Today comes Biomutant, the long-awaited RPG offering developed by the Swedish studio Experiment 101 and published under the name THQ Nordic.
Experiment’s debut title was presented at Gamescom 2017 as an ambitious open-world action game. The studio itself was founded two years earlier by former Avalanche Studio employees who had previously worked on the Just Cause franchise.
Biomutant takes place in an open-world environment that has been ravaged by a natural disaster and that the protagonist of the game has to clean up. Despite the circumstances that mark the end of the world, the landscape is populated by anthropomorphic mammals who have mastered martial arts.
In the usual RPG fashion, players can design their own character to adventure through the game, but the template for this character is some sort of big cat / raccoon hybrid.
Expectations for Biomutant were a bit high after a flashy announcement trailer unveiled an ambitious next-gen IP, but they seemed to have eased as development progressed and the game slated into two scheduled release dates. surpassed 2018 and 2020.
Critical uptake appears to be mixed, with Biomutant hitting a semi-respectable metacritical score of 68% so far.
While some critics hail Biomutant as an exhilarating take on the genre, heavily inspired by Fable and Horizon: Zero Dawn, others describe the game as an unceremonious return to the clunky open-world titles from generations ago.
“An action RPG with exciting battles, quirky characters and a world full of life, developer Experiment 101 created a masterful title that recreates the sense of wonder you felt the first time you played a fantastic open-world adventure game,” wrote James Daly in his 9/10 review for GamingBible.
However, Jon Bailes of Videogames Chronicle has detailed how the game, despite the inclusion of classic RPG elements in his 2/5 review.
“Biomutant’s feature list seems to have everything a successful open-world action-RPG needs,” he wrote. “But travel through its cities, fields and bunkers, and there is no intrigue in its exploration or weight in its relationship building. Not even a worthy battle challenge to hold it all together.
“With so many ideas that are still underdeveloped, an environment that had a lot more potential is wasted.”
One element of Biomutant that was widely praised was its environment. Despite differing opinions on narrative choices, battles, and general gameplay, critics largely agreed that world design was one of Biomutant’s strengths.
“In the first round on the card, I was drunk with the Biomutant countryside,” James Davenport wrote in his 6/10 review for pc gamers. “It’s a really breathtaking setting and you get some fancy rides to unravel, including a giant mechanical hand that turns into a literal hand cannon. Is it useful? Hardly ever. But is it cool? Yes, which is the bulk of Biomutant, really. “
That feeling was toned by Luke Reilly in his similar style 6/10 IGN review. “It’s a shame the missions and objectives feel out of date so quickly because the world itself is very impressive,” he wrote.
“There is a great sense of being on a grand scale, especially with things like the giant tree of life and landmarks like collapsing bridges and a crumbling dam. It’s also extremely diverse, from dense forests to scorching deserts and fluorescent radioactive zones to barren wasteland. “
“It’s a shame that the missions and objectives feel out of date so quickly because the world itself is very impressive.”
Luke Reilly, IGN
While the pulsating world resonated, the combat mechanics of Biomutant were mixed up.
Daly praised the game for having “a very good combat system” with “access to a decent selection of melee and ranged weapons”.
“How you fight is up to you,” he added. “But free flowing combat is easy to learn and endless fun.”
However, Bailes commented that fighting felt bad in Biomutant as animation issues made the game’s variations in weapons and fighting styles obsolete.
“As in a badly staged film scene, blows cannot visibly establish a connection, and the creatures on the receiving end are too minimally animated to convince otherwise, swallowing sword wings or shotgun fire before they fly rigidly across the screen when their vitality is exhausted” , he wrote.
PC Gamer’s Davenport shared a similar view. “Dodge, shoot, punch, or slash – your verbs are limited,” he said. “I can’t remember a single fight that forced me to look at my equipment, stats, and powers in order to do serious theorizing.”
Biomutant also has a moral system where players’ choices feed into the overarching story. A story that, given its reception, does not seem to be very good.
VGC’s Bailes commented on how the moral system is supposed to be “a big deal” but ultimately ends up being “gross and stupid”.
“But as much as the narrator assures you that there is no right choice, and encourages you to run the world as you wish, it sounds hollow when there is a choice between unifying peace and genocidal fascism,” he wrote.
“It’s the kind of gross moral extremism we hoped we last saw in games over a decade ago. But instead we’re here with ethnic cleansing dressed up as an interesting moral choice. “
IGN’s Reilly made a similar comment on the story.
“The writing itself also fluctuates drastically between overly verbose and gritty childlike, and at one point I found it a bit much,” he said. “One minute the narrator becomes philosophical about the ever-branching and beautiful ramifications of the tree of life, and the next he tells me all about porky puffs and pong paddles and pling plong cubicles.”
GamingBible’s Daly disagrees, however, and wrote, “The whole thing has a Pixar feel to it, it’s both charming and heartbreaking.”
Overall, Biomutant presents itself as an ambitious project with an enthusiasm to deliver a heartfelt and sturdy apocalyptic epic, but falls short of its own endeavors thanks to uninspiring fights, unpredictable spellings, and repetitive, meaningless quests.
“Biomutant seems to have a lot to say about the past, the future – and possibly forgiveness – but his fortune cookie wisdom feels a fraction too serious,” wrote IGN’s Reilly.
It struck the right note with enough critics to make a pretty average Metacritic score, however, so maybe the beauty of Biomutant really resides in the bio-holder.
“Biomutant is a great open world role-playing game with an action focus. You can fight to your heart’s content, meander through beautiful and desolate environments, and enjoy a story that takes you to the far corners of a wonderful in-game map, ”Daly concluded.
“It’s not always easy on the eye, but if you look a little deeper you will find that it oozes beauty.”