I believe it was 2017 when I first heard about BIOMUTANT when I wandered over to the THQ Nordic booth at PAX Prime. I was originally over there to talk a bit about Darksiders 3 and the rep I was chatting with insisted I check out the demo for a game called, you guessed it, BIOMUTANT. For me, the demo was the absolute star in a sea of demos and indie titles at PAX. Running only about 5-10 minutes long of gameplay I came back, waited in line, and played it again every day I was there. Even in the demo, the controls felt amazing, the narration was humorous, and the abilities you got to use were bizarre, yet awesome to deploy in the heat of battle. If you’ve followed the history of BIOMUTANT then you know what came since then was a series of missed release dates because the developers just didn’t have a game ready that they felt proud of and the producers, THQ Nordic, did not push for a release of an incomplete game – and I am so glad that we had to wait as developers Experiment 101 has given us one of the best games I’ve had the pleasure of playing in years.
The world of BIOMUTANT is a world without humans in the picture. Due to some sort of apocalyptical event, the world is a bit of a wasteland and the animals have evolved and mutated into weird, anthropomorphic… creatures. The lack of humans doesn’t mean the world is without its problems, however. The Tree-of-Life is slowly bleeding to death, root, and stem, and the various tribes of the world have split into different factions with different ideals and thoughts on how to move forward in this dying world. Some have hope of saving this dying world and others seek to speed the process. Some seek to kill the world bosses and others seek to control them. This doesn’t mean the ideas of good and evil are clear cut to the player, however, as your actions influence the direction the world takes with the game delivering different endings and goals based on your alignment. As you navigate and explore this vibrant world, you’ll find yourself battling environmental hazards, exploring and gathering gear, and engaging in battle after battle with the inhabitants of the world. All in pursuit of a goal that you define – are you a savior or the harbinger of destruction? The great thing about BIOMUTANT is that choice is completely up to you.
Character Creation and Skill
Like most other games with custom characters, the first thing you’ll do is create your furry little anthropomorphic hamster-squirrel. There are six main attributes, five of which contribute to the general shape of your character. Throw everything into intelligence and you end up with a bobble-head-shaped guy – the true definition of an egg-head. Agility nets you a lean and sleek build meant for speed and if you’re looking to be the Arnie of the world toss it all in strength. For the most part, you aren’t going to gimp your character by choosing incorrectly as each time you level you can buff up one of these attributes. However, if you find that you love using the games magic system – called Psi – which relies on Ki Energy and you dumped everything into strength you’re going to be worse for the wear as you’ll have a low energy pool and low energy regen – making most of your spells a one-off instead of repeatable. In addition to attributes, you’ll be able to select your fur colors and distribute a small number of natural resistances to various elemental dangers, such as cold and heat.
You’ll also be picking a class. The class you choose will determine what weapons you start with as well as give you a small skill tree you can invest skill points in to further buff up your character. You can choose from Dead-Eye, Commando, Psi-Freak, Saboteur, and Sentinel. If you pre-ordered there is also the Mercenary – which is the only class that can dual wield guns out of the gate. While you can unlock this ability on any class having it present on a class that’s pay-gated in a buy-to-play game is a blemish on a game that is otherwise near perfectly executed. These classes all start with some sort of passive ability like increased Armor or decreased dodge energy consumption.
Your character development doesn’t stop at creation, however. As you explore the world for mutations and level up, you’ll find more ways to fit your character to your play style. In addition to allocating 10 more stat points to one of your main attributes at each level, you’ll also be spending psi points, skill points, and mutation points. Mutations are discovered in the world in green radioactive containers and the occasional radioactive monster you come across in dark areas and give your character a variety of abilities to unlock. These abilities are range from the silly, yet useful, like Mucus Bubble or Turtle Form, to deadly useful like Mothmouth, which causes enemies to turn on each other for a short time.
Psi points are a little different and I’ve found they seem to be mostly unlocked when I’m making a decision that effects by an affinity for being light or dark in the karma system. Psi abilities are gated behind your affinity in this karma system, with some requiring a certain amount of light or dark points to even learn. This way it rewards consistency in your decisions making – if you flip flop back and forth it’ll be a lot harder, and maybe impossible, to unlock some of the more costly and powerful abilities.
Lastly, there are skill points, which you earn organically as you level up. These skills points can be used to unlock combo abilities with certain weapons systems, be it tribe weapons, melee weapons or ranged weapons, which make the player have to think carefully before changing their weapon types often – you may find yourself with no combos to use.
Combat and Exploration
A good portion of the gameplay in BIOMUTANT involves some sort of exploration and combat. Whether you searching for parts for a contraption, taking the time to explore a deserted city of loot, or simply running to the next quest objective you WILL run into enemies. The basis of all the combat in BIOMUTANT revolves around kung-fu, or wung-fu as it’s called in the game world, which consists of fast-paced movement, dodging, and striking mixed with gunplay. You’ll find yourself dodging out, firing away with your guns as you leap back into the fray, only to finish out your enemies with a whirling slash from your make-shift two-handed sword. While that sounds fun as a concept if it doesn’t feel right when you’re doing it, it can lead to clunky feeling controls. Have no fear, however, as Experiment 101 has pulled off nothing short of a perfect execution of their vision for combat.
