If you’ve been wanting to wander a post-apocalyptic world as a fluffy mutated piece of cuteness, then Biomutant is probably what you’ve been waiting for. The RPG title from Experiment 101 has you doing the usual levelling up, crafting, looting, and exploring a large world, and we’ve already seen Biomutant accessibility settings teased earlier this month. But how do these features hold up when they’re used in actual gameplay?
Well, to nutshell it — Biomutant does accessibility both well and not so well to the point that in one moment I’m loving it, and in the next I’m struggling. But first, let’s get into how the game opens up. I already touched on this in our Biomutant Accessibility — Menu Deep Dive, but I wanted to get into this some more.
Once booted, you’re thrown into a cutscene that has no voiced dialogue, which was a relief seeing as I’m being forced to watch it. But then once it’s over the game asks you to choose your language by presenting the choices in an incredibly horrid contrast of white/yellow text on bright blue background. I later came to learn that the game likes to display white on bright blue at many points which really was not ideal for reading comfortably.
Upon first boot and after choosing your language, the narrator begins to speak, accompanied by white, thin subtitles on a bright blue sky and no background for them, and with 4 lines of text. It certainly shot my hopes down.
It’s only after going through the Settings menu directly after that narration and going to accessibility that I was able to apply a background, change the opacity, cycle through some colours for the text, and change the text size. And really, I like the options available for subtitle presentation!
Biomutant even goes to the extent to have the little dialogue subtitled in the menus, which is something most games decide to leave unsubtitled with me hearing speech but unable to understand it. The main issue with the subtitles comes in the form of continually jumping between having subtitles at a decent length, and then in another area, they’re several lines long.
For following along with them, the game will, by default, progress most subtitles automatically. But an accessibility feature you can toggle will allow you to have control over how they progress which offers that level of comfort some players may require in taking their time. It’s worth highlighting that the game mainly features the voice of the narrator, who will also translate any creature gibberish conversations. It’s just somewhat irritating having the constant translation, gibberish, translation, gibberish, translation for all conversations.
Speaking of narration and gibberish, there are two audio slider features that you can adjust which change the frecency of those two audio elements. With gibberish, a higher frequency will make the creatures more prone to babbling on and a lower will do the opposite. When the narrator speaks throughout gameplay, it’s to make a quip or speak hints to your health or Ki (Energy).
Personally, at default the narrator chiming in felt both thematically enjoyable but also a touch distracting during intense combat given how quickly the subtitles seem to vanish and trying to read them while also contending to the fighting at hand.
There are no captions to describe world sounds, music cues, or conveying narrator emotion, but there are visual indicators in the style of comic book fonts that appear for certain actions. I really liked this feature, not only because it gave a sense of style to the game, but because these indicators helped me in play. In Biomutant, there are not only have melee weapons but ranged too. I’m going to start with the guns.
If you want to see some official gameplay from THQ Nordic, check out the video below that shows off a good chunk of combat in action.
When using a gun, there’s an ammo counter hovering directly next to the character which means that I was able to keep my focus on the action without straying too far. But while the ammo counter can be fairly hard to see due to the icons being quite faint, when the gun runs out of ammo, it clicks to indicate it’s empty. This is illustrated by a comical font reading “Klick!” which is a fantastic and stylistic indicator to let me know.
These comical fonts are also used in melee combat and show me when I’ve taken damage, countered successfully, or I myself have been countered. With Biomutant requiring sequential button inputs to perform special attacks or counters, having these indicators popping up was great accessibility by design feature that helped me to know when I can begin a certain action, such as attacking after a counter.
On the topic of counters, when an incoming attack can be countered, the enemy has a bolt indicator appear above their heads. For me, this felt like a game speed assist could have helped out because sometimes the indicators feel as if they’re either too fast, or they appear off-screen as you fight in the 3D space.
For combat, it is pretty much a button mash job with certain button sequences being required for certain attack moves, and then when you unlock abilities, these require holding an input to open a wheel that has up to four power assigns set to it. In my case, I tied a Blaze skill to my X button which I could activate only when I held the Left Trigger to open those abilities.
There are also quick-time events that require the mashing of a button, however, in the Biomutant accessibility menu, there’s an option to skip these events which allows players to just press the first input and then the game does the rest. This is not always the case oddly enough, whether this is just a missed bug or didn’t get filed as a QTE, there was a section in which I had to press buttons in whatever randomised sequence it told me to input in order to open a hatch on an oil truck. So it’s just something to be aware of that QTE’s may still exist even with the accessibility feature on.
I also want to bring up the aim assist. It’s not wonderful. For melee combat, you basically attack in whatever direction you’re pushing the movement stick. But I can’t seem to lock on to enemies. And for aiming ranged weapons, you’d think there would be an aim feature, but instead, my reticle automatically sticks loosely to an enemy closest to the centre of the screen but doesn’t seem to allow for precise aiming or lock-on. It’s also fairly easy to not see enemies in some areas due to the small reticle or even the fog.
When it comes to the game’s interface, the HUD can be increased to a fantastic large size, and even be made smaller than its default size. Objectives are nice to read and the health and Ki bar are easy to understand — the D-pad shortcuts are always shown with legible icons as well. Button prompts in the world are large and clear, and when you’re attacking enemies, their health bars are shown without being obtrusive. A red damage vignette does occur but doesn’t feel overwhelming, and using the radial wheels to quickly assign weapons or consume items feels nice to use but could benefit from slowing the gameplay down even more.
Wayfinding feels a bit hit and miss. On the one hand, you can see the marker icon that constantly moves with you, but there’s no guide as to how you get there. This resulted in me wandering the world and getting lost, trying to head toward the direction of the marker. There’s also a compass which honestly feels incredibly useless to the point I nearly switch it off. It doesn’t seem to help me in my journey and if it did, it’s far too small. A minimap may have fared better.
I’m not a fan of the pause menu’s colour scheme as everything not highlighted is, once again, white text on blue background. I do like how you’re able to choose to go to different sections such as crafting, levelling up, map, and the options from this section.
I am a huge fan of the majority of the layouts for these areas where upgrades and skills can be applied. The way of which the UI has been laid out is as if there are 3 vertical slices, with the left being the UX portion where you choose from the options, and the middle and right slices are either information or previews/examples. Even navigating the quests screen and switching between categories makes the game far easier for the cognitive load.
The trouble I found was that I couldn’t understand the crafting side of things all that well no matter how much time I put into it. This is likely down to the fact the dismantle/scrap functions aren’t that great to follow, but there are also so many wacky names for crafting parts. Even speaking to the storekeeper had me feeling lost because I wanted to sell things to get currency, but everything seemed somewhat important.
Transitioning back to gameplay, I can’t recall the vibration being all that impactful, if anything it’s vibration at its simplest. I didn’t feel it warning me of cues and I didn’t feel it helping me for hints.
Biomutant did great in presentation for tutorial prompts that pause the gameplay (sometimes) but it needs to offer puzzle hints. Basically, there are switches that you turn with a limited number of moves allowed, and I think that some on-screen reminders for which direction a switch would turn would be helpful, or even an assist to make a puzzle more understandable.
All in all, Biomutant feels great for accessibility in a lot of places, but it falls short in some areas I mentioned. It’s an enjoyable game in itself that is visually engaging and brings back the silly enjoyment of 3D platformers, and the combat is enjoyable to get the hang of in a hacky slashy way. I’m excited to continue making my choices in the game that lead toward a light or dark path and trying to make my weapons better by learning to fiddly weapon crafting options.