Biomutant

Biomutant

Is it worth revisiting this post-apocalyptic critter adventure?

biomutant

Originally released in May 2021, Biomutant is a long in development open world Wung Fu adventure starring fuzzy little creatures and big, bad end of the world storylines.  Liked among gamers for its style and approach to the action genre, it wasn’t without a few technical niggles or short shrift from the gaming press, and it also lacked native support on the latest console hardware.  Move on nearly a year and a half and we’ve now got the chance to see what the team at Experiment 101 have been doing to freshen up the experience for the Series X|S and PlayStation 5.  Promising increased resolutions and higher framerates as a start, is that enough to entice back returning players, or bring in a new crowd?  More crucially, could it elevate the game itself beyond the mediocre reception it received?

As a quick recap in case anyone isn’t familiar with the game, Biomutant is an action adventure set in a large lush open world, some time after the fall of mankind.  The world has truly been inherited by the animals as mutated versions of the creatures populate the lands, and they’ve formed new societies to live in the ruins of the ancients.  It’s not looking good for them though as the Tree of Life that holds things together has come under attack from several immense creatures known as the World Eaters, and if they succeed it’ll be the end of everything.  This is where our hero comes in, a genetically modified beast that wields guns and melee weapons with ease as they head out to save the lands.  The initial hook of the game is deciding which areas of the creature to mutate, which significantly affects the look and playstyle of the character, and as the game progresses there are opportunities to improve and upgrade the base elements to make them a more competent explorer and survivor.  Supporting the XP/levelling up structure is the chance to align with light or dark forces which unlock or close off certain abilities depending on affinity, and interactions with the tribes dotted around that will determine whether our hero will actually be a villain of the piece.  There’s scope to branch the tale off in different directions depending on how it’s approached, and everything takes place in particularly stunning environments with a refreshingly innocent take on events coupled with a subtle sense of humour.

The gameplay loop in Biomutant is a familiar one, and it’s fair to say that Experiment 101 don’t really break the mould with it.  Stroll around the world, fight anything that attacks you, scavenge locations for materials and weapons, all whilst following waypoints that further the quest.  Where they have tried to make a difference is in the combat and being able to blend melee and ranged attacks to create combos.  There’s a definite early Devil May Cry vibe to the battles, where you’ll whale on a foe before blasting them with a barrage of bullets from a distance, and it works pretty well.  A lack of a selectable lock-on means that multiple enemies attacking at once can be a little chaotic, yet on the easier difficulties there’s not too much to worry about.  Get enough different combos used and there’s a super Wung Fu state to take advantage of that makes short work of all but the biggest of enemies.  It brings a free flowing aspect to the fighting, and promotes upgrading the combos for new weapon types so that you can take advantage of the over-powered moves more frequently, though the main flaw is that all the enemies seem to level at the same rate as your character.  It never seems to be about how many development points you plough into getting stronger, it’s more around practicing and perfecting the limited combos.

It won’t come as much of a surprise that an open world game contains looting, crafting and upgrading systems; all of which are employed in Biomutant for improving clothing, armour and weaponry.  With two main upgrade mechanics both using the same materials – one at specific workbenches to improve status, and one on the fly to swap components – there always feels like there’s a compromise to be made, and decisions required up front.  Do you want to swap the barrel out on the rifle for a harder hitting one, or would you prefer to rank the whole weapon up?  They aren’t bad choices to make, it’s just that there are far more components thrown your way than materials to make use of them, and it can drive you to make a few key upgrades then not bother revisiting the menus for a while.  With clothing and armour it’s more interesting as you customise the piece with add-ons to provide more protection, and specific regions in the world need the correct outfit wearing so that your little varmint doesn’t get too cold/hot/irradiated.  Quick select loadouts are on hand to make the transitions between hazardous zones smoother, and the this whole side of vestments management is actually quiet satisfying… especially undertaking sidequests to find the right outfit pieces.

Because you’re mainly dealing with random mutated creatures across the lands dialogue is managed through a third person style text as if it’s being translated specifically for you.  It’s actually a good choice to handle the narration this way, and there is a voiceover by David Shaw Parker that features quite heavily to keep you informed of the nuances of the world around you (which if it gets too much you can dial it back).  The real star of the presentation though is the biomes themselves with a lush and vibrant landscape at your disposal whilst above ground, and a dank and derelict underworld that you’re thrust into every now and again.  It really does look very pretty at times, and there’s a lot of effort gone into the creature modelling and the fur representation so that they are viewed as individual strands rather than a texture.  High levels of character detail do suggest that’s why some of the areas feel a little bit barren though, or less rounded than you’d like.  It’s surely a trade off, but maybe one that given the amount of travelling around you do could have been balanced a little bit better.  Speaking of travel, there are multiple ways of making your way across the world from machines to fast travel, but my favourite is definitely befriending a random goat and using them as a mount.

Coming to the features that the new generation of consoles benefit from it’s… well… really just framerates and resolution.  Biomutant has three modes to pick from:

  • Quality – 4K resolution running at 30 frames per second,
  • Quality Unleashed – 4K resolution running uncapped but aiming for somewhere near 60 frames per second,
  • Performance – 1440p resolution locked to 60 frames per second.

I spent the vast majority of my time in Quality Unleashed and whilst there are the odd drops, it seems to run at near 60 fps most of the time so you benefit from the detail level and smooth performance.  What is a little mysterious is that the loading times don’t seem all that quick, making me think that the SSD speed isn’t optimised, and the level of detail has quite a short distance before it pops in and resolves – definitely noticeable when tearing along a road on a random goat.  For PS5 users the full suite of haptics, adaptive triggers and use of the controller speaker are there and help add some additional immersion, though I can’t say they’re something Xbox/PC players will miss that much.  One of the main benefits of this version though is that it’s free if you’ve the previous generation version, so if you’ve left it unfinished or want to replay with some optimisations there’s no barrier to entry (aside from the hardware of course!).

Biomutant occupies a little visited space in the gaming market – the AA title.  It’s clearly got a restricted budget, but the big ambitions work around that and deliver something a bit different.  There’s quite a lot that it could have done with working more on, but in this version they’ve addressed a number of the performance issues the original release had, making it an altogether more enjoyable game.  It’s still flawed in the repetitive gameplay and the arguably too big map that doesn’t quite have enough variety, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game.  If you know what you’re letting yourself in for there’s a lot of time can be spent exploring the colourful landscapes and getting to know the different tribes and creatures, and at a low-ish price point it’s worth considering, even if it’s mostly to support the AA market and make sure we don’t lose the range of games that try something a bit different.

A PS5 review copy of Biomutant was provided by THQ Nordic’s PR team, and the game is available now on PC, Xbox X|S and PS5 for around £35 depending on platform.

The Verdict

7Good

The Good: Vibrant, colourful world | Smooth framerates | Intriguing story

The Bad: Repetitive combat | Can feel big for the sake of it

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Matt

Co-founder & Editor at Codec Moments

Gamer, F1 fanatic, one half of the Muddyfunkrs DJ duo (find us over on Hive Radio UK), MGS obsessed, tech geek.


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