Biomutant

Let me start off this article by saying that I got an early copy of Biomutant from THQ Nordic. I think I was in the first batch of reviewers to receive a copy, as I installed my game on May 5 (that’s 20 days before the May 25 release date — almost three weeks).

It feels like I’ve had this game for ages. My completion percentage on my first playthrough was 96% (I must have missed a few side quests), and I’ve spent at least 20 hours in New Game+. I’ve also created a second character and have more than a dozen hours of playtime on that one too. I earned the Platinum Trophy. In total my Biomutant play time is around 100 hours.

All of this is important to mention because I want to make it clear that I’m not just talking out of my bum here. I’m not reacting to reviews for a game I haven’t played (like a lot of people in Biomutant communities are doing right now). I’ve put a ton of time into this game.

Biomutant

All that said, I’m now reading Biomutant reviews that make it feel like people are playing a completely different game than the one I sank 100 hours into.

Kotaku’s review, for example, makes me think the reviewer didn’t actually play the game. Here’s a line:

However, the looping gameplay quickly becomes tedious and it doesn’t help that almost nearly every sidequest and main quest in Biomutant is a fetch quest. Many of the sidequests will ask you to go off and collect 10 or 20 things. 

Only, this isn’t true. There are fetch quests, sure, but off the top of my head, I can only think of one that asks you to collect more than 10 things, and I certainly can’t think of any that ask you to collect 20. And even the one quest I’m thinking of isn’t really a fetch quest.

See, you’ll pick up a mech suit (called a Mekton) as part of the main story, and you can collect parts to upgrade it (which is optional). While there’s some in-game dialogue that suggests that upgrading the Mekton will increase it’s stats, these upgrades are purely cosmetic in practice (so far as I can tell).

Biomutant - Hypoxia Zone

There are 13 upgrade boxes (called Wrekboxes), and once you collect the first one, a side quest will appear that guides you to all 13 locations. Instead of asking you to search the entire world unguided, this side quest gives you a tour through the Wrekbox locations, allowing you to collect all 13 and not miss any of the cool cosmetic upgrades. So this technically isn’t really a fetch quest so much as a guided tour through collectibles — collectibles, I should point out, that actually do something in the game rather than just sit there in your inventory. To me, this is good game design, not just some random meaningless fetch quest.

Now, there’s a decent amount of variety in Biomutant‘s side quests. For example, there’s one — depending on which tribe you’ve sided with — that could have you either burn a village or protect that village from the tribe who’s attempting to burn it. I’ve done both sides of this (and I feel awful about doing the burning).

I should point out that If you do end up burning the village, you can still talk to quest givers while the village is on fire, which to me is the fly in this quest’s proverbial ointment — the characters still treat you like a hero whether you burn the village or save it. To call this out as a flaw would be completely valid.

But the reviewer should have balanced their statement about fetch quests against content like this. Without doing that, the reviewer’s point reads as hyperbolic rather than genuine (perhaps unintentionally so).

There’s another side quest that has you find four monoliths. When you find one, you must rescue a captive “pilgrim,” then bring that character back to the monolith to activate it. If you activate all four, it will project your Aura (whether Light or Dark) as a swirling cloud over the Tree of Life. This effect will remain for the rest of the game, and it can be seen from a huge percentage of locations in the game world.

Biomutant

Not every side quest is like this. There are a fair amount of fetch quests (though in almost every case, you’re either asked to fetch one item, or you need to capture five of one type of creature and you’re guided to a location where you can find all five of them in one go). There are also a ton of quests that have you go out and slay one specific monster. I would say that these two quest types make up a bulk of the quests in the game, in fact. But I’m not confident the reviewer actually knows this.

See, later in the Kotaku review, you’ll find this line:

On PS5 I dealt with 18 crashes. It ended up being about one every hour I played.

I think this is actually the key to understanding what’s going on here. The reviewer played this game for about 18 hours, which is about enough time to finish the main questline and do just a little bit of side exploration. It’s not enough to give a cohesive overview of the game, because so much of the game is about exploring and finding weird little stuff that’s tucked away in some obscure corner of the map.

Biomutant

I don’t want to say there’s a wrong way to play Biomutant. If you want to beeline to the ending by just hitting the main quests, go right ahead. However, if you’re trying to explain the “essence” of the game but you avoid exploration and side quests, then you haven’t really gotten a feel for that “essence” in an 18-hour playthrough. A vast majority of Biomutant is side content — I would estimate three quarters of it.

And really, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s main story quest is laughably short too. And so it The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild‘s, when you really get down to it. But in both of those cases, the side content ends up making up the bulk of the gameplay experience. Biomutant is the same way. If I were to review Skyrim based on a speedrun through the main story, or if I reviewed Breath of the Wild after rushing to fight Calamity Ganon as soon as it was an option, I would be reviewing an experience that most players would never actually have. I would be missing the point.

