For all of Biomutant‘s flaws, none of them detract from the entertainment of the wushu inspired, free-flowing combat. But as fun as it is to completely decimate a target mid-air, Naruto-style, that joyous moment also completely breaks just about every part of Biomutant‘s design.
If you haven’t played the furry open-world fighter, here’s the score. You start out by creating a character and setting a particular archetype, all of whom start with special perks. As you travel through Biomutant and level up, you’ll gain upgrade points which can be spent on all manner of things — but you’ll most commonly be spending them to unlock special moves for different fighting styles.
For instance, if you want to run around dual-wielding pistols, that’ll cost you an upgrade point. If you want to run around with two one-handed daggers, and you didn’t pick the class that starts with that perk unlocked, it’ll cost you an upgrade point. Each melee and ranged weapon type also has a couple of Wung Fu moves, and successfully landing these without taking damage gives you one notch on a metre that unlocks “Super Wung Fu”.
In case you’re wondering what Super Wung Fu is, it’s basically the furry equivalent of going Super Saiyan.
Every character regardless of build has the same Super Wung Fu moves, which is a relief. But what makes Super Wung Fu so powerful, and why it’s worth dumping most of your upgrade points into, is how quickly it lets you clear out areas.
There’s no limit on how often you can go into Super Wung Fu mode: as long as you land three special attacks without taking a hit, you can immediately go berserk on everything in sight. More crucially, the speed at which you strike effectively means that you can ignore incoming enemy attacks while Super Wung Fu is live. So not only is it your best output for damage dealing, it’s also your most valuable tool for crowd control and defence.
If you’re moving too fast to be hit, it doesn’t matter what level the enemy is, right? But Super Wung Fu doesn’t just give you super slow motion: it also allows guns like shotguns to shoot repeatedly for the duration of the power without reloading.
(It’s worth noting that you can unlock a perk that instantly reloads your guns, but that’s for regular combat — it doesn’t trigger when you’re in Super Wung Fu mode, because you don’t run out of ammo there, as seen above.)
Biomutant‘s combat is the most visually engaging part of the game, so it makes total sense that the developers wouldn’t put restrictions on how often you could go ham. But in doing so, it also renders a lot of your decisions and character choices moot. If you’re playing on harder difficulties, for instance, you’re effectively restricted from upgrading certain weapon types until you can guarantee you can afford to unlock all the special moves for that shotgun/two-handed hammer/dual pistols. Without those special moves you can’t fully unleash on enemies, making clearing out fights, dealing with mini-bosses and larger bosses all that harder.
It can also make Biomutant‘s difficulty a little bit irrelevant, too. For fun, I decided to roll with neither an intelligence, strength or a vitality-focused character, but one built entirely around luck. Dumping points into your Biomutant character doesn’t just boost their chance of finding better loot, but their critical chance as well.
When you combine that with the added critical bonus you get from customising your weaponry — and just finding better stuff out in the open-world — it meant that I was rocking a crit percentage so high that I was getting critical hits practically all the time:
Just for the record: that’s a 75% critical hit chance on melee strikes with my dual-wielding toilet brush combo, and a 64% chance to crit on ranged attacks. Because I’d pumped the base luck stat so high — and my agility was fast enough to dodge anything of relevance — it meant I could finish an entire playthrough while ignoring my health and armour completely.
Once you know this, it effectively makes a lot of what makes an RPG an RPG — decisions around your character, their arsenal and what to invest in for future fights — completely irrelevant. And it’s a bit of a shame, because all the different systems around Biomutant are pretty fascinating in concert. There are some cool psi-powers, like summoning a giant bouncing blob of water, sucking enemies in like a magnet and then just dumping them off the nearest cliff. I love how Biomutant handles resistances, allowing you to either go on a mini-quest to explore certain areas, or forcibly upgrading your way through bouts of lava/chemical sludge/frozen wastes if you want to spend your bio points that way.
But fundamentally, the game’s appeal and core loop is all in the kung fu. And most of that kung fu, as appealing as it is, becomes redundant when the game effectively funnels you into handling every single combat the exact same way: do your special moves as fast as possible so you can delete everything on the screen in about three seconds.
It doesn’t even matter if you’re woefully underleveled, especially because critical damage stacks up so fast in Super Wung Fu mode that enemies can’t do anything about it. Take the below fight, where I decided to run into an enemy four levels higher than my character just to see if it mattered.
The same trick even works on enemies five levels or higher than you, where the game simply renders their level with a skull, the universal icon for “this enemy will fuck you up”. In Biomutant, even that doesn’t matter. Sure, you’ll take a bunch of damage if you don’t dodge, but once you’re in Super Wung Fu mode, those enemies will drop dead just as quickly as everyone else.
It’s good to see that the Biomutant devs are reworking some of the game’s enemies, loot and difficulty settings in future patches. Being able to roam around like a God is fundamentally part of Biomutant‘s appeal. But there’s also a fine balance between letting players do that, while not giving players access to so much power that fights are effectively rendered irrelevant. The game already has some hedges against this — you can’t reuse the same special move twice to power up your Super Wung Fu metre faster, for instance. But maybe future patches could force you to use a fourth move, or maybe use a Ki-based move in conjunction with melee/ranged attacks before going nuts.