When you parse a lot of the coverage from Gamescom this year, you'll see a lot of fanfare about games from all walks of life. But one game that's flying under the radar is a plucky little kung fu RPG called Biomutant. And that's a mistake.
2018 marks the second major showing for Biomutant, which I came across last year at the THQ Nordic booth. It was a bit of a janky, unpolished demo, showcasing a mutant creature that could have easily been mistaken for Rocket Racoon's long-lost cousin.
Last year's demo set the stage for Biomutant, showing off its hex-based character creator and the basics of the game's post-apocalyptic world. This year, Experiment 101 — a studio made up of Just Cause alumni — went for a more action-packed opening, putting the player in an airship that's quickly brought crashing out of the sky.
The early stages of Biomutant took players through the absolute basics — how to dodge, different combos and so forth — but this year, there was none of that concern. The demo dropped people straight into battle, with larger-scale fights than what were shown last year, and with larger bosses to combat as well.
— Alex @ Gamescom (@dippizuka) 21 August 2018
The combat typically revolves around close-quarters fighting and long-range weaponry, both of which can be influenced by gear you find, craft and upgrade throughout the course of gameplay. Sometimes that equipment is also required for progress: a Doomfist-esque glove found midway through the demo, for instance, also lets you bash through doors.
But the general principle, as shown in the video above, is pretty straightforward. Shoot anything at distance. Flip over anything that gets in close range, then either grab them and chuck them into the crowd, or wail on them relentlessly.
Continue doing this, dodging at just the right times and mixing up different directional attacks with your weapons, and you'll eventually charge a wuxia meter, instantly zipping from enemy to enemy as you deliver swift blows.
Every now and again the game slows to a halt as an enemy cops the final blow. Critical hits are outlined with comicbook-style text, and there are vibrant flashes underneath enemies as they get launched into the air.
All of this happens at a breakneck pace. It's much more fluid than the build that was shown off last year, and importantly, it's got a hell of a lot more style.
Towards the end of the 20-minute demo, the game takes you to a more industrial area, one that's covered with heavy oil everywhere. You can't swim through the muck, so you need to find a way to suck it up somehow.
Biomutant's answer is a giant mech. And when you get into the mech, you can choose your preferred battle paint.
Would you like a duckface? A dragon skull? A "tarp turban" or a panda that looks like it was ripped out of Five Nights at Freddy's?
I chose the duckface. And as you'd expect from a bunch of former Just Cause devs, I ended up fighting a giant creature minutes later.
The fight ended with my little raccoon being swallowed whole — and escaping by punching the creature in the heart.
Biomutant isn't perfect, it's a bit janky, and holy hell are those screenshots a million miles sharper than what the game actually looks like in motion.
But if nothing else, it put a giant smile on my face. It's silly, but it's silly in the enjoyable kind of way. It's the kind of game that deserves more attention than it's gotten, and hopefully by the end of the week that'll be the case.