Just over a year ago, I saw Experiment 101’s Biomutant at its first Gamescom demo. I was immediately taken in by its oddball take on the open-world action-RPG, and I was looking forward to its 2018 release. Well, that planned release date has slipped into 2019, but my enthusiasm for the so-called post-apocalyptic kung-fu fable hasn’t waned. If anything, the demo I got during this year’s Gamescom has fully renewed that excitement.
The latest demo highlighted some elements that weren’t fully explored during its inaugural demo. In particular, I got to see more of the combat, which seems to draw inspiration from games like Rocksteady’s Batman games. Your character has a combo meter that builds up over the course of fights, and when it’s filled you can unleash a devastating Super Wushu attack. This attack varies, depending on what weapon you have equipped at the moment. In one example, time slows down, giving our furry friend ample time to line up devastating headshots – resulting in cascading numbers of critical damage. In another, our hero essentially teleports from enemy to enemy, slashing each one and moving on to the next in the blink of an eye. My favorite had to be the Klonk Fist, though. This massive gauntlet allows you to smash through yellow doors, accessing new areas when you acquire it. Better still, it packs quite a punch; it takes down a miniboss in three deft blows, driving it into the ground like a nail, in a silly and unexpected effect.
I also see a new mutation, which looks handy. Your character can modify its DNA over the course of the game, gaining a variety of new abilities. Last year, I saw one that let your hero barf out moths. This time around, I see a useful, but unsavory, ability called mucus bubble. It works like it sounds – the hero is enveloped in a giant snot bubble, which serves a couple of different purposes. You can roll around and bounce, which allows you to cross areas such as a broken rail bridge. Since it’s a giant snot bubble, enemies stick to it if they’re unfortunate enough to make contact with the glistening orb. From there, you can slide out of it and pop the bubble, causing them to fall off a cliff if you’re feeling devious.
The most interesting new element was a big demonstration of how the game’s mechs work. You work with a critter called Greasemonkey, who sends you on an errand to find scrap. If you survive the collection quest (which took place in a low-oxygen environment, in this instance), he’ll set you up with a cool vehicle. It can be customized with different limbs, heads, and weapons, and it also has a special pump device. The pump can suck away harmful toxins, creating a path for when you’re on foot, and it can also be used to launch small creatures called Sqvips. They look kind of like squirrels, and they come in a variety of different colors. The orange ones I see in the demo are a great diversional tool. When launched, they run around and grab the attention of any nearby enemies, giving our character a chance to take care of them with ease. Each color has a different characteristic, but Experiment 101 isn’t elaborating at this point.
I see just how handy these critters can be in a boss battle against something called Jumbo Puff. It looks kind of like a platypus with a mouthful of fangs. If you fill that mouth with sqvids, it’ll eat until it’s full, at which point the titanic beast’s tongue flops out. That’s your cue to snap it, and then get in a series of free hits while it’s stunned. The fight continues through several phases until you’re eventually eaten, at which point you have to navigate through a series of slick, veiny (and disgusting) pathways through its innards. Fortunately, the way to the Jumbo Puff’s heart is through its mouth, and after attacking it enough the beast finally flops down for a final time.
Biomutant is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC next summer. When I ask if it will be shown at next Gamescom, studio head Stefan Ljungqvist jokes “I hope not!” Given the choice of having to wait until next August to play the finished game, I’m with him.