Biomutant Review: A Beautiful Open-World Game That Lacks a Narrative

Biomutant presents a sprawling open world for players to explore, but lacks any sort of strong narrative to keep them invested. When players first open Biomutant, the unnamed narrator states that the game has "an unusual story" shortly before they begin to customize their character. Unfortunately, that "unusual story" seems to be an immensely generic quest-driven narrative that turns the exploration of a gorgeous post-apocalyptic world into a tedious journey.

The world of Biomutant is one on the precipice of disaster. Long ago, a generic corporation polluted the world to the point of destruction, mutating its residents and leaving countless ruins in its wake. The World Tree that sustains the post-apocalyptic world is dying due to four World Eaters gnawing at its roots at the corners of the known world. Players take on the role of a ronin-like warrior who has returned to his home after a lengthy period of time. While the main character's memories of the past are patchy, players quickly learn that he left his home after a tragedy involving Lupa-Lupin, a large predator-type creature. That tragedy not only directly led to the death of the main character's parents, it also led to the fracture of the character's village into six distinctive tribes, who are now at war with each other. Biomutant revolves around resolving the Tribe War and dealing with the World Eaters.

Biomutant
(Photo: THQ Nordic)

Biomutant presents itself as a game full of meaningful choices. At the outset of the game, players will get to choose their character's appearance, stats, and class. Players will also quickly get to choose between a variety of different weapon styles, ranging from the slow and lumbering two-handed blade to a multi-purposed gauntlet that can shoot flames and bust through walls. They can also pick between different ranged weapons that include pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Most of these weapons can be customized using handles and add-ons found in various ruins throughout the world. Finding a fighting style that fits you is probably the game's biggest strength, as there are virtually limitless weapon combinations that change the flow of combat.

As the game progresses, those meaningful choices present themselves in different upgrades to the character. Players will collect mutagens that add different powers, psionic-like abilities that unlock as you choose between "Light" and "Dark" narrative choices, and general upgrades that add a handful of special moves or more general abilities. All of the enhancements at times feel like they're a bit superfluous, as you likely won't use all of the different moves and abilities you unlock over the course of normal combat. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I feel like the Psi-powers and Biogenics upgrades could have been combined into a single system.

The world itself is jam-packed with countless locations to explore, including many areas too dangerous to explore without the need of some special gear. Some of that gear is unlocked over the course of the main storyline, but others can only be found by stumbling upon the right location and clearing out the various bunkers by killing mutated creatures and completing the repetitive puzzles as they're encountered.

Biomutant's biggest flaw is its tedious and rough quest-driven narrative. The plot of the game is pathetically basic: players need to defeat the four World Eaters and unite the six tribes to reach the end game. Each of the four World Eaters are resolved through the same pattern. Players meet an NPC and help them build some sort of vehicle or mount through a series of fetch quests, and then use that vehicle or mount to defeat the World Eater. The Tribe War quest has slightly more variance, as players will be tasked with taking down different outposts through different means. However, the game confusingly gives players the option to opt out of the Tribe War about halfway through the game, bringing that plotline to an almost too-neat resolution.

biomutant 2
(Photo: THQ Nordic)

Combined with the too-simple plot are the generic NPCs, each of which lacks any real personality. When meeting a named NPC, players will have to slog through a too-long conversation where the NPC comments on the player's past, their affiliated tribe, and their general aura before finally giving them some sort of quest. The main issue is that each of these conversations is structured almost identically, which gives the NPCs themselves no real chance to display any individuality save for their folksy colloquialisms. Because Biomutant only has a narrator (the NPCs themselves talk in a squeaky nonsense speech), the conversations feel even more repetitive and you'll likely end up trying to skip out on as many of them as you can.

The other major issue is that Biomutant doesn't give players any reason to complete all the various puzzles and fetch-based quests. While I appreciate just how big the world of Biomutant feels, all of the quests feel very generic and repetitive. With very few exceptions, the puzzles are easy to solve, and there's no real motivation to complete the numerous side quests unless you're a completionist. I wish that there was more of a reward to reactivating payphones or spinning globes, but the game simply loads up on things to do without actually providing a reason to do them. There's no mechanical or narrative benefit to the vast majority of these quests, so you'll only be motivated to complete them if you enjoy lingering in the game's world.

Biomutant isn't a terrible game -- the fighting and crafting systems are both top-notch and give players a ton of choice. But while the world of Biomutant is hauntingly beautiful, the game lacks any sort of narrative substance or character. If you're looking for a strong story or even a weak story, Biomutant will leave you unsatisfied. However, if you enjoy exploration for the sake of exploration, then you'll probably lose yourself in Biomutant.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Biomutant is set to release on May 25th for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. A PlayStation 4 code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a PlayStation 5. You can check out all of our previous coverage of Biomutant right here.