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July 2019


Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Experiment 101
Release Date: 2019

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Biomutant'

by Andreas Salmen on Sept. 21, 2018 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Biomutant is a post-apocalyptic open-world action RPG that delivers real-time melee, shooter and mutant ability action.

Pre-order Biomutant

In case you ever had the inexplicable desire to take control of a furry rodent in charge of saving a postapocalyptic world full of mutated animals, we have great news for you. Biomutant was perhaps the most surprising and promising reveal at last year's Gamescom, so it only made sense for developer Experiment 101 and publisher THQ Nordic to showcase it just as prominently in 2018. We took a guided tour through a new demo, led by Creative Director Stefan Ljungqvist, and took a look at different biomes, gameplay, items and mutations in the open world of Biomutant.

Biomutant is an open-world action RPG set in a destroyed world whose fate is tied to a tree at its center. The tree is dying and pulling our home down with it. The causes for its downfall are varied, but thankfully we, the friendly neighborhood raccoon-like creature, are here to help. If Ljundqvist wanted to make one thing clear from the start, it's that this is truly an open world. Moral choices are just as important as our general decision about which missions we want to do, how, and in what order. Biomutant isn't story-based, so it doesn't have a classic arc you can play through. With minor differences based on decisions, it's completely character-based.

That means that our protagonist meets interesting characters while traversing the world, and they provide quests for us to complete. The quests send us further and further out, so we'll organically stumble on new quest-givers and continuously explore the world map. Most of the missions are available to anyone who plays the game, with a few being specific to our play style and based on our choices within the game — but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Before we can even think about starting a quest, the demo starts with the creation of our character. As we kneel in front of a biohazard pool, we decide upon our gender and attributes, which in turn determine the physiology of our character. We can always reshuffle our genetic code and slide our attributes into place until we're satisfied with our looks and our skills and then move on to more cosmetic features, such as our fur color, length and pattern until we're good to go. Should we ever be unsatisfied with our decisions in the early game, we can change the settings at a biohazard pool at any point in our journey.

The next big component that's immediately apparent is our weapons. Biomutant offers both ranged and close combat with a wide array of craftable materials and weapon types, so theoretically, there are a half-million possible combinations. At the beginning of the demo, our airship is involuntarily grounded in a predefined demo area. Our weapon set was completely randomized, with a dual-wielding gun combination and dual-wielding blades. While the general level design is the same in every playthrough, the biomes change, and so do the enemies in the area. In our case, we were dropped in a heat-based environment, but ice or biohazard areas are equally possible here. The different biomes require us to be prepared, as they kill us slowly; a percentage counter slowly approaches 100%, which means certain death as we walk and, primarily, fight through this heated region. The floor turns out to be something akin to lava. Eventually, we hit the jackpot by encountering a dead zone, which is filled with unbreathable air, but more on that later.

Combat in Biomutant is incredibly fast-paced and focused on fun and freedom. We can easily combine close combat, guns, and special items in a fight. If we improve our combos, we can start a Super Wushu, which is an even faster special ability that lets us slice through enemies at lightning speed. Our demo showcased more than one boss fight and one of the previously mentioned quest characters.

Biomutant combines several gameplay elements into one crazy package. There is the self-aware and comical aesthetic that is somewhere between Just Cause and Ratchet & Clank (no wonder, as Ljundqvist was involved in the former), combined with combat that is somewhere between DMC and a fast-paced contextual fighting system, like the Batman Arkham games.

Then there's crafting, quests and a Metroidvania-style progression system that grants specific weapons or items as soon as you defeat a boss or help one of the six clans in the world. In our case, we stumbled upon a boss fight relatively early and received the Klonk Fist immediately afterward, enabling us to not only kick ass in combat but also to open previously inaccessible doors by punching them to pieces.

From a content standpoint, this was already a jam-packed demo that seemed to introduce new elements faster than the actual combat, but it didn't end here. As a mutated animal, we soon saw a few mutations that granted us additional abilities. The mucus bubble, which is surprisingly more useful than it sounds, enabled us to jump incredibly high and stick enemies to it while jumping on them. It's certainly not the most obvious choice for a superpower.

Soon enough, we meet another character, a mechanic, offers to fix our mech suit if we get some resources, which we eventually do. Our mech is customizable and a much-needed asset for traversal, especially in the previously mentioned deadzone areas that would otherwise kill us. This is where the gameplay takes the biggest leap and transitions to a shooter-style gameplay that faintly reminds us of old-school mech games. We remove deadly oil pools, which double as fuel, and we can collect little critters in a tank and use them as ammunition. These little beasts are incredibly handy for a variety of tasks, such as to distract enemies — or feed them.

The end of our demo leads us to a crucial set piece in Biomutant. As we explained at the outset, the world tree is dying, and if we want to save our world, we can increase its chances of survival by healing the tree. The tree has five main roots that span out into all directions. At the end of each awaits a mighty boss, or world eater, that we have to take down in order to heal the root, which mathematically increases our chance of saving the world by 20%.

Boss fights are multi-staged, and as we fight a mighty beast that looks like the unfortunate crossing between a newt and a cubone, we throw critters into its face until we can eventually grab and damage its tongue. This triggers an angry act of cable-whipping that decapitates our mech, and then the boss swallows our furry avatar whole. As my grandmother used to say, chew your food well, or you'll get a stomachache. We survive and have to climb out of the very sticky gastric region of our adversary, up to its heart to eventually kill it with a few brutal strokes of our blades.

This is the end of our demo that basically teased what the full game would look and feel like. What we're most interested in is how all the game mechanics will overlap in the end and how this very feature-rich gameplay loop will play out. We certainly had a great time during our very short session, and the question is how well the crafting and loot system can keep us engaged. The same goes for the decisions we can make, such as the fact that, according to Ljundqvist, we can choose to end the game and let the world die at any point.

The world is truly in our hands, and world survival may be tied to a certain timeline that can be failed. While I appreciate the freedom to choose to fail, it also raises questions about how the game manages incentives for the player to progress and to keep it fun and varied along the way. While gameplay features are plenty, the missions have to be properly designed to be fun and diverse, and we've only seen this partially thus far.

I'm very much looking forward to Biomutant, as it incorporates everything that reminds me of a more careless time of bright, colorful and fun games. I'm optimistic that Experiment 101 can pull this off, but there are many factors that influence the fun factor of a game, and we can't be sure of many of these yet. Biomutant's release date was recently delayed to 2019, so that'll provide the development team with time to add some extra polish to the experience.

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