Review: With charm and depth, Biomutant more than makes up for what it lacks in polish

It doesn’t quite reach the heights of its inspirations, but it comes close.

Image via Experiment 101

Biomutant is a game that makes its first impressions early. The game holds very little back as it quickly introduces you to combat, world building, story, and the open world itself in the space of about 20 minutes. Truthfully, not all those impressions will be the best they could be, and a part of the reason for this is that Biomutant very clearly wears its inspirations on its sleeve. 

Biomutant is drawing from some of the very best games in their respective genres such as the Batman: Arkham series, Breath of the Wild, and Ratchet & Clank. While it can’t always live up to those inspirations, it combines them all together into a fun and engaging title that more than lives up to the charm displayed in trailers and promotional materials. 

Everybody was Wung-Fu fighting

Combat is a vital aspect of Biomutant, which instantly throws you into a fight when you start the campaign. You will be endlessly fighting all manner of creatures over the course of the story. From small mammalian creatures like your own character to massive beasts and everything in between, it is fighting these enemies that will take up much of your time as you play through the story. 

The developers have opted for a variation of the Arkham-style combat system. Certain enemy attacks are telegraphed and can be countered with the correct input. Some attacks can be parried, opening enemies up to counters, while others must be dodged. Abilities can be upgraded over the course of the game with new skills learned, all under the umbrella of a martial art called Wung-Fu. 

Everything works pretty much as it should, but the combat itself is floaty, to say the least. There is not much heft or weight behind moves, and animations will display subtle slipping and sliding as the game attempts to keep up with itself. The good news is that while this is extremely obvious at the start of the game, and feels a little disruptive, it doesn’t take long to get used to it. The combat becomes smoother as you gain more skills and abilities as options to use to fill in the gaps and transitions between enemies. As a system, it never reaches the heights of the Arkham games that it pulls from, but overall, it gets the job done and has enough style of its own thanks to the intermixing of melee, ranged, and psychic combat. 

A truly open world

Image via Experiment 101

When it comes to strengths, Biomutant has two things that it does so incredibly well that the floaty feeling in combat will, for many players, fade into a non-issue. Firstly, the game provides players with an actual open world to explore. From the moment you start the campaign, you can go anywhere. With very few exceptions, the entire map is yours to explore, as enemies will scale to your current level, no matter where you are. 

While there are some lumps of the map that are locked away behind various environmental effects, this is primarily to provide challenge rather than to hide content. Some areas are hot, others covered in an oxygen-reducing tar, while another area might be radioactive. The solution to these issues is simple exploration and looting. Get enough armor with resistances to a specific type of hazard and you can ignore it completely while you explore the area in question. 

The map is laden with story and side quests, secrets, NPCs to talk to, and other things to see and do. The lack of a minimap means that I have spent hours freed from the pressing need to do things and have instead allowed my curiosity to just carry me across the map wherever it might take me. While you can pop open your map and get direction at any time, Biomutant is incredibly gentle when it comes to pushing in any particular direction. The game is more interested in letting you catch a glimpse of an odd structure through the fog, or crest a hill to discover a massive ancient statue with a quest attached to it, than it is in putting a waypoint on the screen. 

Secondly, the story, creature design, world design, and naming conventions used in the game all drip with charm. In many ways, Biomutant plays out like a children’s story. Small fuzzy creatures exist in a post-apocalyptic world, spending time gathering up plastic bottles and rubber tires and taking on enemies called Jumbo Puff or Fluff Hulk. The constant narration is charming, grounding players in the story even if it has been two hours since they have done anything even remotely story related. 

The game falls down ever so slightly when it comes to some of the dialogue and conversations between characters. Because the developers obviously wanted players to be able to hit pause on campaign progression at any time in favor of exploration, things can occasionally feel just a little disjointed, but it’s not a major issue. 

Deep systems

The game’s depth really comes into play in the character creation and the crafting system. Everything matters when putting your character together. Your stats affect how you look, and vice versa. Whether you want to play a hulking fighter who can tank damage or a nimble gunslinger who shoots from afar, your character will look the part.

Over the course of the game, you will craft numerous pieces of armor and weapons put together from hundreds of different parts that you can find while exploring the world. Once again, each part matters, impacting the finished piece and affecting the stats and effects in different ways. I never once got tired of the endless hunt for components, always hungry to make a better weapon or a pair of pants. The addictive nature of building your own equipment in such minute detail was surprising but definitely welcome.  

The sheer variety of builds, both with regard to your character and the weapons and items you use, really add a vast amount of depth to Biomutant. Biomutant is a game of variety that rewards experimentation and exploration, so naturally curious players will have a great time with this system they find here. 

The verdict

I played the game on Ryzen 3700x, a GTX 3070, and 32 GB of RAM, and it ran like a dream with everything maxed out. The graphical options are impressive and cover often ignored elements like screen shake and field of view. 

While Biomutant is lacking the polish of the titles that inspired it, this doesn’t really matter in the long term. The more time you spend with the game, the more time it has to work its magic, drawing you into a beautiful and well realised world and setting you free to see and do whatever you like. 

It is this central freedom that Biomutant does better than just about any open-world game that I can remember, and it’s where the true charm in the title lies. Biomutant is a wonderfully relaxed title that rewards a feeling of curiosity and exploration and combined with wonderful graphics and somewhat wistful worldbuilding, the overall effect is to turn the title into a storybook that will keep you turning the page. 

Final score:

8.5 / 10

+ The story is charming and engaging
+ The RPG systems are incredibly deep, especially the crafting
+ Combat, while a little floaty at first, really is a lot of fun with some extra abilities unlocked
+ The game looks absolutely gorgeous
The games lacks the level of polish that is acheived by its inspirations.
Disclosure: This review was written using a game code provided by the publisher.