Biomutant – Three Years Later

After launching three years ago in a relatively disappointing state, how does Experiment 101's open-world action title hold up?

Posted By | On 17th, May. 2024

Biomutant – Three Years Later

Have you ever had a game that sounds too good to be true? It just doesn’t seem possible given the resources, yet the systems are playing out before your eyes. That more or less describes the hype behind Biomutant. Established by former Just Cause developers from Avalanche Studios, Experiment 101 would announce the title in August 2017, just in time for Gamescom attendees to go hands-on with it. Those were the good old days, but even by the standards of double-A titles, Biomutant felt like it was doing an absurd amount of things.

The story occurs in a post-apocalyptic setting where players customize and control a mutant who must save the Tree of Life. To do that, they’ll need to defeat the five creatures assailing its roots, but some cooperation with the six tribes is paramount. The catch is that three have…differing opinions on whether they should ensure the tree’s survival. The Netra, Ankati and Myriad are different degrees of Light tribes and believe in saving the tree. Meanwhile, the Pichu, Jagni and Lotus are Dark tribes with more selfish and/or megalomaniacal views.

It’s thus up to the player which alignment they pursue, represented as Karma. It’s possible to embrace the Dark side and go on a killing spree with the other tribes (even those that are Dark-aligned) or seek a solution that involves all of them co-existing. Depending on your Karma, different dialogue options could pop up while quests change. All of that is ambitious in its own right, but Biomutant was only just getting started.

It also featured – in no specific order – character creation, vehicles (including a mech), a dynamic weather system, third-person shooting, beat ’em up combat with multiple combos (dubbed Wung-Fu), loot with various affixes, mutations, elemental damage, Automatons which provide several functions like boosting your damage or granting the ability to glide, and…the list really goes on. There’s even a narrator and the world is suitably massive. Again, not impossible for a developer but the scale and sheer number of systems raised some skepticism about the execution.

Though touted as content complete, Biomutant didn’t receive much marketing or attention over the next few years. It got bad enough that Experiment 101 even had to clarify that it was still in development. By June 2020, new details and gameplay emerged, and by January 2021, a release date of May 25th. It seemed all well and good, especially with the developer touting up to 65 hours of gameplay, depending on how the player approached it.

Biomutant

However, upon launch, Biomutant received overall mixed reviews. While there were higher scores and praise for its environments, combat, and customization, it attracted criticism for the lack of challenge, derivative systems that other games did better, a dull open world, multitudes of bugs, a boring story and much more. We gave it a five out of 10, praising the boss fights and “varied gameplay” but panning the systems, seesawing tone and “uninspired morality.”

It also didn’t help that the narrator was initially very talkative and downright annoying, whether in combat or translating the gibberish spoken by characters. Because when you play a post-apocalyptic sci-fi title where some tribes are about the survival of the fittest and culling the weak, you expect Banjo-Kazooie-style gibberish, but I digress.

Biomutant would have been easy enough to dismiss from the outset if it didn’t show so much promise or have such a lengthy development period behind it from such an experienced team. Nevertheless, even in the open-world design department, the world felt underwhelming with the same repetitive activities and forgettable characters.

To Experiment 101’s credit, it sought to address the game’s many issues early on. Patch 1.4 went live just a few weeks after launch and revamped the tutorial, removing dialogue and “camera presentations” for better pacing. It also mercifully toned down the narrator and even provided options to turn him when characters are talking to each other. Loot drops received some revamps, including less Common loot from higher level crates; the new Extreme difficulty promised more of a challenge; and the addition of New Game+ allowed players to select perks from all classes. That’s on top of several fixes for combat, sound effects, quests, visuals and much more while addressing crashes and other bugs.

biomutant

But wait, there’s more. A few days later, it further improved things with another patch, optimizing loot drops, increasing the level cap to 100, adding a field of view type on PC, and even expanding the combat options with melee lock-on and animation canceling for some moves. Random encounters also spawned more frequently, and you could add modifiers to New Game Plus and each additional run of the same to increase the difficulty. This was on top of even more fixes for issues.

By August 2021, it was announced that Biomutant had sold one million copies. Not bad, considering the sheer scope of the game and the development team’s size. So what was next? As it turns out, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S versions. It received three display options from Performance Mode for 1440p/60 FPS (with Xbox Series S players getting 1080p) to Quality Unleashed for 4K and 40+ FPS on Xbox Series X and PS5. It also supported the DualSense’s adaptive triggers, haptic feedback and motion controls, and previous-gen owners could upgrade to the current-gen versions for free.

Upon launching in September 2022 for the new consoles, it once again received mixed reviews. The former stands at a promising 79 Metascore with five critical reviews, while the latter has 65 reviews for a 66 Metascore, which is unfortunately more in line with its launch reviews. Despite the many fixes and improvements, many foundational issues with the story, world design, tone, Karma system and whatnot were still flawed.

Biomutant is now available on the Nintendo Switch. I went hands-on with it, and the results are…mixed. While it’s notable that Experiment 101 brought it over with a reasonably stable frame rate (there are still dips), the overall visual quality is nothing too impressive. Combat and general movement can feel a bit rough at times, and though it’s not outright terrible, it still feels like the experience could have been something more.

biomutant

You could say it’s harsh to judge a $39.99 game from a smaller team like this, but even after all these years, Biomutant’s various parts don’t coalesce into a compelling whole, bringing down the entire experience. Less than the sum of its parts, if you will. If you can get into the combat and ignore the goofier elements, it may be worth checking out on discount just to kill a few hours. Given the other options available, especially on the Nintendo Switch, it’s a tough sell.

Biomutant’s legacy remains a strange one – while not a roaring success, it wasn’t an abject flop, at least in its launch year. How well it’s performed on Xbox Series X/S and PS5 remains unknown, and whether it can find an audience on the Nintendo Switch after all this time is a toss-up. If a sequel ever does come about, hopefully, it will expand on the overall universe and present a more compelling story and better world design to leverage its many systems.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.


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