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Gamebox 2.0: Biomutant Review

Biomutant is out now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC and we got the chance to dive into its post-apocalyptic open world as a furry wung-fu master and decide the fate of the world.

Zach: Coming from THQ Nordic and Experiment 101, Biomutant is an open-world action RPG where the world has been taken over by various creatures after a chemical company dumped so much toxic waste and pollution it irrevocably changed the world and mutated the various creatures.  You get to create your own furry avatar, with each different species having slightly different advantages and disadvantages.  You also get to allocate your initial points and decide your class, which will mostly decide what weapon or powers you are proficient in.  I choose the Commando, which gives you an assault rifle to start with and gives you a range weapon bonus. The game is pretty generous with leveling up, as you gain 10 points to point into one of the character attributes, so even if you dump all your initial points into, say, strength, you can fairly quickly get the other attributes beefed up.  Of course, it’s up to you and the game gives you a lot of flexibility in finding your playstyle and weapon preferences.  Along with ranged weapons like guns, you can find and build an assortment of melee weapons, which complements the “wung-fu” melee combos you can learn.

The more you level up and the more different weapons you find and craft, you can unlock more combos and there’s a mechanic called “Super Wung-Fu” that is basically a super attack if you can perform 3 different combos in a row.  In Super Wung-Fu, you can go into bullet time and spray lead or do super fast and powerful melee attacks.  There are also mutations you can add and Psi attacks that give you special abilities.  Biomutant is loaded with systems and if you enjoy digging in and fine-tuning your character, there’s a lot to explore.  The weapon crafting system is the main one that gave me some frustration, as it seemed like I was always missing some component that would allow me to either modify or create a new weapon.  You need to find various recycled materials around the world or from defeating enemies and you need a certain amount to be able to change or create new weapons.  It always seemed like I was a few plastic or metal short and it took a while to be able to do anything to my starting assault rifle.  Luckily, that assault rifle seemed pretty solid and there weren’t any enemies so far that seemed like they would need a more powerful weapon.

Another interesting aspect of the game is the way you can decide how the story plays out.  After playing through the tutorial bunker area, you are given the outline of two main objectives that need to be completed to beat the game.  There are “World Eaters” who are eating the roots of the Tree of Life that helps protect and keep the world living and vibrant and there are various tribes scattered throughout the world that are at war with each other. Each tribe has a different goal concerning the other tribes and the World Eaters and you have to take a look at what they all are trying to do and align yourself with one. Once you align yourself with one (there are two main ones to start off), their goal regarding the tribes and the World Eaters becomes your main end game objectives. For instance, there’s a tribe that wants to take over all the over tribes and defeat the World Eaters but there’s another tribe that wants to wipe out the other tribes and let the World Eaters destroy the Tree of Life.

Whichever tribe you choose, you can attack the other tribe’s fortresses and take them down, sort of like Far Cry’s outposts, and then eventually launch a final assault on the tribe’s main base.  You earn tribe-specific weapons and gear as you take down other tribe’s territory and you can decide the fate of other group’s leaders after you conquer them.  This plays into yet another system in the game, which is a black and white morality system.  Each decision you make puts you toward either the light or dark side and depending on how you decide to play, you can unlock specific abilities that relate to your alignment.

I really enjoyed the combat of the game and the mix of guns and melee and it’s complex enough to keep things interesting but not too complicated so that you’re overwhelmed.  The world is also beautifully realized and there’s tons of great world-building and character to explore.  Most of the lore and character is doled out by your Automaton, who is a British-voiced robot grasshopper that explains everything to you and translates what other characters are saying.  It’s a bit like what Bastion did with the narrator that comments on everything but I could see if some people may find it annoying and want to turn it off, which you can.  There are some noticeable performance issues, even playing on a PS4 Pro, like the open-world hitching as it tries to load ahead of you and some graphical glitches with stuff like dialogue boxes.  None of it is enough to make the game that much less enjoyable but it’s definitely noticeable and something to be aware of.

Another kind of annoying aspect is the swimming in the game, which is basically non-existent.  You can flail around in the water but you have a very limited time to get out and if you don’t get out before your stamina drains, you drown even in what looks like only a few feet deep water.  The fix to this is to find a character named Goop, who starts you on a mission to build a jet-ski-like vehicle called the Googlide but the game doesn’t make this very clear. If you were like me, you may struggle with trying to navigate around water areas until you realize you can get this vehicle and you’ll have wasted quite a bit of time.

