In the far distant past of a world rather eerily reminiscent of our own, a power-hungry conglomerate known as Toxanol polluted the planet to the point where it became uninhabitable, and the people fled from it into the far reaches of space. As it turns out, that was only the beginning of the story. The left-behind animal life began to evolve and mutate in surprising, accelerated ways thanks to the effects of the environmental catastrophes looming over the planet. Some even became sentient, forming their own societies amidst the ruined wreckage of the old world. Their struggle to survive in the post-apocalyptic landscape is overseen by the massive Tree of Life: a plant whose world-spanning roots have helped to sustain all that is left.
Danger is ever-present on the horizon in the world of Biomutant: dead zones remain, tribes don’t always see eye-to-eye, biohazard areas splatter the land, bandits and hostile mutated wildlife threaten villages and travelers alike, and a fearsome predator from the past returns to stalk its prey. Worst of all, the planet itself is dying. The Tree of Life is succumbing to the pollution its roots are entangled in, its branches being destroyed by gigantic evolutionary monsters known as Worldeaters. Only a wandering ronin who has lost everything stands a hope of changing the planet’s destiny. The ronin has to choose to unite the tribes or destroy them, to seek revenge or reach for forgiveness, to attempt to save the Tree of Life or leave it to its fate. It just so happens that you, the player, are that wandering ronin.
Biomutant is a quirky, fun action RPG experience full of colorful characters in a memorable world laden with a surprising amount of choice. There are multiple ways to approach playing the game, which is depicted even in its opening stages as you go through a surprisingly robust character creation system to bring your furry avatar to life. You get to pick from all manner of different appearances, jobs, and initial stats. Afterward, a detailed tutorial run through a story mission helps you pick up the basics of combat and narrative choice fairly well. I rarely found myself getting confused or overloaded because progression information was clearly presented.
Biomutant is an action RPG on an enormous scale. There is a large world map to explore, full of sites to scavenge for supplies or shrines that help raise stats, helpful NPCs offering support or quests, and enemies to combat. Thanks to the ever-present pollution, some areas are more hazardous to traverse than others due to factors like high radiation or intense heat. These effects will limit your time in those zones if you lack the proper protective gear or haven’t built up your genetic immunity to their specific conditions. Depending on tribe affiliation, other areas have checkpoints where soldiers immediately attack you if they view you as an enemy. So long as your Ki Energy holds, you can spend veritable hours simply running, jumping, and swimming across the various regions of the world map and uncovering all there is to see. Fortunately, you acquire mounts later in the story to help get from Point A to Point B quicker and more safely. There is also a helpful Fast Travel option while traversing the open world that allows you to move quickly to any map checkpoint you’ve marked, complete with an amusing animation of your character doing just that when you first come across one!
Some stats even exist outside of combat purposes too. For instance, not only does a higher Intellect rating increase your Ki Energy output, but it also grants you more moves in which to complete puzzles. The most common puzzle variety requires you to rotate different colored dials to match. Fortunately, the puzzles were easy enough to unlock even with my character only having ten moves to complete them, but expect a bit of a shock should you fail to complete a puzzle within the allotted move span! I personally found that the puzzles were nice diversions from fighting without bordering on frustrating. A stat like Charisma also increases your bartering skills and allows you to be more likely to persuade other characters successfully during discussions. You have free reign on which stats you would like to increase as you progress through Biomutant, all with varying benefits to choose from depending on your preferred playstyle.
Combat in Biomutant is multi-faceted and of the fast and furious variety! Your ronin has been trained not only in hand-to-hand combat, but also with a wide variety of melee and ranged weapons. As you level up, you can spend upgrade points to learn new combat skills and combos, referred to as Wung-Fu, that you can unleash in battle with the proper button combinations (or by following on-screen prompts for certain moves). Each weapon type, including unarmed, has its own sets of moves to acquire and learn. I was quite fond of wielding dual weapons myself thanks to initially choosing the Saboteur job class, so I became familiar with the moveset for that style of fighting as I progressed. Still, there are numerous strengths and weaknesses for every fighting style. Ultimately, you tailor how you want to upgrade your combat skills and base stats every time you level, with a level of freedom that is quite well-handled. Ranged weaponry has its own separate Wung-Fu combos and was necessary at times for certain fights or stages. While I’m not the best at shooting things, switching between melee and ranged is quite easy to do. I found the controls for targeting when firing weapons to be rather intuitive once I got some practice.
Your mutant warrior is not only a capable physical fighter, but can also harness their Ki Energy to perform powerful psionic “magic” attacks. Some of these attacks can only be acquired depending on your overall Light or Dark Aura levels, but generally speaking, you gain PSI-Points out on the field by finding and interacting with special shrines. Once you have enough PSI-Points, you can acquire a new spell or ability that can be handily shortcutted onto a button layout for easy access during fights. I was quite fond of a teleportation skill that had me slamming into opponents and causing damage, plus an icy maneuver that made a slippery sheet of the stuff explode onto the ground for a short while. There are also containers located all over the world map that award you with Bio Points when opened. Bio Points can be used to further mutate your character and give them access to even more “magic” to use in battle, or to upgrade your natural resistances to environmental hazards you might run across out on the field. I was pleasantly surprised by just how robust and versatile combat could be, and Biomutant is undoubtedly at its best when you’re hacking and slashing your way through enemies, all while also slinging spells and bullets when needed.
