Co­pi­ous craft­ing and fur-ocious fun

Games Master - - Contents -

Kung-fu bat­tles, self-ad­min­is­tered ge­netic en­gi­neer­ing, the postapoc­a­lypse, and you.

Take the open-world play­ground stylings of Rico’s ad­ven­tures in Just Cause, and end of the world vibes à la Mad Max. Add to that some Chi­nese cul­tural in­flu­ences, a healthy dose of Kung Fu Panda, and a mu­tat­ing mam­mal that’s ca­pa­ble of near-lim­it­less weapon craft­ing, and you’re in for one un­de­ni­ably off­beat ad­ven­ture. This newly an­nounced ac­tion-RPG is a mashup of a broad range of con­cepts, but many of the in­flu­ences make sense when you know the de­vel­op­ment team, Ex­per­i­ment 101, con­sists of ex-Avalanche devel­op­ers. Sport­ing the most vi­brant and colour­ful land­scape the post-apoca­lypse has ever seen, Biomu­tant aims to give you the free­dom to craft your own tale, with that com­mit­ment to choice per­me­at­ing ev­ery as­pect of the eye-wa­ter­ingly beau­ti­ful, semi-re­al­is­tic world. First, you can craft your main char­ac­ter – a cu­ri­ous an­i­mal – in what­ever way you see fit, right down to fur type, pat­tern, and colour. You can also cus­tomise your hero’s stats, tweak­ing things like at­tack, defence, and move­ment speed. Adding to that flex­i­bil­ity is a huge world where you can ex­plore and take on quests as you like. We’re told that these will be mean­ing­ful and re­ward­ing, go­ing against the grain of the pop­u­lar ‘fetch quests’ that have woe­fully bogged down many a promis­ing open-world ex­cur­sion.

Bio shocks

You are also given plenty of choice as to how to ap­proach bat­tles. The core com­bat is a smooth and ac­ces­si­ble com­bi­na­tion of melee and shoot­ing, but it’s the abilities that of­fer the most vari­a­tion and de­light. Your char­ac­ter un­locks abilities by mu­tat­ing, grant­ing you ac­cess to all man­ner of ways to bring the pain. You can use a swarm of moths to stun en­e­mies, then zap them with a bolt of elec­tric­ity, or fire pro­jec­tiles us­ing telekine­sis. We’re promised a vir­tual buf­fet of mu­ta­tions, of­fer­ing an as­sort­ment of cre­ative ways to en­gage in bat­tle. So far we’ve seen ad­ver­saries rang­ing from puny but plen­ti­ful tribe mem­bers, to large ogre-like foes, and a glimpse of a fierce, three-headed Hy­dra

“The core com­bat is a smooth and ac­ces­si­ble com­bi­na­tion of melee, shoot­ing, and abilities”

Rat has us ex­cited for some in­tense and in­ven­tive en­emy en­coun­ters.

The nar­ra­tive uses an­i­mals to con­vey its moral mes­sage in the style of a fa­ble. Go­ing against the grain of postapoc­a­lyp­tic stereo­types, this world isn’t un­der at­tack by zom­bies or the result of nu­clear dev­as­ta­tion. In­stead, it’s been ru­ined by the pol­lu­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment (clearly these crit­ters don’t recycle – or their an­ces­tors didn’t). Cu­ri­ously, the nar­ra­tor is the only com­pre­hen­si­ble speaker in the game (the other char­ac­ters com­mu­ni­cate via a ran­dom as­sort­ment of noises) pro­vid­ing a nar­ra­tion that’s con­tex­tual, with rolling com­men­tary on not only the pre­de­ter­mined story el­e­ments, but also many of your in­di­vid­ual ac­tions.

