants to play an experience where there are 100 versions of the same thing. Almost every puzzle is the same core idea, match orange and white lines to complete it, just like the dialogue for all 23 captives is the same. I really think if time wasn’t spent making 20 pointless towns, 30 needless caves, 23 captives, roughly a dozen bandit groups lead by the same dudes with different names or over 20 modification options for the Googlide that only works in certain spots and is slower, plus nowhere near as cool, as the shark and used that time to improve the things that work. Maybe, just maybe it could’ve worked but in the current state it feels like the typical sitcom mom grabbing a bunch of things off the shelf, putting it in a brown bag and complaining that you’re going to miss the bus. Who knows, maybe you like eating cloves, Tom Collins mix between a frozen pie crust, but for many Biomutant will fall short of its potential.
[Editor’s Note: Biomutant was reviewed on PlayStation 5 and a copy was provided to us for review.]