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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (477)

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Mighty Switch Force! Co... 2.5/5
Aegis of Earth: Protono... 3/5
Torchlight III 2.5/5
Cyberpunk 2077 3.5/5
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks... 4.5/5
Eiyuden Chronicle: Risi... 3/5
Psychonauts 2 4.5/5
Castle in the Clouds DX 4/5
Ocean's Heart 4/5
Just Die Already 2/5
Sable 2.5/5
Midnight Castle Succubus 4.5/5
Tower and Sword of Succ... 4/5
Thronebreaker: The Witc... 3/5
Battletoads (2020) 1.5/5
Door Kickers: Action Sq... 4.5/5
Biomutant 4/5
Dragon Quest Builders 2 4.5/5
Journey to the Savage P... 4.5/5
Wasteland 3 4.5/5
Daemon X Machina 3.5/5
Earthlock 2.5/5
Override: Mech City Bra... 3/5
SolSeraph 3/5
ActRaiser 4.5/5

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Biomutant   PC (Steam) 

Post Fur-Pocalypse    4/5 stars

“Biomutant” is the inaugural development effort by a Swedish startup studio called Experiment 101, which was formed in 2015 by former employees of Avalanche Studios, a larger Swedish developer better known for the ‘Just Cause’ series. I first became aware of the game shortly after it as announced, as I was searching for games featuring detailed weapon customization systems and open-world mech piloting, both of which “Biomutant” displayed prominently in its early promotional material, in which it was dubbed a ‘post-apocalyptic kung-fu fable.’ As is my wont, I sat idly by as the game went through Development Hell for a good many years before finally being released in 2021, a year in which it met decidedly negative reactions, garnering ‘mixed’ reviews overall. When “Biomutant” received a big discount during a 2022 Steam Sale, I decided to pull the trigger and give it a shot. What I found was a game that did not live up to all of its original, overhyped promises, but is still ultimately an enjoyable experience.

“Biomutant” is built in the Unread Engine 4, which is unsurprising as a modern 3D game made by a studio staffed by veteran developers. The game is visually lush and vibrant, with a huge open-world filled with points of interest that are visible from a significant distance. Character designs are decidedly unique, with every character and monster taking the form of a fur-covered mutant animal, allowing the graphics team to show off the fancy hair effects available in Unreal 4. While the environment splits the difference between realism and stylization, with sometimes-jarring transitions to altogether different biomes, character designs are wholly fantastical and – to a certain portion of the audience – possibly fetishistic. Yes, the world is full of Furries, and you, the player, must adopt a Fursona of your own. That said, you don’t have to be a Furry to enjoy this game, but if seeing anthropomorphic animals causes you to foam at the mouth and develop Tourette’s-like symptoms, you won’t find any reprieve. While some of the mutants that populate the world are recognizable – such as a wetsuit-clad otter named Goop who builds the hero a jetski – most of them fall into a bizarrely generic style of indistinct… cat-dog-fox-raccoon-thing mammal… though there are a few characters who would look more reptilian… if they weren’t covered in fur. Enemy designs, however, are particularly great, with fur-covered menaces ranging from the small and helpless (keep your butterfly net handy), to the person-sized, to the truly gargantuan. Of course, when discussing furry mutants, our minds tend to wander to MeltedJoystick’s own resident furry mutant, and, yes, somewhere around 90% of the monsters have a high degree of Chris-ness.

Audio in “Biomutant” is incredibly ambitious, but I’m not sure it entirely delivers. The soundtrack is beautiful, and quite a bit more noticeable than in other open-world games. I’m particularly fond of the somewhat-mournful string piece that accompanies much of the game’s exploration. Voice acting, on the other hand, while still ambitious, is rather divisive in its execution. All of the mutant creatures in “Biomutant” speak one of several dialects of gibberish. Instead of just subtitling the gibberish, though, “Biomutant” takes the entirely novel approach of having the entire game and all NPC dialogs narrated and/or translated by an invisible narrator, voiced by David Shaw-Parker, a venerable British voiceover artist. Shaw-Parker’s performance in “Biomutant” does more than just evoke Stephen Fry’s performance in the ‘LittleBigPlanet’ series, but due to the game’s writing, heavily invokes the same tone as well. That is to say, much of the narration comes across as if it’s targeting a very young audience, and, much like the violence inflicted throughout the game upon cute, furry creatures, clashes with the game’s overall timbre. While the narrator’s presence in major story events and conversations would have been enough, he also tends to comment rather drolly on every single thing the player does and does-not-do, and over the course of the game starts to get repetitive. Fortunately, there is an option in the game’s settings to turn down the frequency of the narrator’s comments.