Battles are combo-laden events in Biomutant. Of particular note are the raids of rival tribe forts and the battles against the Worldeaters, which are staged affairs where you must implement different strategies to advance. I never got bored with those fights or felt as though they were repeating, which I appreciated even with the more challenging battles. Simply put, fights in Biomutant are fun and surprisingly engaging.
A rather extensive crafting/upgrade system for weapons and armor also helps to further flesh out combat. As you traverse the game, you’ll find an assortment of items out on the world map that range from weapons and armor pieces to add-ons that help increase an item’s usefulness. Upcycling weapons using these add-ons can provide a wide range of effects, with increased attack power being one of the biggest ones. Attaching a valve to your bomber jacket is surprisingly handy from a defensive standpoint (and adds some creative flair if you’re looking for a new look), and one should never underestimate the power of a toilet brush sword! You must be diligent at collecting material scraps while traversing the world map to gain potent upgrades and craft new gear, but it is definitely worth it in the long run.
Not only is there a ton of choice in terms of how to approach combat and general gameplay, but there is also quite a lot of narrative choices. What you ultimately decide to do during certain story points will have a lasting effect on how the story of Biomutant plays out. You’re very much in control of your own destiny in that regard, guided only by the Light and Dark Aspects of your Conscience and the Jiminy Cricket-esque Automaton who serves as your erstwhile companion and helpful narrator. There is no right or wrong way to play Biomutant, but you could very well see a wholly different outcome based on the decisions you make while playing. I chose to play my story as a helpful wanderer with a penchant for pacifism and forgiveness when it was allowed. As a result, the tribe war I ultimately got into ended rather quickly and with surprisingly little bloodshed. Maybe, just maybe, I ended up leaving the world a little brighter overall as a result.
But since there is merit in the “only the strong survive” and “celebrate freedom and individuality as the only way to truly live” mentalities of some tribes, other approaches to progression might take you on a very different path from mine and be just as fitting. For example, your ability to extend invitations to certain characters for a particular story quest may be based on your Light or Dark Aura Alignment, who you’ve sided with in the tribe war, as well as your actions in regards to the Worldeaters. Even how you act as a young “kidling” in flashback sections of the game will impact how characters view you in the present timeline. Biomutant is an extremely choice-heavy title, and I was ultimately quite satisfied with the outcome of my various decisions when the ending credits rolled. That player choice certainly offers quite a bit of replayability for the helpful New Game Plus mode too!
Graphically, Biomutant is a pretty and vibrant game with surprisingly lush and rather varied terrain, with a surprising level of visual detail that I appreciated the more I played. There are some graphical hiccups, such as a bit of a noticeable lag at times when characters or objects appear on-screen at first. It may take a while for clothes to load in certain scenes, though fortunately, the furry mutant animal aspect of the characters helps diminish awkwardness on that front! (I should note that I played the game on a base PS4, so your mileage may vary on a PS4 Pro or other hardware.) Still, the visual load time never reaches a point where it is exceedingly detrimental or distracting to playing. I found myself simply enjoying traveling through areas to see how pretty the landscapes and backgrounds were. The character designs are also quite artistic and eye-catching in many respects, with an almost storybook illustration to even the enemy designs. There are even comic book-style wording effects that offer a pop of colorful vibrancy to combat. The camera angle could definitely get a bit finicky at times, leading to some tense and awkward moments, especially during heavy action sequences.
Music-wise, the score tries to convey the sounds and feel of a sweeping Kung-Fu fantasy epic. For the most part, it does so admirably. The BGM helps you further feel as though you’re experiencing the story and battles. There is a wide range of language dubs to choose from, even though only the Automaton and your Conscience Aspects speak in your desired language. Every other character in the game talks in gibberish, with the Automaton helpfully translating for them. It is an interesting and creative storytelling decision, though I can’t help but relate it to a book told in the second perspective format where you might not feel quite as directly immersed in what is going on. The lines of gibberish are emotionally spoken but often repeated even when different translations are displayed, which can be a bit odd. The three voice actors with the most lines do pretty well with their respective roles, especially the Automaton in his narrator capacity. You can also opt to limit his comments out on the field or during fights, though I found doing made the world feel a little lonely.
Biomutant certainly took a while to get out of the gate as far as its development went. While it can still be rough around the edges at times, overall, it’s clear that a lot of heart and effort went into the project. I never knew I needed Kung-Fu Panda to be tossed into a post-apocalyptic setting with mutants as a video game experience, but I’m thrilled someone saw that need and ran with it! The game wears its Kung-Fu inspirations on its sleeve, but with a fun and innovative element of quirky creativeness that had me just enjoying my time with it. I was smiling so much by the ending, and I can’t ask for more from my games. Biomutant’s “unusual story with an unusual end” made for quite an unexpected and memorable journey indeed.