I Want More Games Like Biomutant
A couple weeks ago I was surprised to see Biomutant show up. It seemed early, but it was a game that I was honestly rather excited for. How could I not be? An open world game devoid of humans with an insanely weird post post apocalyptical setting that takes tropes from kung-fu movies? Sign me up, please! In the end it was… not great.
I really don’t want to spend this article shitting on Biomutant so I’ll keep this quick, since ultimately the fact that I don’t think Biomutant is a good game is rather important. The game puts you in the role of a little customizable furball who finds themselves on the run from a giant monster. It causes them to find a hole in “the wall,” which happens to be the wall around the land of their birth. What follows is their quest to reunite the six clans, save the World Tree, and get revenge on the man who killed their parents. The set-up is fine, but the reality is that Biomutant‘s story is basically just a checklist of vague ideas that you accomplish, then the credits roll.
This continues into the gameplay itself. I’m not going to go into detail about all the problems, but here are some of the ones I noticed. The combat is awkward, floaty, and partway through the game I broke it completely so every fight was a breeze. There’s a ton of RPG elements that basically play no role in the game and make little sense. The game’s side quests are little more than collectables that all make you solve the exact same puzzle to earn them. The vehicle system makes no sense and the game can’t seem to decide when you can and can’t spawn one. The UI is a total disaster and I was constantly selecting the wrong thing. The narrator cuts in to say nonsense like “the best stories are the ones with unexpected endings” while I’m just wandering around the world. Worst of all, I was probably averaging one crash every hour the entire time I played the game.
Yet I put 40 hours into Biomutant, couldn’t put it down, and will probably be talking about it for years to come. Sure there are things I liked about it. The game is honestly beautiful and I felt like I could wander the world for a long time. There’s a real good sense of exploration and there’s a nice little spark of joy whenever I happened to stumble upon a new broken-down house to check out. Those are always nice things to have in a game. In addition, the game is just extremely charming. However, there’s one thing I simply can’t get over no matter how much I played.
Biomutant is, simply, made with a level of love I feel like I haven’t seen in a game in a long while.
I need to be absolutely clear on this one: this isn’t a “so bad it’s good” sort of thing. This isn’t like games like The Quiet Man or Fast and Furious: Crossroads where I tell everyone who’ll listen about how they’re super-fantastic games even though they’re frankly not. This also isn’t “so bad it’s bad but Sam loves a train wreck” like… well also like The Quiet Man really. No, I can’t say any of that about Biomutant
The first game by developer Experiment 101, Biomutant caught a lot of people’s attention when it was announced in 2017. After that, it showed up at several conferences, and at some point publisher THQ Nordic was confident enough in both the game and the studio to buy the developer and the IP. Since then it has been making many “most anticipated” lists, including my own. I tried it at E3 in 2019 and really liked what I played. Yet even when the full game disappointed, I wanted more of it.
As I met weird and unique characters, all of whom talked in a strange made up language that got partially translated by an ever-present narrator, I was always charmed. Every moment I would get new quests where I would be asked to find guitars, washing machines, phones, televisions, and more, but all of them would have unique names. Is it really different from normal collectables? Not really. But it does a fantastic job world building and getting me into the world.
Every moment I was charmed by something new Biomutant did, even if it didn’t pan out. Looking through the list of psychic and biological powers left me delighted with all sorts of weird abilities, like throwing balls of poison, explosively teleporting, or creating mushrooms under enemies that would launch them into the air. Were these abilities useful? Not really. Most of the time they did so little damage that they weren’t worth using. But I still launched people, and myself, into the air with mushrooms because it made me laugh.
There’s a crafting system, where you get to use various pieces to create weapons. For example, each gun I had there was a main component that changed how it shoots. After that I could alter the stock, magazine, grip, barrel, and the top of the gun. Did these have any particular use? Honestly I found it was a lot easier to just use the weapons I picked up from the ground or in chests before dealing with the crafting system. However, every time I got my hands on crafting stuff I still took a look at how to make my weapons look more rad, stats be damned.
I could go on and on like this. Almost every system I found in the game was, frankly, kind of useless. At the same time every system was something I enjoyed diving into. It felt like the developers had put so much love into all of it, into making sure these systems were eye-catching and interesting even if they couldn’t always be good.
I want more games to do this. I want more games to show me the level of love and care for its world and game that Biomutant does. Do I recommend people play it? Honestly it’s a yes with a big asterixis next to it that says “but only if you understand it’s not a good game” in small text under it. I can’t wait to see what else the developer puts out in the future.