Over the course of nearly four years, developer Experiment 101 has revealed snippets of information about Biomutant, your crazy open world adventure. Those bits of knowledge form a scattered and incomplete picture of a freeform RPG that could be Zelda-style. But, thanks to a recent chat with Experiment 101 study director Stefan Ljungqvist, we now have a more complete picture of what Biomutant is.
“If you like Breath of the Wild, or that kind of structure, I think you’re really going to enjoy this game.”Ljungqvist tells us, confirming Zelda’s suspicion. But as you continue to paint a picture of Biomutant, many more games come to mind; Far Cry, Mad Max, Monster Hunter, and even Fallout among them.
Biomutant is based on three “Aspects”; a war of tribes, the tree of life that sustains the world, and your character’s backstory. A linear quest chain, specifically designed to provide some structure to the free-form world, forms the main story and guides players through these three facets. However, the open world nature of the game means that you can interact with these aspects however you want, within reason.
“There are six tribes in the world”says Ljungqvist, beginning to analyze these facets. “It’s kind of a Shadow of Mordor-style game. I start by allying myself with a leader of a tribe.”.
The world is full of outposts, each owned by one of the six tribes. Conquer them for your chosen tribe and you will begin to amass favor with your new allies. “You gradually become the champion of the tribe”, explains Ljungqvist. “You will be awarded the special weapon of the tribe, you will learn their Wung-Fu style [una técnica de combate especial] and new stores will be opened at the respective outposts. “. Some outposts even provide access to special mounts, such as the strange hand of a giant clock that allows you to sneak through the landscape similar to The Thing of The Addams Family.
With all three outposts of a rival tribe conquered, you can storm their stronghold. “At the end of that, you can decide the fate of the Sifu [líder] of the rival tribe, and that influences the decisions you make in the final game. “, revela Ljungqvist.
Those decisions relate to the second facet, the Tree of Life, whose fate will ultimately dictate the fate of the Biomutant world. To help contextualize their decisions, the tribes you can ally with are working towards good or bad goals. “A light or ‘good’ tribe wants to unite the other tribes”, dice Ljungqvist. “And they want to make sure the Tree of Life survives, because they believe that you can have a reboot in the world that it currently is. While the dark tribes believe that you have to destroy what you have to start over.”.
Allying with a light tribe does not permanently lock you up in a “good” path. On the contrary, you can leave a tribe at any time if you change your mind. However, you will then have to reconquer previously dominated outposts in the name of your new tribe. However, taking over the outposts is a permanent achievement, so you won’t have to worry about retaking the camps from the counterattacks. “You don’t want to have Starcraft on Zelda”, resume Ljungqvist.
However, there are bigger enemies than rival tribes. The tree of life has four roots that spread throughout the world, each of which leads to a head “Devourer of worlds”; Huge monster battles that require particular tactics and equipment. “You hire them using a specific vehicle”, explains Ljungqvist. “May be the Mekton [un mech] or Googlide, which is water skiing, or a submarine. “.
“To get those [vehículos], you will interact with other key characters in the game, to help them and prepare them for the fight “he adds. “Once you have fought against those four great World Eaters, and depending on the tribes, or your light or dark Aura [karma], the fate of those four World Eaters might be different. Will you allow them to live or not, destroy the Tree or not? “.
The last of the three facets is your character’s backstory, which, naturally, Ljungqvist keeps a mystery. “Who are you and where do you come from?” he asks rhetorically. “That is the third stage in completing this whole main story and hopefully people will go out into the world and explore it.”.
Uncovering that backstory will take you deeper into Biomutant’s world of strange characters, beasts, and cultures. Everything is built on a base of eight square kilometers; a small map by the standards set by Ljungqvist’s previous work on Just Cause, but still large enough to include numerous different biomes.
“The world is shaped like a diamond”says Ljungqvist. It is a design chosen to add a natural sense of direction to the player’s journey. “You start at the bottom corner and the game will get harder once you get to the top corner of the diamond.”, Explain. By having start and end points “narrow”, it has specific locations for the incorporation of players and the climax of the story. Between those points, the world expands to its furthest reaches, providing the freest part of the adventure.
While players are free to explore any part of the map after exiting that narrow corner of the tutorial, some areas are closed and cannot be accessed until later in the story. “For example, in the dead zone, you are deprived of oxygen”, dice Ljungqvist. “If you get the ‘mech, you can go further into the Dead Zone without suffocating.”. That mech is provided to you by a character in the story, which means that Dead Zone is a later location in the game. But curious players can find a way to enter the Dead Zone hours before history dictates.
“It’s an open world, and you can go to any of these characters in any order.”, anticipa Ljungqvist. “Even if you have a main quest marker, you can choose not to take that and meet another character.”.
Alternatively, players can use Biomutant’s equipment and mutation systems to gain aids in those areas. As for the dead zone, you may be able to find a gas mask. It’s not a robot, so the biggest challenges in the area may still be beyond our nature, but at least the air won’t kill you. For areas that demand a bit more height, players without access to the air balloon can look for the ability to place bouncing mushrooms, or learn to levitate, use telekinesis, or glide over the obstacle using a wingsuit. It is in these multiple methods of overcoming challenges that you can see the aspirations of Experiment 101 shine.
Many of the aspects that Ljungqvist has described in our talk do not break new ground. At least not alone. But there is something about their interconnectedness that intrigues us. True to its name, the studio seems to be, well, experimenting with a variety of basic open-world ideas in search of something more. There are a surprising number of moving parts packed into Biomutant’s modest-sized map, all seemingly linked together. And with its shiny, furry aesthetic and kung-fu-inspired animation, these familiar parts could come together to feel new and experimental at the same time.
That’s the feeling on paper. We still have to play Biomutant, so we have no idea if what we have in mind is reflected in the game. But after our chat with Ljungqvist, we think Biomutant has a lot more going for it than just its eye-catching key art and weirdness of Saturday morning cartoons. We’ll find out if that’s true when the game launches next May 2021.