Biomutant Gameplay Preview – A Pretty Good Game Marred By an Underwhelming Start

Developed by Experiment 101, published by THQ Nordic (Xbox 1, PS4, PC)
*MSRP: 59.99 – https://store.steampowered.com/app/597820/BIOMUTANT/

Biomutant is a pretty strange game. It combines a lot of mechanics from many different genres into a strange concoction that feels warmly familiar yet distinct.

The open world is incredibly large and seamless. If you see a distant landmark, you can actually travel there.

The game is an open world rpg with an incredibly large map filled with small villages, dungeons, treasures, and collectables. You even have outposts to take over like in Assassin’s Creed. The combat is an action heavy spam fest that is reminiscent of games like Devil May Cry. You literally have a gun and sword that you can switch back and forth from. The progression system is a stat based system like that found in a role playing game. Let’s just say there are a lot of mechanics in this game.

This makes it sound like it should be the ultimate game on paper, with so many appealing mechanics rolled into this one game, but in reality the game falls short of the mark. Biomutant, by my opinion, is actually a very good game but the main issue is that there are some underwhelming aspects to the game that may mar your first impressions and prevent new players from giving the game a fair shot.

There are two main aspects of the game that are pretty underwhelming at first glance, the presentation of the narrative and the overall feel of the combat.

The conversations are infuriatingly annoying as it takes an unnecessarily long time to get through.

The way Biomutant presents the narrative is quite possibly one of the most infuriatingly annoying methods I’ve seen in a long while. The content of the narrative itself is not bad at all, it is simply the way the narrative is delivered. Every time you talk to any character, be it a random npc on the street or a major quest giver, the game does the same thing every time. The game takes away control from you, cuts to a cinematic angle (which looks fantastic by the way but that’s besides the point here), the animal talks in the animal language, the narrator translates, and then you get to pick an answer to the dialogue and it continues on. Every, single, time. Don’t even get me started on the aura system.

This can be quite frustrating as it unnecessarily lengthens the time conversations take and there are many npcs you can talk to. A few of the npcs will start a side quest but you can’t tell at first glance which will give a quest and which won’t. You can skip the conversations but then you lack the development of any sort of connection to the characters in the game or the world around you. An easy solution would have been to have the narrator speak over the animal dialogue without taking away camera control from you and reserved this tedious method for important cut scenes.

Another issue with the presentation of the narrative is that there is actually no dialogue between yourself and other characters. It is all done through the narration. This wouldn’t have presented any problems had the script been better written but it is quite underwhelming in that the narrator’s dialogue serves as an info dump to let the player know what to do and where to go or have surprisingly little substance in developing anything. This makes the narration feel a bit empty, even though the voice acting is superbly done.

The method of narrative delivery does grow on you as you play the game but still remains quite tedious to deal with. It creates a surreal feeling of having a fairy tale read to you by a benevolent being. I can understand and appreciate the craft of the presentation but it is still quite a slog to have to go through it for every conversation.

The combat looks amazing but is unusually quiet. This makes it feel incredibly underwhelming.

Moving on to the combat, it too feels quite underwhelming for two main reasons. The first and primary reason is that the audio mix for the combat is very low, almost to the point of being inaudible. Everything about the combat is oddly silent, from enemy attacks to your own, to enemies being hit. The lack of proper audio cues make the combat feel incredibly underwhelming and ineffective as well as making it more difficult since you can’t hear incoming attacks. When I do a special move, it feels incredibly lackluster despite dealing massive damage because I can’t hear anything. This extends to the cut scenes as well. The lack of proper audio cues greatly reduces the impact the scenes should have. A simple rebalance of the audio levels should fix this issue.

Aside from the silent audio, the balance of the combat mechanics discourages experimenting with the complex combo system in place for the more tame approach of using ranged attacks and spells while circle strafing. While melee attacks do quite a bit more damage, using the combo system leaves you more vulnerable to attacks. For example, the game has some moves to launch an enemy into the air. As you follow up with an aerial attack, the enemies can still attack you. You’re more exposed to danger then if you were simply running around in circles shooting from a safe distance. Combine this with the fact that the enemies are quite tanky and act as bullet sponges, and more often than not, it is not worth the risk of using melee attacks. This is quite a shame as the combo system in Biomutant is quite robust and fluid. This is only a minor complaint as you can level up skills to reduce damage later on. The main issue is that the combat feels incredibly underwhelming at the start and may create the illusion that combat is more tedious than it actually is for new players.

The game is a lot of silly fun once you get past the underwhelming start.

Issues aside, I actually quite enjoy playing this game. The open world is incredibly large and there are so many areas to explore. It definitely captures the feeling of discovery as you explore every nook and cranny and stumble across strange happenings. For example, as I was running across a plain, I spotted a goat like creature being attacked by a large carnivore. I fended off the beast and was rewarded with a scene where I feed the goat like creature a melon and then all of a sudden it became my mount. I could summon this goat creature anywhere on the world map and ride it now. It came out of nowhere and it was a bit silly but certainly a welcome surprise. The game has quite a few moments like this as well as so many collectables for the hard core completionists out there.

The game grows on you and certainly has its own unique charm. The only issue is that it took me around six hours to get to the point where the game opened up and I started to enjoy playing it. The underwhelming aspects aren’t really an issue as most of them have fixes later on but it does ruin the first impression of the game. This is quite a shame, as in my opinion, Biomutant is a pretty darn fun open world to explore and immerse yourself in and I hope more people give it a fair shot.

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