Biomutant – “Next-Gen” (Xbox Series) Review

Updated visuals, outdated gameplay
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Biomutant remains an ambitious but flawed game. Coming from a relatively small developer, Experiment 101, it’s hard not to admire the scale of the world they’ve created and the epic narrative with its strong focus on themes like community, environmentalism, and self-determination.

The problem is creating a massive and beautiful world – at least with modern game engines – is that it’s a lot easier than filling them with compelling things to do. No doubt a consequence of the small team, Biomutant relies on the “quantity over quality” approach that slowly undermines the positive elements the longer you play.

Biomutant Next-Gen Visuals

Environmentalism and self-help?

Playing as a mutated anthropomorphic furry, in a lush post-human world on the verge of another collapse, I do wonder about Biomutant’s intended audience. Although the role-playing elements allow you to make hilariously binary decisions that shift your aura from light to dark, the dominant themes are still positive ones – family, community, environmentalism, and self-determination.

With a “Teen” rating, these make a lot of sense. However, many interactions feel directed at an even younger audience with plenty of “cutesy” words – think “Mooma and Popsi” – and an abundance of what can only be described as terrible “dad jokes” from the narrator. Similarly, the incessant quips about the importance of self-determination and positive thinking are overbearing to the point they would have triggered an instant rebellion from my teenage self.

Biomutant Next-Gen Choices

Now as an adult, the inconsistent writing and tone are weirdly enjoyably – if only by virtue of being unpredictable. Yes, Biomutant can be cute to the point of nauseating or edgy in the most cringeworthy fashion, but it’s (still) a breath of fresh air in an industry fond of overwhelmingly grim narratives and hopeless settings. It’s also the sort of game that’s likely to piss off those hypocrites that complain developers are being censored when they chose to limit depictions of violence or sexuality, and then whine about developers “pushing agendas” whenever they chose a positive message.

Now with only simplistic choices that define your protagonist as selfless or selfish, what is impressive is the dynamic interactions between characters that reflect your aura, and even reference childhood decisions you make during flashback sequences. Biomutant gets around the need for mountains of voice work by using a single narrator to convey the story and translate the gibberish language you’ll hear from the major characters and NPCs. Yes, it gets tiring over such a long game and you’ll soon spot repeated lines, but I have nothing but respect for David Shaw Parker taking up a role that carries the entire narrative.

Hack, slash, shoot, loot, repeat (for far too long)

Biomutant is a very “gamey” game. There are plenty of interconnected systems to play around with and you’ll rarely go more than a few minutes without finding another quest giver, getting into another fight, or discovering a cache of new gear or crafting components. It’s a design that works well with the open-world structure during the first dozen hours. Most of those quests amount to little more than “collect this” or “kill that”, but you’ll still enjoy the exploration, frequent character upgrades, crafting new armour and weapons, and unlocking several vehicles that are used to defeat the “Worldeater” beasts that are targeting the roots of the Tree of Life.

The Wung-Fu combat system ensures Biomutant feels like a fluid, combo-driven action game when you’re in combat – with new unlocks expanding your combos or supplementing them with entertaining mutation- or psi-based powers. Enemies still feel too spongey on all difficulty levels – making some of your flashiest attacks feel pitifully weak – but the fast and messy combat remains entertaining. Similarly, you loot a ridiculous amount of weapon components that allow you to craft your own, as well as mods you can apply to both weapons and armour. It doesn’t take long before you’ll find yourself frequently diving into the crafting menu to reconfigure or improve your favourite gear, such as adding elemental damage, altering bullet behaviour, or gaining new resistances. 

Unfortunately, Biomutant shows little restraint and quickly generates an exhausting list of tasks that clutters the world map with icons (even if you try to stick to the primary quest line and avoid every optional quest giver). The further you progress, the more you’re faced with quests and sub-quests that feel like contrived roadblocks, stretching the gameplay loop to breaking point. It also doesn’t help that even the primary quests follow a repetitive structure.

