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Experiment 101 is a surprisingly small team for a game with the scope of Biomutant. Just around 20 people reportedly comprise the Swedish developer and it’s clear that for each person on the team, Biomutant has been a labour of love. Unfortunately, that love is just a little rough around the edges
Upon being let loose into Biomutant’s world after a brief opening, it is hard not to just take a moment to admire the scenery. With vibrant colours, a compelling reclaimed by nature aesthetic, and all the modern technological fixings, it’s well worth basking in before pressing on ahead. Once out of the starting valley with its drip-feed of tutorials you’re beholden to the vast landmark dotted world of Biomutant which is just calling for you to explore.
It’s very hard to resist that call for adventure, as Biomutant sets itself up early on to be exceptionally engaging with its charm as it pulls you in with oodles of promise. The warm hug of David Shaw Parker’s constant storybook-esque narration is uniquely compelling, at first, as it draws you into the world, serving as both commentator and translator, however, its appeal doesn’t last forever.
It’s a good thing he’s there to translate as everyone in Biomutant’s world speaks in their own incomprehensible language. Listening to them babble on before the translation is adorable to start with, however, its appeal was the first to fade as the once charming nonsense slowly feels like more and more wasted time that gets progressively more grating.
The dialogue certainly doesn’t help the story that Biomutant is trying to tell. For better or worse, Biomutant’s story is almost non-existent, you’re just given an assortment of main quests to complete and are told to go at it, everything else is for you to figure out on the way. Trouble is that actually figuring anything out is no mean feat, as even when you get to ask reductive questions about the world, you’ll often get bafflingly unhelpful waffle about the topic in place of actual lore.
Thankfully, the main quests are compelling enough to get on with, but Biomutant doesn’t just give you one objective, oh no, you’ve got to save the world, win a war, and get revenge all at once. With four gigantic World Eaters threatening to destroy the World Tree, six tribes all vying for outposts to defeat each other and Lupa-Lupin to track down and give a stern talking to, Biomutant’s scattershot plot feels all over the place and entirely without stakes.
Open world games have long suffered from the end of the world being a complete non-threat, with the big bad politely waiting as you complete every sidequest you might fancy. With three main quests each demanding attention, this lack of stakes is turned up to 11, as even completing one of the other main quests feels like putting the future of the world on hold, so it surely can’t be that important.
It doesn’t help things that Biomutant has a lot of sidequests for you to get distracted with. Practically every activity and collectable comes with its own tracked sidequests to litter your map in activities. You’re never short of things to do, but you’re never discovering anything organically either, as, after the first time as after you do, there’ll be a quest marker pointing the way to the next “hidden” collectable or puzzle which saps the fun from what should be invigorating exploration.
In the moments you do get to explore and discover on your own, Biomutant is great fun, but it’s not long before the jank rears its ugly head once again. The springy movement of your mutant can be great when getting to parkour around on clear paths, but the level geometry often gets in the way and spoils the fun. Mounts can get stuck on the smallest of rocks and wall jumping is far from consistent, as it ultimately lacks the polish to make it reliably enjoyable.
Outside of the great looks, everything has been marred by this lack of polish which stops Biomutant’s mechanics from reaching their potential. In the trailers you might have been entranced by the fantastical kung fu style combat, bouncing and whipping around the environment while unleashing powerful attacks with their own onomatopoeic effects for even more flare. It’s not just trailer trickery thankfully, as Biomutant’s combat oozes that style, but it’s lacking the polish to give it proper feeling.
In practice, the flashy combat is left hollow and all for show, with no substance or feeling behind attacks. There’s an absurdly huge array of fully customisable pieced together weapons you can use to dish out damage up close, as well as dodging and parrying to string it all together, but while technically complex there’s very rarely a reason to engage with it.
Engaging in combat can at least be fun as enemies are dangerously powerful and while not too complex they come at you in numbers to keep things difficult. Weapons abilities, mutations and ki abilities all help to keep the combat interesting and varied, but while showy, these attacks lack the weight they deserve, with some enemies refusing to flinch no matter what you hit them with.
All the potentially engaging combat Biomutant can offer feels almost pointless, however, as in Biomutant, you also have a gun. With the same customizability and weapon abilities as melee weapons, there’s a good deal of enjoyment to be had, but there’s absolutely no challenge. Backpedalling and strafing around as you burn through infinite ammo makes every fight trivial and guns aren’t even underpowered or utility focused to compensate. After I found a stupidly powerful rifle that I tricked out even further, there wasn’t any reason to use anything else.
The repetition that settles into the combat loop epitomises Biomutant’s overarching gameplay. The sidequests and collectables are all variations on the same rotation puzzles, with only occasionally a different style thrown in. The main waring tribe’s quest has subtle differences between outposts and fortresses you capture, but they all play out in the same way. Even the engagingly different World Eater boss fights are marred by cookie-cutter go here and do basic thing questing beforehand.
What started out as being exceptionally fun and engaging romp slowly turns into a slog through the content you’ve already seen before. The little unique content there is stands head and shoulders above the rest as sparks of greatness, but sadly these moments are fleeting after the opening. The once whimsical charm fades away through repetition Biomutant is left exposed as shallow and unpolished, with the scattershot plot leaving plenty to do, but no incentive to do it.