In spite of its lofty audio-visual ambitions and the alleged experience of the team at Experiment 101, “Biomutant” suffers from a lot of technical issues. One would think that an experienced team would know all the ins-and-outs of the Unreal Engine, but there are plenty of little Unreal visual bugs that are omnipresent throughout the game. Even worse, the huge, gorgeous open world does not stream smoothly as the player moves around it, but suffers from noticeable hitches and stutters when streaming new parts of the world, and sometimes ludicrous amounts of pop-in, such as T-posing NPCs appearing in the air above their seats at a table before dropping into position. While I never had the game outright crash on me, I did have one black-screen freeze while loading a save, and one quest-breaking bug – which has been known and reported by players for over a year at time of writing – still isn’t fixed (fortunately, it’s for an inconsequential side-quest). The good news, though, is that while “Biomutant” is definitely lacking in spit-and-polish, it’s still an eminently playable product, with fairly-quick load times, native Xinput support, rebindable keys, etc.

“Biomutant” advertises itself as a ‘post-apocalyptic kung-fu fable.’ While it does include all of those things, it is primarily a bit of environmentalist proselytizing at a rather childish level of understanding and maturity. The game takes place on an Earth ravaged by the pollution of the ‘Captain Planet’ villain-tier corporation, Toxanol. Based on the style of the ruined buildings and the writing on the signs, “Biomutant” seems to be set somewhere in Asia, though this is never directly addressed. It has been an untold number of centuries since the end of the human world due to Toxanol’s pollution, and over the course of that time, the ruins of our world came to be inhabited by upright, tool-and-language-using, anthropomorphic mutant animals.

The world of the mutants also lasted an undetermined span of time before an eruption of Toxanol pollutants triggered the creation of an entirely new class of mutant – dubbed World Eaters – and put the Tree of Life that stands at the center of the mutant world in danger, as the giant monstrosities feast upon its roots. Convinced that the world is coming to an end, the once-unified mutant society fractures into a number of ideologically-incompatible tribes who, just like their human forebears, decide that the best possible solution to the end of the world is a multi-factional civil war.

Our hero is the only child of the one-time leader of the united tribes, whose parents were both brutally murdered by a mysterious predator known as Lupa-Lupin. Fleeing he destruction of his/her/its village, our hero has spent a, once again, undetermined number of years eking out an existence in the uninhabited wastelands outside the Tree of Life’s sphere of influence. Returning home, our playable character must decide what to do about the fractured tribes as well as what to do about the World Eaters, either saving or condemning the world in the process – or, indeed, something in-between.

“Biomutant” tries very hard to do non-linear storytelling, but generally doesn’t get it quite right. While it seems that there are numerous Shades of Gray with regard to the tribe war, the quest structure only allows the player to ally with one of two (out of six) tribes, either the 100% Light-aligned good guys, or the 100% Dark-aligned jerks who quite literally want to crush all opposition as they watch the world burn… so, yeah, not a lot of nuance there. However, the game does feature a New Game + mode that allegedly allows the player to ally with any tribe instead of the two opposite poles. Likewise, while there are many NPCs to meet and interact with throughout the game, most of them really don’t matter.

The dialog system tends to be overly convoluted, with numerous instances of ‘talking in circles’ that reminded me unpleasantly of the dialog system in “The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion,” that rarely lead to any interesting or useful information. Furthermore, for ‘flavor,’ all of the game’s characters use bizarre and childish terms for most things, making every conversation like talking with a LOLcat.

All told, primarily due to the size of the world and number of exploratory side-quests, “Biomutant” offers between 50 and 60 hours of content during a single playthrough. It’s also quite easy to snag all of the Achievements without replaying, though the replay value primarily lies in the potential appeal of exploring alternative alliances and story outcomes.

“Biomutant” is, in essence, an Indie take on making an Ubisoft-style Sandbox. The world is huge and open, and while there are numerous quests that plop waypoints on the world map, the player is, for the most part, incredibly free to take off in any direction, and is guaranteed to run into something interesting along the way. Of course, there are some differences from the Ubisoft model, such as the fact that location icons don’t appear on the map until the player is standing IN the location (which means it’s entirely too easy to walk past something interesting because you were looking the other way), the fact that the player character unlocks fast travel locations by pissing on flagpoles, and the fact that the player character can’t climb, but can instead do a kind of floaty double-jump and a single wall-jump before needing to find solid footing. Otherwise, all of the Sandbox trappings are there, including a butt-load of different mounts to tame/buy/earn, including an airship, a mech, and a jetski. Unfortunately, while some of these vehicles hold a great deal of promise, the most interesting ones – the airship, mech, and jetski – are restricted to use in a single region of the map. No jetsking outside the archipelago! No mech outside the Deadzone! No airship outside the desert!

Thus, for most of the game, our player character travels on foot or on the back of a wide variety of disturbing quadrupeds known collectively as ‘gnoats.’ Since gnoats aren’t exactly agile when it comes to uneven ground or platforming, that means the player will be on-foot for the vast majority of the game. Alas, the squandered potential! It’s just as well, though, since the main things the player will be doing are: 1) Exploring ruins, 2) Fighting enemies, and 3) Opening loot containers, and doing any of those on gnoatback ranges from cumbersome to impossible.