Your main ob­jec­tive in Biomu­tant is three­fold, in­volv­ing the Tree Of Life, war­ring tribal fac­tions, and a mys­te­ri­ous wolf crea­ture. If the Tree Of Life dies, the world dies, ren­der­ing all your other en­deav­ours null and void. With the tribes, you also have a va­ri­ety of ways in which to tackle things, in­clud­ing unit­ing them, or wip­ing out the lot if you’re feel­ing par­tic­u­larly vil­lain­ous. The game’s karma sys­tem is rep­re­sented by yin and yang choices. Building good karma will result in a more uni­fied so­ci­ety and better re­la­tion­ships with the world’s odd­ball in­hab­i­tants, or you could fol­low the path of evil in­stead and be­come the world’s tyran­ni­cal ruler.

If you’re won­der­ing why we’ve been ob­scure about our furry com­pan­ion up un­til now, it’s be­cause we ac­tu­ally know very lit­tle about them. We’re told that who this mys­te­ri­ous mam­mal is will be re­vealed dur­ing the game, but one thing we do know is they are in­trin­si­cally linked to the game’s third nar­ra­tive el­e­ment – the strange and men­ac­ing wolf-thing. Huz­zah for in­trigue! The char­ac­ters aren’t the only thing that’s quirky. Many of the ob­jects – some of which you’ll use to nav­i­gate the world – are fairly odd too. We caught a glimpse of a ride­able me­chan­i­cal hand that shoots bul­lets from its fin­gers, and we’re also told about a type­writer rock­ing oc­to­pus arms.

Af­ter the ini­tial hand-hold­ing that teaches you the me­chan­ics of this world, you’re free to ex­plore as you please, but there are cer­tain en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions which hin­der your ex­plo­ration. Some ar­eas will be off-lim­its un­til you’ve tracked down the nec­es­sary sur­vival equip­ment, like a gas mask or ther­mal cloth­ing (some­times, fur isn’t enough), or the right trans­porta­tion, such as me­chan­i­cal wings or a jet-ski.

Level play­ing field

With a world as big and freeform as this, dif­fi­culty is of­ten a restrict­ing fac­tor, with your hero phys­i­cally able to travel to vir­tu­ally any lo­ca­tion, but met with a swift demise should they ven­ture there be­fore they have the ca­pa­bil­ity of best­ing the area’s as­sailants. Biomu­tant en­cour­ages ex­plo­ration by tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion your cur­rent level when spawn­ing en­e­mies, and the same goes for loot. This doesn’t mean it’ll be a walk in the park, but it should make for a more stream­lined player-driven ex­pe­ri­ence where ar­eas can be tack­led as and when the player de­cides.

Its lush green vi­su­als, huge world, and in­tu­itive mix of melee and ranged com­bat un­doubt­edly draw sim­i­lar­i­ties with Hori­zon Zero Dawn, but Ex­per­i­ment 101’s stu­dio head, Ste­fan Ljungqvist, says the team drew more in­spi­ra­tion from games like Zelda, forg­ing a colour­ful, fan­tas­ti­cal world with crazy char­ac­ters and em­pha­sis­ing cre­ativ­ity rather than fo­cus­ing on the kind of lin­ear story pre­sen­ta­tion and sense of be­liev­abil­ity that we wit­nessed in Guer­rilla’s re­cent robot-dino romp.

From what we’ve seen, Biomu­tant of­fers won­der­fully var­ied com­bat in a sur­pris­ingly deep ad­ven­ture that’s been in­jected with an in­vig­o­rat­ing dose of hu­mour. Anne-Marie Coyle

De­spite be­ing post-apoca­lyp­tic, the world is far from a des­o­late waste­land. Pic­turesque lo­ca­tions in­clude lush forests and snowy peaks.

Loot comes in the form of ran­dom com­po­nents that you use to craft all man­ner of melee and ranged weapons.

You have a me­chan­i­cal cricket side­kick, Au­toma­ton. This chirpy crea­ture will give you quests re­lat­ing to where you are in the world. What a pal.

It’s not all about bat­tle. Quests some­times in­volve more un­con­ven­tional ac­tiv­i­ties, like grow­ing beanstalks or hatch­ing eggs.

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