I have a penchant for weird. For games that dare to try and be different. To be unique. I’m talking about games that want to bring something new to the table whether that is in regard to story, gameplay, or just visuals. And sometimes the gamble pays off. After all, it is a great selling point when a game is recommended to you with “this is something new, different, you should definitely check it out”. Such things could be said for Zeno Clash, Killer7, Deadly Premonition and I’d say that from one of the more recent releases Death Stranding fits there as well. But that weirdness is what got me interested in BIOMUTANT as well. Check out any prerelease trailer or a preview and you’ll see that the game has some strange visuals and character designs. Or we could just assume that the devs did a lot of mind-altering substances during the development. So let’s dig in deeper to see what BIOMUTANT is all about.
BIOMUTANT introduces us to a lush, vibrant world and flora-populated biomes. The engine that powers and keeps all the life in this world is conveniently called the Tree of Life and as of recent, it’s been under constant attack. Not from just any enemies, but from so-called World Eaters. Remember those colossi from Shadow of the Colossus? They’re kind of like that, huge but more colorful and psychedelic. It’s up to you to defeat the World Eaters, unite the tribes and master the Wung-Fu martial art. On your way, you might meet some friendly faces that will teach you new abilities, combat moves and you’ll find plenty of weird-looking horses to ride through this oversaturated and bizarre world.
So yeah, the story might not be anything spectacular, but what about the gameplay? Well, this is the part where things start to get pretty interesting. The combat system in BIOMUTANT is deep and engaging, but never complex. You have some martial art skills at the start, a gun and later on you will unlock plenty of PSI abilities (let’s just call those furry magic from now on). This is the game where exploring and doing sidequests is highly rewarding. You unlock more moves after leveling up, get to amp up your stats, and get acquainted with the crafting system. Now let’s talk a bit more about that. The crafting system in BIOMUTANT could be the selling point of the game, along with its quirky visuals. It’s a game where you should never ever throw anything away. Every gun piece, melee weapon piece, and clothing piece can be used for something. A couple of hours into the game (thanks to my video game hoarding syndrome) I managed to craft an automatic rifle that looks like a clown threw it up but on the bright side it has a radiation status effect and it melts almost every enemy. The downside of mastering that crafting system is that pretty soon you might end up with an incredibly powerful gun (or a melee weapon) and just use that to cheese through the game, never feeling the need to perhaps test out the PSI powers or any other tactic. The game has a couple of different biomes with one dominant element (snow, heat, poison, etc), and to fully explore everything, you’ll first have to find the appropriate protective suit. Actually, it feels like a lot of the content is gated behind short quests. Every few steps, someone might stop you in your tracks and say “oh, first do this one small thing for me, and then you can go back to having fun and playing the game your way”. Another thing that’s introduced in the game early on is the light/dark system. While it is advertised as something significant, that never goes beyond having certain skills locked behind your good or evil affinity. Sure, some NPCs and tribes might be friendlier to you and some might attack you, but that’s pretty much it.
Ah, the main star of tonight’s performance. Some games tend to have such a peculiar identity that they simply can’t be compared to any other. BIOMUTANT is like if someone took a lot of psychedelics, decided to paint something beautiful, and halfway through the acid trip decided to just throw a bunch of paint on the canvas. But instead of ruining everything, it ended up looking…..unexpectedly good? And yet, despite the visual appeal, the game still manages to feel somehow empty. While the world of BIOMUTANT is simply huge, there is no life to be found almost anywhere. Aside from a couple of villages (that act as central hubs), every other structure is eerily empty. Every village is abandoned or half-ruined. On top of that, combat encounters are disappointingly rare. What good is a game that offers so much variety in how to defeat the enemies when you encounter one or two every few minutes? On the bright side, while the enemy activity is slim, their design is something else. It goes from weird to puzzling to downright hilarious.
For a game that lets you spend a lot of time rummaging through abandoned villages, dark sewers, and concrete corridors, I expected a rich soundtrack so that at least I have some sort of company. Emphasis on “expected”. For what it’s worth, the soundtrack is good when it’s there. But also, it feels like most of the focus went on complimenting just the main quests and important story moments with proper music, instead of spreading it out evenly. Whenever I decided to scout the world, I’ve been met with an eerie silence until suddenly the soundtrack would remember “oh, this is my cue” and start actually contributing to the game.
My holy trinity of a good game consists of (in this very specific order) gameplay, story, and visuals. The first can save the game even if two other points are lacking. The second one works best only if the first one is good as well. A good story can save mediocre gameplay and great gameplay can save the game even if the story is average. But what about the visuals? It is the icing on the cake. A finishing touch. But it is rarely something that you should base your whole game on. BIOMUTANT is a victim of its ambition. In the end, it is a good-looking game with a fun combat system and uneven pacing. I give this game A+ for trying and a B for pretty much everything else. The visuals here take the center stage while everything else is pushed to the side.
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