As an example, I liked the idea of regions that were initially impassable due to environmental hazards – think heat, cold, biohazards, radiation, and hypoxia – however, enter any of these zones and you immediately get side-quest to find protective clothing kilometres away. Enter any named location – you get a checklist of items to find if you want the location marked as “complete”. Attempt to enter a secret area without the appropriate tool or keycard – another quest marker. Discover one of several ancient appliances that require a simplistic mini-game to unlock – that’ll be anywhere from a half- to two-dozen map markers pointing out the rest. Given the world is much larger than it first appears, and the fast-travel points are inconsistently spaced, it can take ages to get anywhere – even with a mount – and the prospect of encountering yet another cookie-cutter encounter grows tiresome.

I know there’s a subset of vocal gamers who equate length to value, but when I’ve sunk a dozen hours into a game, I want to be able to list at least a few significant narrative or set-piece highlights – not just hours of samey busywork.

Biomutant Next-Gen Crafting

Beautiful and performant

Even on the last-gen consoles, Biomutant could look beautiful and – when combined with a fantastic soundtrack and ambience – generate an unexpectedly serene atmosphere that made exploration incredibly satisfying. It’s also a visually diverse game with seven distinct biomes, ranging from lush forests to verdant grasslands, mountainous steppes, a flooded archipelago, and even desert dunes – all littered with settlements and the sporadic remains of human civilisation.

That said, even with the increased resolutions offered by the two “quality” modes, this next-gen version of Biomutant remains dependent on the interaction of light sources and the vibrant landscapes to impress. Run around indoors, underground, or at night with moonlight obscured, and everything looks flat and dated. On the upside, the 60fps “performance” mode has a tangible benefit to input latency and the fluidity of animations, especially during the visually chaotic but stylish combat (complete with comic-book-style effects).

As might be expected, a big world, developed by a small team, means the repeated use of assets. It’s not inherently a bad thing but Biomutant does a terrible job of obscuring this underlying structure. Most locations in the overworld feel unique but if you enter any settlement, structure, or underground location, you’ll quickly recognise repeated layouts and these excursions blur together.

Biomutant Next-Gen Worldeater

Updated visuals, outdated gameplay

Ultimately, Biomutant’s biggest problem is that 10 hours in – having explored a quarter of the map, conquered one tribe, and defeated one Worldeater – I had seen everything on offer. I stuck to the east of the map for this playthrough and 5 hours later – having conquered another two tribes, the second Worldeater, and dealt with a primary antagonist – I found my interest waning at the hallway point.. again.

Now at no point did I regret spending another 15 hours with Biomutant and I’d still consider it a good game on balance. The combat remains fast and satisfying, upgrading my character for a different fighting style was engaging, and exploring regions of the map I ignored last time provided plenty of audiovisual thrills. It’s a more-ish experience – in the sense you can lose hours flowing from one activity to the next – but it becomes a predictable and uneventful routine. It’s a structure that felt dated by the end of the Xbox 360/PS3-era and feels positively archaic in 2022.

That said, if you’re someone who enjoys the Ubisoft approach to open-world progression – expanding quest logs, endless checklists to complete, and turning chunks of a big map your colour – you can probably add a point to Biomutant’s score as it’ll be right up your alley. If, on the other hand, you value your time and prefer quality over quantity, I’d still give it a tentative recommendation. Biomutant is half the price of a “AAA” title so if you go in forewarned, stick to the primary quests, and focus on what it does well, it still offers a dozen or more hours of entertainment.

A review code for Biomutant was provided to gameblur by the publisher.

Biomutant - "Next-Gen" (Xbox Series) Review

Biomutant - "Next-Gen" (Xbox Series) Review
7 10 0 1
7/10
Total Score
  • Story
    7/10 Good
  • Gameplay
    6/10 Normal
  • Visuals
    7/10 Good
  • Audio
    7/10 Good

The Good

  • A strikingly beautiful world and serene atmosphere that encourages exploration
  • Fast and fluid combo-driven Wung-Fu combat
  • Tons of character and gear upgrades to tinker with

The Bad

  • The gameplay loop loses steam by the halfway point
  • The repetitive mission structure becomes glaringly obvious
  • The writing style and constant narration are not for everyone
Total
2
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