The post-apocalyptic setting for a role-playing game is not exactly groundbreaking, but Experiment 101 is trying to do things a little differently, by focusing on nature more closely in Biomutant. Instead of the human race, animals have risen up to take their fair share of the world. With martial arts prowess and technological ingenuity, the animals have taken over and facing down the danger of Earth facing the end once more, and this is where you come in as the chosen one.
With the Tree of Life approaching a crossroads of sorts, the player steps into the breach amidst a backdrop of tribal wars, world-ending monstrosities, and the heavy-handed lesson in environmental destruction due to wanton use of toxic chemicals. From the moment you start creating your creature, the quirkiness of how the developers are presenting familiar RPG tropes will come through.
Depending on which core stat you want to focus on, the creature morphs and transforms in real-time. Together with your chosen class, the standard archetype of fantasy heroes is brought to life. That is, if your chosen hero is a purple, stick-thing rodent with a propensity to use firearms and have a natural affinity with psychokinetic powers.
In fact, the designs and environments in Biomutant are definitely a sight for sore eyes. Enemies come in a healthy variety, while the world, in general, looks a treat with the different biomes and conditions that come with them. This is a vibrant world that is ripe for exploration, filled with fantastical creatures and a semblance of civilisation.
In that sense, Biomutant does really well in bringing together elements seen from its obvious inspirations. As you scurry about completing quests and moving towards the inevitable conclusion, it is not hard to see shades of Legend of Zelda, Horizon Zero Dawn, and a sprinkling of Kung Fu Panda here and there. This is truly a one-of-a-kid post-apocalyptic martial arts RPG experience starring animals.
However, if you peel back the layers, the problems and issues that constantly surfaces during Biomutant make it less of an appetising roleplaying dish.
After the character creation, you are essentially dropped into the open world to carve out your own adventure. With the tribes at war over the decision to either save the Tree of Life or let it perish, your first decision will direct you to the first major quests of Biomutant.
This involves either taking over enemy outposts by force, or use the persuasive powers of your silver tongue to get your way. Either way, you are looking at a constant and repetitive cycle of outposts and boss battles that provide little in terms of variety. You cannot even outsmart the game by making use of geometry, with invisible walls blocking any advance other than the tired, old, approaches.
It does not even matter whether you are going the evil or good route, as the same outpost requires the same solution. That is a shame, considering the dynamics that could have played out with your chosen side.
The same malaise extends to the many different side quests and objectives too. You will always be collecting stuff for someone, or killing a bunch of things, rinse and repeat. Even for the bigger Worldeater bosses that hold the key to the Tree of Life, you are going through the same formula just to prepare for them. It becomes an exercise in tedium.
All of that only heightens the feeling of missed opportunities with Biomutant. The world created definitely deserves better. Chocked full of the remnants of civilisation, and offering an impressive scale when it comes to the landscape made up of an eye-catching variety of environments for players to romp through, Biomutant is great to witness.
Enemies you encounter are also great to marvel at, even when they are kicking your butt. Each tribe has a distinct style when it comes to weapons and armour, with creatures both big and small making up the numbers.
Not to mention the many other animals that have embraced their mutations or achieve dominance over their biomes. While they may not always be the smartest or most dangerous threats, they sure do make up for it when it comes to looking the post-apocalyptic part.
It makes perfect sense then that Experiment 101 has provided players with an equally baffling number of ways to deal with these interlopers.
The way you approach combat will likely differ from someone else playing the game, and that is excellent. You could be specialising in quick, one-handed slashes, or prefer the unmatched power of a crushing hammer. Rifles, pistols, machine guns, and more expands the ranged options when it comes to combat.
You even have the aforementioned special powers, freezing opponents, growing bouncy mushrooms, or shooting wisps of radiation just to screw with those unfortunate enough to stand in your way. The way the game allows players to explore and come up with their preferred playstyle is something to admire.
Combo moves can also lead to a special state called Super Wung-Fu, where you slow down time and execute damaging super moves that can level the playing field in a pinch. If only the rest of the game could match up to the creativity shown for combat and design.
Something has to be said about the narrator as well, who constantly pops up to share information about the world or to translate the animal talk. While it was definitely charming at the beginning, the stark difference between some of the messages and delivery can be too jarring over the course of the full Biomutant experience. Grand speeches do not exactly go hand-in-hand with childlike banter and comments.
Despite its flaws, Biomutant has something going for it. Its uniqueness in the space and the variety afforded to players are aspects that would satisfy most RPG fans. However, its lack of polish when it comes to quest design, puzzles, and making meaningful choices relegates it to a game that just cannot keep up with the evolution of its more illustrious peers.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Aiming for the top but falling hard, Biomutant leaves us wondering just what could have been if it just made some important changes.
Gameplay - 7/10
Story - 6/10
Presentation - 7/10
Value - 6/10