The combat system in “Biomutant” allegedly revolves around ‘kung-fu,’ but the player is free to pick and choose from a wide array of abilities. At character creation, the player will customize their creature’s look, which affects its starting stats, as well as choose a character class, which determines which perks the character will have access to. I went with the Deadeye class for gun skills, and was not disappointed. However, while dual-wielding pistols ended up as my primary means of self-defense, I also carried a large bludgeoning weapon and learned a wide variety of ki magic. In addition to being able to seamlessly switch between ranged weapons, melee weapons, and magic in battle, the player character will also gain the ability to unlock mutant powers by collecting… blobs of toxic waste… called bioblobs. Some of these mutations are absolutely essential – such as the mucus bubble that allows the hero to bounce WAY higher than a typical jump – while most are situational or outright useless. Though, I was also quite delighted by my first mutant power, which allowed my mutant to spew forth moths that would home in on humanoid enemies and confuse them into attacking each other.

The ‘kung-fu’ aspect comes in the form of fighting bare-handed, or with a number of unique martial arts weapons, each of which can only be acquired from a specific tribe. While I enjoyed the fighting mechanics of a large number of these unique weapons, they quickly become useless, as they are out-stripped, stats-wise, by the customizable weapons built using the game’s crafting system. This system was what initially attracted me to “Biomutant,” and it absolutely delivers what it promised, with the ability to craft one-handed slashing, two-handed slashing, or two-handed bludgeoning weapons from a staggering array of component parts. Every crafted melee weapon needs a handle and a… weapony part, and each blade/cudgel can host between 0 and 2 add-ons to make the end product more dangerous. I spend the vast majority of the game wielding a biohazardous club that looked like a long, bumpy dildo (obviously used, thanks to the biohazard), with two chainsaws tied to it. It was amazing! Guns are also fully customizable and can take the form of pistols (just called ‘guns’), rifles, shotguns, and automatic rifles. Due to my class choice, I found dual pistols to be the best, and I absolutely love the number of parts each gun has. There’s the grip, receiver (base), magazine, barrel, and top mount (scopes and the like), all of which come in an incredible array of styles and stats – though I personally found explosive rounds to be the most useful AS THEY ARE IN ALL SHOOTING GAMES! Unfortunately, none of the special kung-fu-style weapons are customizable or rebuildable in any way. While my personal favorite melee weapon was the two-handed staff, I simply couldn’t justify using it for more than a couple hours after getting it, as the static stats were between half and a third the damage of my chainsaw dildo club.

Weapons aren’t alone in being moddable, as the hero’s entire outfit – consisting of a shirt, pants, 2 independent shoulderpads, a backpack, a hat, and a gasmask – all come with a dizzying array of stats and multiple mod-slots where small attachments can be tacked-on for a little boost. Outfits also provide varying resistances to the game’s five elements – heat, cold, biohazard, radiation, and low oxygen – and reaching 100% in one or more elements provides immunity to environmental hazards of that type, allowing for the exploration of some truly cursed places.

In addition to being able to customize the hero’s weapons and armor with components and add-ons discovered in the game’s ludicrous number of lootable containers, it’s also possible to upgrade the quality and rarity of these components by spending varying quantities of scrap. Scrap comes in a handful of different categories, and can be found in mutant-built totems all over the world or obtained by breaking-down unwanted loot on the spot.

Loot, of course, is almost entirely randomly-distributed from containers using a ‘Diablo’-style system of color-coded rarities, with nearly every explorable location in the game containing a loot source with guaranteed ‘superb’ (that is, one of the top three rarities) loot. Even vendors sell a randomly-determined selection of weapon and armor components, though they never seem to refresh their inventories. Overall, though, I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed the equipment crafting and customization system in “Biomutant.” The ability to assemble modular weapons and upgrade favorite pieces is exactly the type of system I’d like to see in games like the ‘Borderlands’ series, and “Biomutant” provides a fantastic template for others to follow.

While it is drastically lacking in spit-and-polish, giving it an unapologetically ‘Eurojank’ feel, “Biomutant” is an admirable attempt at crafting a new open-world IP based on the Ubisoft model. While some of the initially-promised gameplay features – like pilotable mechs and customizable kung-fu – were oversold by the publisher’s marketing department and the story can come off as a bit simplistic and juvenile, there are enough novel, well executed, and fun gameplay mechanics to give the game its own unique identity. Anyone who enjoys Open-World Sandbox games and gets as excited about min/max-ing customizable weapons as I do should definitely grab this title the next time it goes on sale. Furries can feel free to pay full price.

Presentation: 3.5/5
Story: 3.5/5
Gameplay: 4.5/5
Overall (not an average): 4/5



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