Biomutant's bouncy mushrooms hint at a surprisingly bonkers open world game

Biomutant is open world action RPG with loot, in which you play a sort of violent raccoon that can alter its genetic material to gain super powers. Videogames!

The playable demo at the PC Gamer Weekender offered about 20 minutes of hacking set in some slightly dank, boxy interiors. Devil May Cry physics are at play, so when you shoot a gun or swing a weapon in midair gravity is so awed it lets you float there for half a second. If you’re on the ground the force of your upward shots can keep an enemy uncomfortably suspended. This makes it easy to fix bad guys in place while you combo them to death, stringing spinning dive attacks into uppercuts into John Woo torrents of gun fire.

Combat is quite exciting, but not as clean and beautifully fluid as the games that inspire it. However Biomutant’s strength, like its furry protagonist, lies in its hybrid nature. As you level up you discover new abilities that help you traverse the world and mess up enemies in amusing ways.

One upgrade lets you grow a springy mushroom under your cursor. If you pop one up under an enemy it bounces them high into the air. If you grow multiple mushrooms, you’re rewarded with the sight of half a dozen panicked enemies bouncing around the room. While they are helplessly flying around you can interrupt their trajectory with bullets or a mid-air combo with your massive sword. Outside of combat you can use mushrooms to springboard up to new pathways, introducing a metroidvania element to Biomutant’s wide range of influences.

The presentations at the PC Gamer Weekender showed a bubble shield mutation and a range of gadgets, including a rocket fist, mechs, grappling hooks and glider wings.

I wasn’t expecting this sort of enjoyable chaos from Biomutant’s mutations. In the end I suspect the range of toys you get to play with will determine how entertaining the game is in its final state. The presentations at the PC Gamer Weekender showed a bubble shield mutation and a range of gadgets, including a rocket fist, mechs, grappling hooks and glider wings. There is a huge variety of gear to wear as well. The playable demo included randomised weapons and armour, which all have a charming hacked-together quality. I ended the demo wearing bits of fridge and wielding an improvised musket and a steel pipe.

The open world also looks much richer than the playable demo suggests. Rainfall can increase standing water, which is a problem because your critter can’t swim, while cold temperatures can freeze rivers and open up new routes. One clip shows a raccoon warrior running away from a growing pool of oil. It’s easy to see how you might improvise with powers to create new ways of moving around these obstacles. A mushroom would be a good springboard for glider flight, for example. There’s a definitely a note of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to the new footage.

The final game will have multiple endings and even moral decisions. The demo opens up with a series of split pathways that invite you to decide how rebellious or generous your raccoon thing is. I didn't see any wider consequences to the choice of paths in this short demo, but there's potential in the final release. In the world of Biomutant the five roots of the tree of life are being poisoned by rising oil, and the world's factions have different approaches to dealing with that. You can choose to side with the tribes you agree with and defeat other tribes, or pootle about on your own putting bouncy mushrooms under unsuspecting animals. 

I still have questions about what the open world will be like—how populated is it? How varied is the terrain? How big is it? The game is due out this year, so we'll see more in the coming months. In this early stage I'm encouraged by Biomutant's weird abilities and exceptionally cute protagonist. However the game turns out, a range of Biomutant plushies seems inevitable.