Biomutant is the kind of game that would have thrived when I was growing up. I don’t know what it’s like for younger kids buying games in 2021, but back in the 90s a lot of games got to be larger than life. Game magazines were full of hyperbole. Screenshots would only fuel your imagination. Meanwhile, box art at the local toy or electronics store did more heavy lifting than a multi-million dollar ad campaign ever could.
The end result of all this swirling excitement and mystery was that my kid brain carried that hype all the way to the finish line. My excitement for a new game paved over all of the flaws. Hell, there was an age where the concept of a “bad” game just didn’t register. In a scenario like that, Biomutant would have been a dream.
That’s not to say Biomutant is a terrible game, but it certainly has too many glaring flaws to ignore, with a storyline only an eager child could truly love.
Biomutant is an open-world action-adventure set in a sort of post-post-apocalypse. Humanity has destroyed the planet, escaped to space, and left behind a new world of intelligent, mutant animals who have formed various factions. Their world is lush and green, centered around a tree of life that maintains the balance of their fragile ecosystem. When giant monsters start attacking the tree and the factions start fighting for control of the future, your character steps in to influence and drive the plot forward.
This is a pretty traditional open world game by today’s standards, with main quests, side quests, and RPG elements that let you build your character and gear how you want. Biomutant’s major focus is on a morality system that feeds into how characters perceive you, what kind of powers you unlock, and how the story ultimately wraps up.
The problem with this system is how black and white it is. Each time a choice is presented it’s almost always between two extremes, with a little devil and angel appearing each time to make their case for what you should do. There are no grey choices, and yet it doesn’t really benefit you to dedicate your character to a single path, as it will lock you out of more abilities.
This basic morality system is just a small part of a much larger problem: Biomutant’s story is dull, repetitive, and childish. Each new character has a slightly different version of the same basic thing to say to you. They remember you from your past, they either like or don’t like the faction you’ve sided with, and they either like or don’t like how you’ve conducted yourself throughout the game. They almost always tell you there’s a chance to act differently, selling the morality system a little too hard for how straightforward it is.
What’s worse is that all of this is presented in the most bland way possible, with a narrator who translates all of the gibberish languages the various characters speak. The narrator comes off like a Richard Attenborough-style nature documentary host—a cute idea that can’t possibly support a huge open world game with hours of dialogue. Within thirty minutes the schtick wore thin, made worse by a mountain of cringe-inducing made-up nouns for nearly every object in the world. A piano is a string-plonk, the past is “the long-ago”, and a rubber duck is a Gumquack.
Hearing the narrator’s voice every time a character spoke flattened out the personalities of everyone in the game. I never really connected with anyone because they all sounded like the narrator. That is, outside of the gibberish noises they made as he translated. And even then, because the game is trying to channel some kung-fu movie energy, the gibberish ends up sounding less like animal noises, and more like an offensive impression of Chinese. Everything about the story is a complete drag.
All of that said, if you can button through all of it, or you’re perhaps too young to care, I think there is a decent open world game to be found here. The combat is snappy, if a bit unrefined. The traversal is aided by a variety of powers and vehicles that allow you to bounce, glide through the air, or even ride a huge mech through the environment. The looting and crafting play off of each other and allow you to build some fun and overpowered weapons and armor. All of it comes together to keep the experience largely pleasant, even at the worst of its fetch-questy moments.
Regardless, Biomutant remains a truly difficult game to recommend to most anyone. I can think of at least a dozen open world action games more worthy of your time, and I could probably come up with a dozen more if I thought about it some more. And whether you are a story person, or the kind of person that skips cutscenes, I think you’ll either be disinterested or frustrated by just how much empty dialogue there is here.
That said, I can’t shake the feeling that Biomutant will find an audience. Whether that’s a 2021 equivalent of me from the 90s begging their parents to let them play the game with the sword-wielding raccoon-thing on the cover, or a subset of folks that can forgive its flaws, I’m not sure.
Whatever the case, I find myself rooting for this game to find an audience, despite not really enjoying my time with it. I hope the developers get a good reason to come back around with an improved sequel, because at the very least I think a Biomutant 2 could be truly special.
For now though, I’d suggest steering clear.