Another month in 2021, another game added to the list of disappointing releases. Biomutant has been teased and hinted at for years. It was on my Steam wish list for so long that I have no idea when it was added. It was available for wishlisting before even Cyberpunk 2077, which in case you missed it, was a colossal failure after many years of buildup and hype. At least Biomutant runs on Xbox One and PS4.
Biomutant‘s most significant weakness is its approach to dialogue and storytelling. The story begins with your little mutant fox creature returning to their homeland. The ever-present narrator informs you that there has been an ecological disaster, and the tree that keeps the world alive is dying. You’re returning home in order to save the world and avenge your parents. This is told to you through copious amounts of narration crammed full of gibberish, strange metaphors, and philosophical advice. Biomutant‘s writers heard the adage “show, not tell,” and took the exact opposite approach. The player isn’t overwhelmed by the sorrow of watching their character’s parents die, they’re told by the narrator “you feel immense sadness.” The game doesn’t show you that the world is dying, (it looks healthy and full of life) but instead tells you every five steps that it is dying and you have to save it. The narrator tells you that the world is polluted and animal life is rare, but it certainly doesn’t look like it. Many video games suffer from lackluster storytelling in the same manner. Biotmutant‘s issue is that the narrator exacerbates the problem until it’s unbearable.
Satisfying gameplay and character building have saved many RPGs from failure; Biomutant misses out on both lifelines. Moving about the world is snappy and fluid. Jumping and double jumping feels responsive. However, that’s all the game has going for it in the gameplay department. Melee combat and targeting are extremely inconsistent. There’s no lock-on feature: your character automatically targets the nearest enemy and it is often difficult to hit the target you want. Sometimes you can stunlock enemies, sometimes they hit right through your attacks with no warning and knock you down. The smaller enemies’ attacks are often imperceptible and too fast to dodge or block, while the larger enemies use the same three moves when you’re not anywhere near them. Consequently, it seems the best strategy is to use only ranged weapons and kite endlessly, especially because you have infinite ammo. Most enemies will follow after you like zombies and be unable to damage you unless they have a gun of their own. It feels much better to do that, rather than entering melee range and engaging the risk of being one-shot instantly. As a whole, the combat feels clunky and imprecise.
Unfortunately, the RPG aspects of the game are poor as well. There are multiple skill categories to choose from, but most are close to entirely unlocked after the first two hours into Biomutant. There is no build diversification because there are no significant choices to make. Your character has various stats that you can invest in when you level up, but there isn’t much point to thinking about what to put points in. One stat exclusively raises movement speed, and not by much. I greatly enjoy theory-crafting builds and planning out my characters in RPGs; however, that aspect just does not exist here.
Biomutant has a sizeable number of flaws. It feels as though the developers wanted to incorporate too many great ideas, and as a consequence, left the game unfocused and unfinished. Many players could overlook the weak combat and storytelling, (exploring the expansive world is enjoyable for a time) but the price tag makes the game impossible to recommend on release. $60 is too much for what amounts to an early access indie game.
Images: Experiment 101 / THQ Nordic