Overall, I’m really enjoying what I’ve played so far of Biomutant. The world is great and the combat is fun and there’s a ton of stuff to see and do, with numerous side quests to accomplish along with the main objectives and I like the openness of the main objectives and how you can change them if you decide to join up with a different tribe.  If you like open-world action RPGs with various systems to fine-tune your character and fun combat, Biomutant is definitely worth checking out.

(Chris): Take Fable and cover everyone in mutated fur, and that’s the start of Experiment 101 and THQ Nordic’s Biomutant. This action RPG takes place on a post-apocalyptic earth that wiped out humanity but left it perfect for the animal kingdom to claim. Many generations later, animals have mutated and evolved into intelligent creatures, building up societies and a new way of life. All this was made possible by the Tree of Life, which brings balance to the lands. However, there are creatures that are trying to destroy the world again and bring a major change to all living things.

Biomutant puts you in the role of the scavenger warrior, who has been wandering and surviving the dangerous wastelands alone for some time. But on a fateful encounter, the warrior learns of the pending doom for the Tree of Life and the role they are to play to shape everyone’s future. At the start of the game, the player choose which stats and class the main character will take on. There is a fun interlocking relationship to boosting certain stats that alters the appearance of the character. Fast and agility options make the character more lean and fluffy. Damage absorbing and more power-heavy builds make the character more stocky and a dense coat of fur. The classes focus on core abilities that the character starts out with, but the game gains big bonuses to perks and skills to make characters more rounded if they choose. So a character that starts out slow-moving can get a boost in speed as they level up, or a fast character that does lite damage can get stronger.

The combat in the game is a mix of melee and ranged weaponry and psionic powers. There are restrictions on certain weaponry that can only be wielded by a specific class. Melee weapons are good for crowd control and dealing some major damage to a few moves. The guns chip away healths from a good distance and can stun enemies from attacking. Guns have unlimited ammo but need time to reload the next clip. Psionic powers add a big boost to defensives and offenses capabilities but cost some stamina between use. But being brutal in combat is the only way to play. There are instances where you can avoid fighting entirely if you are clever enough.

There is an open-world design that lets the player take on a situation differently. It’s not offered in many events, but there are options to solve a problem with words and charm, or with threats if the need arises. There is a morality mechanic that lets the player be more compassionate and benevolent, or be disagreeable and adverse. There are dialogue choices and actions that will put points in a dark and light side meter. Gaining points on either side will affect how characters interact with the main character. This places a big consequence on the main quest, where the main character must deal with tribes that gather around the roots of the Tree of Life. At the early start of the game, the main character finds out that six tributes have formed and are dealing with the Tree of Life in their own ways. Based on the actions of the main character, the tributes can be united under one banner or submit to a stronger figure.

It’s great to explore the different areas for loot, slowly turning the character into a very successful scavenger but there are some technical and mechanical issues that break the immersive experience. I played Biomutant on the regular PS4, knowing I was expected to have longer load times and graphics toned down. But the game still has some texture issues and unoptimized loading that makes the cut scenes already look a bit off. At the early release of the game, there were some slow-down sequences in combat that were firing off at the wrong moments, leaving my character to slowly twirl in the air with a dead enemy on the ground. Combat has a variety of approaches, but it’s easy to use spam able attacks to quickly get the job done, especially when the camera and a lack of a true targeting system work against the player at times.

Biomutant attempts to merge different concepts together, which leaves many blind spots. Some of the gameplay feels unpolished and unfulfilling, where you wished they spent more time fleshing out the small details. Combat could be tuned a bit better, the camera is the big issue when trying to get an idea of enemies’ locations and when the next attack will be coming from. Some of the side quests can get repetitive, with some of them giving minor rewards in the long run.

However, if you overlook a few issues (Which by Experiment 101 is selectively patching) and the game is still enjoyable. Just like Zach, I too enjoyed the fable-style narration that puts the player at ease and tempts the game from being too remorseful. The world has gone to hell, but life still goes on. I surprisedly like the animal translation, which kept me engaged in the dialogue. The ruined world is fun to explore and grants a lot of loot to build up the character. Customized armor and weapons is neat, and are based on how carefully you can look around the environment.

Biomutant is an ambitious title that offers interesting gameplay at a casual pace. It doesn’t have a huge grind to enjoy, but it’s not a very deep experience. It’s no Fallout or Mass Effect, but it’s worth a look for gamers that like the character designs and relaxing fantasy settings.

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