PLATFORM: PC, PS4, XBOX ONE | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
In Biomutant's post-apocalyptic world, humans no longer exist and mutated animals have taken over the land. As one of these animals, your job is to save the Tree of Life by defeating the gargantuan monsters who are gnawing on its roots, slowly killing the tree and bringing an end to all living creatures. Before you can do this, though, you'll need to travel the land and convince the various tribes of animals to join your cause, while also juggling your own allegiances to get the most out of your allies.
Taking multiple cues from pretty much any modern open-world game you'd care to mention (with particularly noticeable influences from Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn and, of all things, Fortnite), Biomutant strives to be all things to all people but, unfortunately, misses the mark on a few too many occasions. You'll find vast environments to explore (and a variety of ways to do so), items to craft, countless upgrades, a morality system, piles and piles of loot, a host of quirky characters and plenty of (excellently-designed) enemies to brawl with, and it's certainly one of the most colourful and eye-catching post-apocalyptic settings to be seen for a while, but underwhelming combat, superfluous gameplay systems and recycled objectives mean there's a chance for repetition to set in fairly quickly.
The opening few hours might prove to be Biomutant's biggest hurdle, with strangely-worded tutorials managing to make the simplest tasks appear much more complicated than they really are – it's not uncommon to see multiple dialogue boxes all saying exactly the same thing but just in slightly different ways. This extends beyond the tutorials to the in-game dialogue, where the animals' made-up language – which ranges from gibberish babble to guttural throaty noises – is translated into English by a well-spoken narrator, but there are still so many alternate words for everyday objects that you need to spend far too much time trying to decipher what everything means. It walks a fine line between delightfully whimsical and irritatingly twee, and doesn't always land on the right side...
While you're never short of things to do – there's a huge world to explore and your map will quickly fill with objective markers – it rarely feels like anything you're doing has any real substance to it. Main missions, which involve taking down tribe leaders and convincing them to join your cause, follow the same structure, and enemy bases are all pretty much identical to each other. Similarly, collect 'em up side quests task you with finding specific amounts of objects, so you'll be running around flushing toilets, fixing washing machines, checking out notice boards and fixing film projectors, all of which are dealt with by completing identical “rotate the switches” mini-puzzles. Biomutant's combat also falters – despite offering a huge amount of different ways to take down your foes, from melee and ranged weapons to flashy “psionic” powers, the majority of attacks lack impact, making even your fanciest moves feel weightless and ineffective.
The amount of ambition behind Biomutant is certainly commendable, as its fantastic world and enemy design, but by cramming in so many ideas, it ultimately doesn't quite manage to excel in any particular area. Seasoned RPG vets might not get the most out of this strange and peculiar (but undeniably pretty) world, but those who might be a bit too young for Assassin's Creed or Far Cry are likely to be much more in tune with the distractions on offer. Three stars for the young 'uns!