Biomutant is 2021's weirdest game (and that's what makes it amazing)
Inverse Score: 8/10
There is no other game quite like Biomutant.
You play as a small creature that knows kung-fu and magic, pilots everything from a giant mech to a wooden horse, and can die in the butthole of a giant enemy.
You’ll be in shock as it keeps throwing new ideas and concepts at you that never feel underdeveloped or stale.
This open-world RPG is Experiment 101’s first game, and it makes quite an impression. Years after the world has ended due to environmental disasters caused by the Toxonal Corporation, life on the planet is now dominated by anthropomorphic creatures with their own towns, cultures, and technology.
It’s the ideal gritty world for a tale of revenge and a quest to save The Tree of Life, a gigantic entity at the center of everything that keeps the world alive. What ensues is an open-world adventure with third-person action that’s not afraid to shower the player in obtuse jargon. Unique weapons and gameplay mechanics feel similarly alien but enticing.
Biomutant is the kind of game that just doesn’t get made anymore. There is no marketable human protagonist, no games-as-a-service elements to bog it down, and its exotic world is a totally new IP. It’s experimental in every sense, for better or for worse. While the experience is far from perfect, Experiment 101 and THQ Nordic have created one of the most memorable games of 2021 by leaning into its weirdness.
A True Original
Biotmutant follows the player’s custom creature as they track down Lupa-Lupin, the beast that killed their mother. They join a war between rival clans and hunt down four beasts responsible for slowly destroying the Tree of Life.
Along the way, you meet a wide range of weirdos with names like Gizmo, Gulp, Goop, and Chu-Chu that offer counsel and useful new tools.
Biomutant doesn't take the easy route in delivering its narrative either.
Every character speaks in unintelligible gibberish, leaving narrator David Shaw-Parker to interpret what’s going on. Even when lines are filled with fake words and delivered from a third-person perspective, you can tell he’s having a ball. “This means you’ll have to venture farther out into the Deadzone than Moog’s camp on the Steepdeppo,” he might say. It’s enough to make even huge nerds go “WTF?” Those that find this sort of thing annoying might not bounce right off Biomutant, but keep in mind that you can turn the narrator’s frequency down in the settings.
Either way, you’ll quickly discern that everything from human civilization now goes by a different name. Most of these are charming, like dumbbells being called “gunsflexers.” You’ll never question the oddness of it all because of the game’s overall confidence.
The game dabbles in a “light and dark” karma system that impacts both the ending and some of the powers players can use. Seeing pure manifestations of light and dark argue every time you make a choice is a novel spin on a familiar morality formula.
Biomutant understands that you need to go all-in on bonkers ideas to make cliches feel fresh.
A Mighty Mashup
Biomutant is dense with a variety of unique areas to explore and tools to discover. The main quest takes place in a narrow slice of the world, and the journey encourages players to venture out on their own to explore every nook and cranny. In this way, Biomutant learns the right lessons from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Players can follow a set story path but can explore wherever they want. There’s always some point that’s far off in the distance that will grab your attention, and there are certain areas you can’t get to unless you’re using the right gear or vehicle.
Combat has a mix of melee, ranged, and magic options. A kung-fu variation call “Wung-Fu” enhances weapons and unlocks various magical Psi Powers that can set enemies on fire, create toxic puddles, and more. There’s also a plethora of guns for players to try out as well.
It’s a gameplay combination that feels familiar, but it still puts them all together in a way you haven’t seen before. Admittedly, you eventually hit a skill wall once you notice the combo button combinations are very similar for most weapons.
Thankfully, there’s enough variety in weapons and Psi-powers that you can always change your character up. The game is also constantly introducing new vehicles, from boats to mechs to a mechanical hand with a literal finger gun. There’s also a lot of variety when it comes to the boss battles, so things never get stale.
At the start, players select from a variety of classes and stats that influences how each character looks. A critter with high strength will indeed be swole, while one focused on charisma will have a large grin across their face. It’s an innovative way to connect character creation to gameplay when stats typically have no cosmetic influence in most games.
It feels like developers included any remotely interesting idea that emerged in the brainstorming phase, and worked really hard to incorporate them all into the game. You can’t often say that outside of the indie game space.
A Fledgling Concept
Of course, when you’re swinging for the fences, there's bound to be some misses. While the world and characters of Biomutant are wholly original, the pacing is a bit off. The first hour or two is linear and slow, the middle is overstuffed with boring fetch quests, and the ending is abrupt and underwhelming.
While exploring, you’ll run into other rough edges as well. Visuals and technical glitches abound. Odd menu design choices also make simple things like switching mounts or crafting and upgrading a weapon more of a hassle than it needs to be.
Minor frustrations like this stack up over time in Biomutant. Thankfully, even though it’s not perfect, it’s never boring.
The wild risks Biomutant takes with its story, world, and gameplay variety make it memorable, and the occasional pain point only slightly hurts an otherwise pleasant experience. In an age of endless sequels and repetitive open-world games, Biomutant is a refreshing step into a universe where the video game industry never got bogged down by trends and instead solely focused on wacky new ideas.
Biomutant is a novelty that’s not for everyone. Some might even hate the outlandish aesthetic. But confidence in new ideas is key to keeping the video game industry fresh, and games like Biomutant show that there are still many bizarre new worlds we’ve yet to see.
Biomutant will be released for PC, PS4, and Xbox One on May 25, 2021.
INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: When it comes to video games, Inverse values a few qualities that other sites may not. For instance, we care about hours over money. Many new AAA games have similar costs, which is why we value the experience of playing more than price comparisons. We don’t value grinding and fetch quests as much as games that make the most out of every level. We also care about the in-game narrative more than most. If the world of a video game is rich enough to foster sociological theories about its government and character backstories, it’s a game we won’t be able to stop thinking about, no matter its price or popularity. We won’t punch down. We won’t evaluate an indie game in the same way we will evaluate a AAA game that’s produced by a team of thousands. We review games based on what’s available in our consoles at the time. And finally, we have very little tolerance for junk science. (Magic is always OK.)