I’ve played games where I find myself annoyed when combat starts because it’s just an unnecessary roadblock to my progression. However, with BIOMUTANT, I welcome it each and every time. Combat in BIOMUTANT is, simply, incredibly fun and engaging. Between your guns, melee weapons, and various abilities (called mutations or psi-abilities) there is always a different way you can approach combat, and chaining these abilities into combos results in absolute carnage. Every weapon strike feels impactful and the various combos you unlock in the game keep each fight engaging and challenging without the tedium that usually accompanies it.
The world of BIOMUTANT is quite large coming in at eight square kilometers, and nearly every inch of it is packed with areas to discover and loot to collect. None of the explorations ever feels like it’s in vain as anywhere I go I usually find something there that made the time worth my while, not that exploration is a slow endeavor by any means. Even without pumping up your agility for movement speed your character moves at a decent pace and has the ability to hit all fours to move around faster. In addition, there are a variety of mount-like animals that can be tamed and trained to move you around. Add in some of the vehicles you’ll create to battle world bosses that are hurting the tree-of-life (Ever want to battle a giant cat-creature while riding a jet ski? Yeah, that happens) and you’ll soon realize that you are meant to look around, find secret entrances and traverse areas that you normally wouldn’t in another game.
Oh, The Crafting You’ll Do
What is a post-apocalyptic world without some makeshift weapons? We’ve seen games like Fallout and Far Cry New Dawn gives this a shot with their pipe weapons and various augments you’ll find to make them better. It’s okay and good enough for most of us, but not for BIOMUTANT. To say the crafting system is deep would be an understatement. There are literally millions of different combinations that can be achieved with the scrap and parts you find around the world.
Now it should be noted that, in BIOMUTANT, you only craft weapons from scratch. You’ll largely loot all your various armors and, at most, augment them with add-ons that increase their armor, or some other stat. To craft weapons, the first thing is the base part. This is the piece that defines the type of weapon you’re going to craft. Is it a one-hand slash? Or, perhaps, it’s a crushing blunt weapon. And we can’t leave out the various guns either, like pistols, rifles, and automatics. The other parts that make up the weapon will depend on the type. A basic rifle needs a grip, base-type, and barrel – though later you’ll run across stocks, magazines, and scopes that may turn it into a deadly sniper rifle, or a blunderbuss-type weapon with short-range and big booms. Or perhaps after slapping that handle on your one-handed blade you want to take those screws you found and attach them or this weird cheese-grater thing you found in a dumpster. The possibilities seem near endless and BIOMUTANT has names for them all as the name is based on the mismatch of materials you’ve thrown together. In this way, you’ll end up with weapons like the ‘Singularity Squzrapster’ or a weapon simply called the ‘Flurp’.
All the gear and weapons can be changed on the fly too, provided you have enough scrap materials (which are collected in your adventures). You can switch out stocks and barrels, keeping the same base, or even switch out the base-type and go from slashing to crushing. The possibilities are endless and EVERYTHING can be upgraded. Perhaps you’ve found your favorite combination of weapons and gear and don’t care to replace it? Scattered throughout the world are armor and weapon upgrade benches that can be used to increase the quality and rarity of your equipped items. Now you can stay the exact same (though I would say you’re missing out on a chunk of enjoyment with this route).
For this section, I’m going to be purposely vague so I don’t spoil anything but there are some features with the tribes that could be considered integral to the experience in BIOMUTANT. As you’ll learn through the delivery of backstory the tribes of the world used to be united under one person. This person taught them the ways of wung-fu and the various weapon specializations that it encompasses. Sometime later the tribes are divided with the lines of division being their chosen weapon specialization they learned as a youth. Out of the gate, you are introduced to two of these tribes and make the decision on which to support in the tribe wars. Mind you this choice isn’t permanent and as you uncover the location of more tribes and learn their specific ideals you can choose to abandon your old tribe in favor of a new one.
Whether you choose to unite tribes under one banner with diplomacy or destruction you’ll gain access to that tribe’s weapon which comes with its own unique fighting style and combo set. These weapons are unique in the world – you won’t be crafting anything quite like it so they are worth holding on to. The first one I acquired was a staff which came with some cool whirly combos that I can’t get enough of. Later I got my hands on a boomerang and a bow, though there is still more to discover.
BIOMUTANT is jammed packed with content. As it’s been stated by the developers with their in-house testing it takes them 50-60 hours to play through BIOMUTANT. With my own playing, I can back that statement. I’m sure speedrunners will blaze through in a fraction of that time but for someone like me that wants to take in every possible detail the world has to offer, based on how much of the map I have revealed at the moment, I’ll be blowing right past that 50-hour mark without a second thought. With three different interweaving storylines and main objectives and a plethora of lore to discover through exploration that details what happened in this world there is more than enough to keep players occupied and entertained.