Even in a dying world, given enough time, life can flourish once more. The Toxanol company from the before-time is long gone, and the land is slowly recovering from the environmental disaster they wrought. When you were little, your elders taught you some valuable lessons - they showed you that one man's trash is another man's treasure, and that with a little effort one can cultivate even barren land. Most importantly however, your mooma taught you a code of honour, and the principles of martial arts - the Wung-fu. It was her who gave you the strength to face the dangerous world around you, and none too soon too. She knew that one day destiny will catch up with her, as it does with all of us. You were just a small child when Lupa-Lupin raided your village and burned it to the ground. Your parents paid the ultimate price to protect you, and you've never forgotten the face of your foe.
It's been many years since those events unfolded and now, more than ever, the world needs a hero to set things right again. Lupa-Lupin is still at large, and to top it off, monsters of unusual size are chomping at the roots of the Tree of Life, endangering the fragile ecosystem. Will you use your Wung-fu to save the world, or to destroy it? Will you unite the tribes with a silver tongue or with a steel blade? Will you spread your light across the land, or will you plunge it into darkness? Only you can decide.
Big Trouble in Little... Post-Apocalypse?
Biomutant presents itself as an innovative, "experimental" take on an open world RPG, but you wouldn't be able to tell in what way just by playing it. The game features all the staples of the genre, from a player-generated protagonist to specific mechanics like in-game factions, crafting and so on, so if you've ever dabbled in the genre, you'll feel right at home here. It's not shy about throwing you right in the thick of things either, starting off with combat straight away - it may as well, seeing that you'll spend most of your time whacking things with your various implements of destruction.
Speaking of those, your character is armed to the fangs. From swords to hammers, from pistols to fully automatic rifles, with psionic and biological abilities to boot, adjusting your character to your play style shouldn't be much of a challenge. When it comes time to crack skulls the game feels a little stiff, but not offensively so. There's a certain rhythm to it, and once you learn it, unlock more abilities and figure out some combos it comes together nicely. The guiding principle is the aforementioned Wung-fu - you can maximize your performance by combining your abilities, chaining your attacks and, once your martial bar fills up, unleashing your Wung-fu prowess.
There's something to be said about conjuring your earth-bending skills to launch an enemy into the air, charging at them with your sword while they're still vulnerable and finishing off with a pile-driver - it can be janky, but when it works, it's fun. Biomutant tries really hard to play like Devil May Cry, but in practice it's more like The Witcher 3 - it needs a little more fluidity to achieve what the developers intended.
Once the initial battle is over and done with, Biomutant's overbearing narrator explains what the game is all about, and there's a lot of things going on at the same time. The game introduces you to the three pressing issues - the World-Eaters attacking the Tree of Life, Lupa-Lupin's rampage and a tribe war, all seemingly inter-connected. Your job, in short, is to ally with one of the tribes and resolve the conflict, forge alliances in your fight against the World-Eaters and, most importantly, avenge your family. The story is a pretty standard affair - your character goes from zero to hero and decides the fate of the world. It's nothing too innovative or groundbreaking, but it's interesting enough. If you can imagine Kung-fu Panda, except with guns, you get the idea.
This is one of the areas where Biomutant stumbles - I couldn't help but feel that the game lacked direction. It gives off the impression that the developers couldn't decide which story to focus on, so they just threw all of their ideas into a blender and pressed the smoothie button. The result? All of the events feel somewhat disconnected, like a overcooked narrative soup with some indescribable chunks every few spoonfuls. A lack of focus on a specific thread of the story isn't necessarily unusual in an open world game, but in this case you're dealing with three "main" quests which, for all intents and purposes, could be three separate games. In other words, Biomutant has a story, but there's not a lot of plot to go along with it.
To make things worse, Biomutant markets itself as a game where your decisions shape the world around you, and I didn't get that impression at all. Ultimately, your choices can be boiled down to the moral, "light" choice and the immoral "dark" one, with the two sides of your conscience arguing their side until you pick between two usually inconsequential prompts. On the bright side, despite its shortcomings, it's still a charming, fun take on a Kung-fu fable that's just interesting enough to keep you playing.
Furries of Fury
Okay, I've been pretty harsh but it's not all bad, as this title has a lot going for it. The crafting system in particular is worthy of note, as well as the loot you'll be able to collect in the game. Experiment 101 had a very specific environmentalist message in mind, and the game's world and mechanics are crafted around that idea. Your weapons and armor are all "up-cycled" trash, so if you ever wondered what'd happen if you weaponized a toilet brush, Biomutant has the answer.
