Experiment 101’s debut game has come out swinging with all of the ambition of a bigger studio, for better and for worse.
I didn’t know what to expect from Biomutant when I sat down to start it a week ago. I’ve been aware of it but I’ve rarely covered it here on Pure PlayStation, so I went in almost as green as the luscious, post-apocalyptic world of Biomutant. And that’s the first thing that really grabbed me and kept me sat playing late into that first night; it’s so very colourful, almost too colourful at times.
The world is vibrant but varied with a changing colour palette depending on which area of the large map you’re exploring. Some are patchworks of green grass swaying in the wind, others tempt you to explore with their inviting glowing mist, though they’ll kill you if you don’t have the right gear and/or mount for the occasion. The red canyons were my favourite places to mooch around, especially on the back of a mechanical horse while dual-wielding my pistols and blasting any critters that dared to take a swipe at me. It was like being a cowboy, except my dude was a weird-looking hobo rat-man.
The world is gorgeous, then, and playing on PS5 at 60fps, it flows beautifully and it was a joy to explore. It wasn’t always a joy to play, though, and I found that Biomutant suffers from a problem that many modern games suffer from – it just doesn’t know when to call it quits. In a bid to appeal to the “modern gamer,” Biomutant throws the kitchen sink at you with endless multi-point side-quests – most of which revolve around collecting, finding, or fighting – in addition to the main quests, which are more of the same. It’s a little jumbled and all over the place, then, and if you’re not careful, you’ll get lost within the many twisting questlines.
Early on in the game, I was introduced to different tribes that were at war. My task was to pick a side and then fight to clear the enemy tribe away from camps spread around the world, and eventually unite them. After the initial mission that introduced this questline, I completely ignored it for ten hours and didn’t suffer at all. I got on with chasing down the Worldeaters who are having a grand time bringing about the end of the world by munching on the roots of some magical tree. You can either spend a dozen hours shooting and slashing your way through the main story and finishing it, or you can spend dozens peeking into every nook and cranny of this desolate world. As I was in a rush, I ploughed through the story but still felt like it could have been streamlined.
The game throws mechanic after mechanic at you, though not all at once, thankfully. It wasn’t until a few hours in that I earned the ability to glide with the help of my little automaton, and this guy would go on to deliver a few more surprises throughout the adventure, as would the game with its introductions of new collectables, puzzles, and enemies.
There’s always something to do, something to see, or someone to talk to in Biomutant, and that’s not always a good thing, especially if you don’t like sitting through cutscenes – Biomutant has cutscenes for days. There’s a lot of dialogue in Biomutant and it’s all delivered by one narrator with the smoothest voice I’ve ever heard. If it wasn’t for the fine choice of voice actor, the narration would have fallen completely dead.
The narrator speaks for everybody, translating the words of every strange creature you encounter, as well as providing a bit of commentary as you go about your travels, which I thought was nice. His warmth and charm sells the world as a place of whimsy and wonder, as well as danger and darkness. I can imagine this guy doing the audiobook adaptation for the Harry Potter series, which I’d prefer to Stephen Fry, but let’s leave that argument for another day.
Biomutant feels like a collection of weird things but it never settles on anything. It’s art-style is gorgeous and the world can be beautiful – if a little rough around the edges. Fun fact, this is the first time in a very long time that I’ve actually bothered with any game’s Photo Mode, so lovely the game is to look at. However, it’s then being spun with comic-book-style effects with ‘zaps’ and ‘pows’ during combat – something I thought was at odds with the rest of the game’s design. To the game’s credit, there are a lot of options to fiddle with and one is to remove the comic-style effects, which I certainly did, along with damage numbers because as much as this game is an RPG, I so very much wanted it not to be.
There are so many options for battling it out against the world’s weirdos. You can customise your rat-man with bits of crap found throughout the world, and you can craft weapons out of junk and crap, too. Then there’s the levelling up, mutant powers, skill points blah blah blah.
In a game that already feels like it’s gone far beyond the scope expected of it, I didn’t care for the extra bother of wondering if my numbers were going to be enough to beat the bad guy with a slightly higher number. It’s not how I like to play, because once you boil it down to its essence, it just becomes a game of maths, and I hate maths. But I get it, it’s another one of those things “modern gamers” like to chase – bigger numbers, and combat is nothing these days without numbers being involved in some form, much to my annoyance.
And speaking of annoyance – the combat is both brilliantly cool and downright annoying. It follows the now-standard hit-hit-dodge but throws in some awesome kung-fu and gun-fu. It’s part hack-n-slash, part John Woo movie, and part Kung Fu Panda because… there’s a panda somewhere in the game. I ignored him after a while so that I could go back to trying to getting my arse kicked. Dodging didn’t always work and I quickly gave up on trying to deflect anything. The dodging mechanic had me pulling my hair out during the second Worldeater battle where the monster threw massive boulders, one after the other, and despite the game doing its slow-mo to say “hey, well done on pressing the button at the correct time!” I still got pounded by the boulder and then the next one and then I died. Lots of times. But it’s functional and if you’ve got skills, you can string together some really cool combos. I don’t have skills but I still managed to mostly enjoy the blend of kung-fu and gun-fu, I just wish it was a little more refined and packed a bigger crunching punch.
I really liked Biomutant, despite its flaws. I appreciate Experiment 101 coming out of the gate with an ambitious debut – it’s certainly a way for a developer to make a name for itself. My fear is, though, that it’s going to be a bit marmite among players, and somewhere down the line you’ll read “Biomutant Developer Announces New Game” and you’ll either punch that headline as hard as you can with your meaty little gaming thumb, or you’ll continue scrolling until you find a lazy listicle to read while you wait in line to get your 19th dose of anti-rona juice. I’ll be clicking the headline. I’ll also have probably written it, so I may be biased…
Biomutant PS5, PS4 Review
- Overall – Very Good – 7.5/10
Biomutant is ambitious to a fault and it won’t be forgotten about anytime soon. Its flaws are bared for all to see, but so is its charm, heart, and fun. Most of its flaws can be overlooked by literally overlooking them – you don’t have to do everything the game throws at you to enjoy Biomutant’s one-of-a-kind world of wonders.
- Expansive world worth taking the time to explore with its many locations and secrets
- Slick combat that has massive potential in the right hands (just not mine)
- The narrator can read me the shipping forecasts any night of the week
- Reaches a bit too far with its many features and mechanics, as well as its extensive RPG/crafting side
- Far too much dialogue that pulls you away from the game
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using PS5, PS4 Pro.