Open world games are the new expectation, even when the format doesn’t fit the story. The individual parts of Biomutant were nothing new: a Fable-inspired swords/guns/magic combat system; Breath of the Wild open world to defeat four monsters; all the crafting and deconstructing of items we’ve come to expect in these games. But adding in the fact there were no humans to speak of, and indeed you played as a heavily customisable rodent, and I was instantly intrigued. I had been looking for something to put the Series X through its paces, and with all that in mind, here are my early thoughts on… Biomutant.
- The character customisation is fantastic, and this style really should become the new norm. From a visual standpoint, instead of choosing from pre-set faces or torso shapes, your character’s look is based entirely on how you want to play the game. Dumping your points into strength makes your character a shortstack, “built like a brick outhouse” if you will. If you opt instead for intelligence, you’ll be scrawnier, but with a larger head; agility gives you longer limbs to move with; charisma makes you more classically cute. It’s a great system that merges the gameplay and story in a way not too many other games do, with Dragon’s Dogma being the only other game that comes to mind. And that’s a good thing for me, personally.
- The game features a lot of choices, of which it’s not really made clear which are important. An early decision has you deciding to be allies with, or rivals to, one of the game’s various factions. I was given a ten second cutscene intended to fill me in on context to their end goals, relationships to other clans, and general ‘goodness versus badness’ and then immediately propositioned by the big boss if I would join them or not. It felt like a huge decision, far too early in the game, specially as the other side immediately assumed I was going to join them no matter what.
- The narrator is a fun concept, as long as you turn down the frequency. As all the creatures speak in a Sims-like gibberish (or maybe it’s closer to the Minions), an English narrator will interpret all of the conversations. You are given some relatively bare-bones decisions to make in a two-choice dialogue tree of sorts, but it’s essentially all the same. I could do without the seemingly hacked on morality system, too, but maybe that will have a larger role into things as I play deeper into the game.
- The game runs incredibly smoothly on the Xbox Series X. Gameplay is fluid and dynamic, in both combat and exploring the sprawling world, though admittedly the combat lacks some weight. As you all know of me by now, “bigger sword = bigger reward”, so you bet I chose the class that gave me a massive hunk of iron to swing around. Unfortunately it never feels like I’m using a devastating, two handed death machine. The guns are a lot of fun, and though I’m relatively early in the magic side of things, the ability previews on the unlock screen look like they could have great combat and exploration uses.
- The world is gorgeous, but features a lot of invisible walls. I thought gaming had moved on from the concept of literal invisible barriers; if you can climb a mountain (sans the outer border of the game world, of course) you should be able to traverse it. Too often I managed to climb up a series of seemingly intentionally placed rocks to find a gorgeous view leading across cliff face – but couldn’t go any further forward. It frustrated me more than it should have. Similarly, if I can use my game-given abilities (that is, not cheesing the system) to access a fortress early, or get across a swamp or lake before I’m meant to, I should be able to continue. I also can’t help but note the same post-apocalyptic assets from Darksiders III and Remnant: From the Ashes, two other THQ Nordic published games.
- I need colour blindness options. This is not specific to Biomutant, but it is my opinion that no markings/allegiance icons/minimap markers etc should ever be set colours. I have a lot of trouble seeing the enemy attack indicators above their head and have to pay such close attention to their moments, and I can’t for the life of me determine the stat additions/reductions from gear. Oh well, I’m used to games having this poor design by now.
- On a final note, also not specific to Biomutant in particular, something has to be done about video game tutorials. I don’t mean in the way of not needing to know how to use specific features of that particular game, but pausing the game to have a segment of ‘press the left stick to move your character’ or even ‘use signposts to unlock areas of the map’ don’t need to be so involved. Even if Biomutant was your first ever video game, simply navigating to it on the Xbox home screen and pushing A to start the game should be proof enough you know how to use a controller.
I’m not going to pretend this is the game of the generation, game of the year, or even a standout in the genre. But I’m more invested than I thought I’d be, and I’ve got a good feeling about where this is going.
[As of publishing this, I believe Experiment 101 has just released a patch which addresses of some these issues, but that is not yet available for consoles. So hopefully when I get going into it, any issues will all be fixed.]