As you progress through the game you'll pick up all sorts of components which you can combine into some truly innovative weapons and armor, and I really enjoyed that part of the game. By the time I had to face the final boss I was running around with a radioactive assault rifle with a seashell for a muzzle and a biohazardous chainsaw-longsword that tore through enemies like butter. The sheer amount of combinations you can go for is staggering, so if you like crafting, you won't be disappointed.
There's also a lot of vehicles and mounts to choose from, ranging from alpaca-like Gnoats to a full-blown customizable mech. You can even find a jetpack to get to those hard-to-reach ledges - that is, unless you choose to learn how to levitate instead. Some particularly hazardous areas of the map explicitly require you to use a vehicle, but don't worry - you'll find the key ones at least. Speaking of the map, the world of Biomutant is truly massive, divided into 8 distinct, often hazardous biomes. Armed with the appropriate PPE, exploring those areas was a treat - discovering the remnants of a civilization long-gone in ruined towns or Toxanol's various industrial plants was definitely a high point to me.
The world-building in the game is excellent, it really feels like an land forgotten by time, destroyed and abandoned. Gliding over green meadows, hopping from one mountain cliff to the next gave me a strong Breath of the Wild vibe, so if you're into that sort of thing, Biomutant has some pretty sights to take in. If there was one complaint I had in this regard, it's the fact that some vehicles are locked out of the rest of the map, which led to some frustration when I tried to summon my jet ski in an area where I ostensibly wasn't allowed to for no particular reason.
It's very clear that the developers focused on creating a world that felt "real", and it does. In broad strokes, the game is a tale of environmental disaster from the perspective of one of the creatures that went through forced evolution due to high levels of pollution, and it looks the part. Where it fails is filling that world with meaningful interaction. Aside from the occasional side quests that were limited to visiting a specific location or fetching specific items, I didn't feel like I got to interact with the world's inhabitants all that much. NPC's were either hostile or didn't have a whole lot to say to me besides commenting on my personal story or moral compass. That's a shame, because a well-crafted world really needs to have that spark of life, it needs to form connections between the player and the non-playable characters. The player should feel like an integral part of the world; but Biomutant makes you feel removed from it instead.
You can still affect the lives of other creatures, but it's a one-way street as you're always a visitor. Yes, you can pick your allegiance and change it as you go, but I didn't feel like my choice really mattered - I was doing all the heavy lifting regardless. The tribe war played out the way I wanted it to, and while I had the option to resolve it by using the force of an argument *or* the argument of force, the end result was pretty much the same anyway. Yes, I encountered a number of critical NPC's that helped me along the way, but I didn't really "befriend" any of them. I simply delivered the items they requested, and received a key item in return. The developers tried to make me care about the named NPCs, but I simply couldn't. I never got to know them, and not for the lack of trying.
Revenge of the Mammal
With everything said and done, what are you actually getting for your money? A game that's full of ideas, but also one that's a mile wide, but an inch thick. With a story that lacks direction, NPC's that you can't really get attached to and a somewhat janky combat system you have a package that almost collapses under its own weight. It's like a tick-list of genre staples - the game has them all, and nearly all of them needed more work to stand out... and yet... I kept playing. I did my best to rush through the title, but every single time I was travelling towards the next waypoint, I found myself distracted. I couldn't stop myself from exploring the various locations scattered in my path, discovering new things and treasure hunting.
That's when it dawned on me: perhaps it wasn't the actual objective that mattered, but the adventure I had along the way. Everything started clicking into place - the incessant narrator, the lack of focus, the bright and colourful graphics... it's a fable first and foremost, one that you have to make yourself as you play, and perhaps that's what Experiment 101 was going for. There's something here, something that can be built upon, and I hope that the game gets a sequel, or at least another game in the same universe. As it stands, it's... "good", but it could've been so much better.
Should you buy it? Maybe. If you want to take a break from the non-stop deluge of dark, brown, dreary games and escape into something lively and colourful, a game that doesn't do anything spectacular, but is easy to digest as a result, this is it. Biomutant doesn't redefine the genre, but it doesn't have to - it's adequate across the board while offering a charming world that's a treat to dive into, and sometimes that's all you really want.