What do you get when you take Horizon Zero Dawn, mix it with Fable and add a sprinkling of Kung Fu Panda? You get Biomutant, and yes, it really is as delightful as it sounds. An action-RPG with exciting combat, quirky characters and a world rich in life, developer Experiment 101 has produced a masterful title that recreates the sense of wonder you felt the first time you played a fantastical open-world adventure game.
In Biomutant, you play as the 'One-Eyed Ronin', or at least that's what some NPCs refer to you as. Your character is a bear-esque creature who you customise to your own style, both in terms of attributes and colour scheme. Available traits are vitality, strength, intellect, agility, charisma and luck, with you deciding which ones to put your stat points into. Prioritising strength means you deal more physical damage, while pumping up the agility stat will improve your evasion, and so on. It's not all decided early on, though, as you gain further stat points while you level up throughout the game. There are also various other unlockable traits and skills, from elemental resistances to combat techniques. These aren't the only choices you'll make in this game.
Biomutant constantly asks you to choose how you progress. From which weapons you wield, to factions you ally with, this open-world RPG makes everything count. Main quests often present you with multiple options, and there are numerous side quests to pick from as you explore. There's even a morality system, letting you see the spiritual ramifications of your actions, and your ethical position has a bearing on how the events play out. As someone who loved this about Fallout 3 and the Fable series, I'm delighted to see it present in Biomutant.
In terms of story, Biomutant takes place in an overgrown, post-apocalyptic world, following an event referred to as the "End of Days". Your character is one of the many anthropomorphic animals who inhabit this new reality. Suffering from amnesia, our hero's past is slowly revealed through flashback segments, showing what life was like during "kidlinghood", and setting up the primary antagonist. The whole thing has a Pixar feel to it, being both charming and heartbreaking.
In fact, the entire game expertly balances warmth and melancholy. The world is captivating yet deadly. Allies are positive but realistic, often carrying the scars of what they've been through, both physically and mentally. Biomutant creates a lot of this hybrid atmosphere through its soundtrack, which dictates the mood through slow strings and drawn-out fades. Galloping through the lush ruins of a forgotten era, each desolate structure is made more poignant by the OST, and it's easy to lose hours while exploring the decrepit buildings as the music washes over you.
Traversing the world is always fun. Whether you're investigating barren, ruined towns like in The Last of Us, or exploring mountainous peaks like in Horizon Zero Dawn, Every inch of the environment is begging to be delved into. There are NPCs scattered throughout, offering missions and services, usually with a welcome range of dialogue choices, too. The world of Biomutant is honestly one of the most fun places I've visited in a game this year.
It's not all relaxing recon in Biomutant. There are plenty of enemies roaming the land who don't take kindly to being disturbed. From wild animals to opposing factions, you have to tread carefully at all times, especially when your foes are higher in level than you. You can avoid fights at times, or even just run away, but eventually you'll have to invite your attackers to "catch these hands".
Luckily, Biomutant has a very good combat system. You have access to a decent array of melee and ranged weapons, with unlockable skills known as "Wung-Fu" techniques enhancing your battle prowess. You can attack enemies with dual pistols, edged weapons, a giant metal gauntlet, and much more. There are also perks called "Mutations", which grant abilities like setting enemies on fire, or teleporting over a short distance. How you fight is up to you, but the free-flowing combat is simple to pick up and endlessly fun.
Despite my praise, I have to say Biomutant isn't perfect. There are times where the camera will zoom in on the wrong area during a cutscene, leaving you to imagine what's actually happening. There's also an issue with the visuals throughout the game, with characters looking drab and muddy against overly blurry backdrops. This unrefined aesthetic can break the immersion at first but is worth tolerating because it's an exceptional game.
The most impressive thing about Biomutant is just how much there is within the game. You can explore lush scenery and bleak ruins. You'll meet quirky NPCs. The combat is fluid and satisfying. There are even little puzzles hidden away for you to uncover and solve. As if that wasn't enough, there are mounts to ride, including a jet ski and a mech resembling the Power Loader from Aliens. There's so much to experience it would be overwhelming if it wasn't so well done.
In short, Biomutant is a superb open-world, action-focused RPG. You can fight to your heart's content, meander through gorgeous and bleak environments, and enjoy a story that takes you to far corners of a wonderful in-game map. It's not always easy on the eye, but look a little deeper and you'll see it's brimming with beauty.
Pros: Gorgeous open-worlds, free-flowing combat, lots to do
Cons: Visually muddy with excessive background blur
For fans of: Horizon Zero Dawn, Fable, Fallout 3
Biomutant was played on PC with code provided by the publisher. The game releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on May 25th. PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S release dates TBA. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.