Now let me address the crashes. When I installed the game on May 5, I was playing version 1.1. It crashed a whole lot, and there were a ton of bugs. However, there have been two major patches since then (1.2 and 1.3). I spent a lot of time with 1.3, which (pending a May 25 patch) will be the version people play at launch. In fact, I spent more time with 1.3 than Kotaku’s reviewer spent with the game as a whole. I didn’t experience a single crash in 1.3.

All of this leads me to believe Kotaku’s reviewer spent 15-18 hours powering through version 1.1 and never went back to it after the patches. That’s a valid way to approach Biomutant as a player, but I would argue that it’s not a valid way way to approach Biomutant as a reviewer.

Biomutant

PC Gamer and Eurogamer both have more balanced reviews, though PC Gamer’s errs on the side of being negative. What’s important about these two reviews, though, is that their gripes (which are numerous) are presented as opinion. PC Gamer’s reviewer finds the cutesy wordplay to be nauseating rather than charming, for example. While I don’t feel that way, personally, I can’t begrudge this person for having this opinion. Their feelings are their feelings, and those are valid.

What’s more important, though, is that I don’t think I agree with these folks on what the game is, or what the game is supposed to be.

The best example I can think of is a single line from the PC Gamer review:

Biomutant is a pretty good time if all you want is something strange and nice to look at.

I think I would probably agree to this. Only, in the aforementioned review, this is stated like it’s a bad thing. How bad is this really, though? I personally like looking at weird things. I spend enormous amounts of time just roaming around in video games and looking at things that catch my attention. This is a valid way to enjoy Biomutant, and if you like to play games this way (I actually do), I think you’ll really like this game.

Biomutant

Let me make an analogy.

I visited Omaha, Nebraska once. While I was there, someone told me that if you take the interstate through Nebraska, it’s a dull, boring, tedious trek. However, if you go an hour in either direction, you’ll find a gorgeous version of Nebraska that most people don’t know exists. I have no idea if this is true or not, because I haven’t been back to Nebraska since then. However, if it is true, you can see how two travelers through the state could have completely different experiences.

And that’s what these Biomutant reviews feel like to me. These are folks who took the interstate and found it to be efficient yet tedious. I, on the other hand, went in a different direction.

What direction was that?

Having the game three weeks early, I initially decided I would meander through Biomutant, picking up every side quest and stopping to look at whatever interested me. After about ten hours, I had seen maybe a fifth of the world and was feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of unfinished side quests in my log. After about 35 hours, I felt like I was starting to have my quest log under control. I completed the game at about 40 hours, but then I reloaded my save and decided to finish as many of the remaining side quests as possible before fighting the final boss a second time. My game time ended up being about 65 hours before I completed that playthrough. Then in New Game+ I noticed I was finding some areas that I had somehow not seen on my first playthrough.

That’s my experience with Biomutant. I haven’t found a reviewer yet who’s had that same experience.

Now, these reviewers are human beings with names. I know that. I’m deliberately not mentioning those names in this article because my critique honestly has nothing to do with those people. They’re probably lovely human beings, and I really don’t want to get on anyone’s bad side here. I just disagree with some of their statements, and I’m trying to explain why that is.

Biomutant

Fundamentally, I just think we had different experiences. And Biomutant is made for people who want to poke around and explore. It’s not really designed for people who want to rush to see the ending.

And speaking of the ending… I found it to be underwhelming. But that’s a conversation for another time, I think.

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Paul Williams
Paul Williams
22 days ago

Great write up. I’m still gonna give it a chance!

BillyHo
BillyHo
22 days ago

This article is so on point. Well done.

Adamo
Adamo
21 days ago

Kotaku continues to be bottom-barrel journalism. Not suprised

D-_-RAiL
D-_-RAiL
20 days ago
Reply to  Adamo

They are political activist over gaming now much like Polygon and what IGN is turning completely into.

D-_-RAiL
D-_-RAiL
20 days ago
Reply to  Josh Wirtanen

Nice write up, I will add this article to the Discord channel news feeds I admin for. Do you have write up’s in this formula often because it seems like something that would be great to do.

MakRoyale
MakRoyale
21 days ago

This makes me want to try it 🙂
I see very mixed reviews for this game, so to me that means it appeals to some but not to others.

Julian Watkins
Editor
13 days ago
Reply to  MakRoyale

Experiment 101 is releasing a hefty update (out now on PC; slated for console soon) that addresses some of the performance, sound and pacing issues that some have experienced. This should go a long way towards fixing some of the items that folks were griping about. I love Biomutant in its current form though, so this will just be icing on the top for me.

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