Biomutant Gameplay Breakdown: A Mysterious Open World, Combination of Zelda, Shadow of Mordor, And More

by Gamingstry

Biomutant caused a major buzz when it was announced at Gamescom 2017 among the press and the general public. Followed by an amazing demonstration the next year, communication around this open-world Action-RPG qualified by its creators as a “Kung-Fu Tale” that was becoming rarer and rarer. Originally planned for 2018, the project was postponed several times and finally set its launch date for May 25, 2021.

Over the course of almost four years, developer Experiment 101 has revealed slivers of information about Biomutant, its bonkers open-world adventure. Those tidbits of knowledge form a scattershot, incomplete picture of a freeform RPG that might be a bit Zelda-y. But, thanks to a recent chat with Experiment 101 studio head Stefan Ljungqvist, we now have a more comprehensive understanding of what Biomutant is.

We finally know the vision of Experiment 101 studios, a vision that has, by all accounts, evolved significantly since the game’s first appearance at Gamescom 2017. The main reason for this change is the exceptional reception from the press and the public, which has prompted developers to revise their copy and, above all, to radically increase the game’s scope.

Stefan Ljungqvist confirms: “The response to the announcement in 2017 was so positive that we have extended the scope of the game”. To this end, the team, which at the time consisted of 13 people, welcomes new members to its ranks. Experiment 101’s production force then grew to 20 members. The studios thus remain on a human scale, which, for such an ambitious project, is out of the ordinary. This allows for 100% involvement of artists, programmers, etc… The latter contributing to the overall vision of the project.

We started by changing the scope of the game to create this total open-world experience. We had a lot of ideas, and we were lucky enough to be able to add them. The scope of the game has changed, and the release date too.

Stefan Ljungqvist (Director of Experiment 101 Studios)

It is very common to imagine a publisher quick to impose a release date to reduce risk, especially since Biomutant is a new franchise, but this is not the case. THQ Nordic is giving the studios a free hand to bring their vision of the game to life. Stefan Ljungqvist calls the relationship “Fantastic”. The collaboration between THQ Nordic and Experiment 101 is based on discussion, not production. Both entities want to build a common future, and this requires shared and achievable goals. The priority at Biomutant is to realize the creators’ vision while guaranteeing optimal gameplay comfort, limiting the number of present bugs, and removing all critical ones. The two companies have announced together a release date for Biomutant once the project has entered its final phase, and not before.

We have never been forced by our publisher (THQ Nordic) to release the game on a specific date.
At the end of last year, we thought the bug situation was under control. So we were able to plan a release date for Biomutant in good conditions. A vision we share with THQ Nordic.

Stefan Ljungqvist (Director of Experiment 101 Studios)

While Experiment 101 teams have spent part of the past year reducing the number of bugs, they have done more than simply clean up the open world of Biomutant. The writers have been working on the script in 2020 to turn this adventure into a true Action-RPG. The objectives were multiple: to add depth to the characters and the dialogues, to flesh out the relationship between the hero and the world around him, and above all to reflect the multiple choices made by the players throughout the adventure.

By the end of 2019, the script was approximately 85,000 words long. In the final game, there are more than 250,000. This represents two short stories, two books. In 2020, we wrote massively to finalize the script.

Stefan Ljungqvist (Director of Experiment 101 Studios)

Biomutant is built around three “aspects”; a Tribe War, the world-sustaining Tree of Life, and your character’s backstory. A linear mission chain, designed specifically to provide some structure to the otherwise freeform world, forms the main storyline, and will guide players into these three facets. The open-world nature of the game, though, means you can interact with these aspects however you please, within reason.

“There are six tribes in the world,” says Ljungqvist, beginning his breakdown of these facets. “It’s kind of a Shadow of Mordor-lite thing going on. I start by allying with one leader from a tribe.”

Players’ interest in this aspect of the game, in particular, motivated the studios to enrich it. During the course of the adventure, the world will be filled with outposts, each owned by one of the six tribes. Conquer these for your chosen tribe, and you’ll begin to amass favor with your new allies. “You gradually become the tribe’s champion,” Ljungqvist explains. “You’ll be awarded the tribe’s special weapon, learn their Wung-Fu style [a special combat technique], and new shops open in respective outposts.” Some outposts even provide access to special mounts, such as the bizarre giant clockwork hand that allows you to scuttle over the landscape akin to Thing from The Addams Family.

All different tribes with distinct objectives and behaviors. This choice directly affects the end of the game, but also the path taken to reach it. While some tribes see the end of everything as a renewal, and push the universe to its destruction, others see unification as the only remedy for the evil that eats away at a world in perdition. Biomutant proposes several ends that depend both on the decisions taken at stake, but also on the hero’s past or on the survival (or not) of the Tree of Life.

The multiple purposes are directly related to the tribes and your choices as a player concerning them. (…) The war of the tribes, the Tree of Life, the hero’s past, but also your relationships with other characters affect the way the game ends.

Stefan Ljungqvist (Director of Experiment 101 Studios)

Biomutant is inspired by many video games and other works, but The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild occupies a very special place. The RPG-action of Experiment 101 quotes Nintendo’s game as a reference for all matters related to exploration and the notion of freedom that comes with it. However, the developers have moved away from their initial libertarian vision to guide players through a world that is promised to be crawling with missions, quests, and other activities. Biomutant retains this freedom to roam without limits, but returns to a more classic structure. Above all, it wishes to accompany those who wish to follow the main story only without losing sight of the original vision of the project. The studios have therefore added quest markers and tutorials. It’s up to you to use them or not.

“We tried to design a game in which we put the responsibility for discovering the world in the hands of the players, but we realized last year that too much freedom can be bad too. We changed the structure of the game to make sure that players can enjoy discovering this world and all the cool things in it. – Stefan Ljungqvist (Director of Experiment 101 Studios)”

The existence of the next-generation console’s version was also discussed during the interview without really getting definitive answers. Biomutant will indeed be released on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. As for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, we’ll have to wait a little longer before knowing their specific future, between simple backward compatibility, “Next Gen” updates, and dedicated versions.

The objective of the game is to be playable on current generation consoles.

Stefan Ljungqvist (Director of Experiment 101 Studios)

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