It’s no secret that here at WellPlayed we’re a little bit excited about Biomutant. There’s something about ‘open-world, post-apocalyptic Kung-Fu fable RPG’ that just ticks all the boxes. Possibly because it literally ticks so many boxes.
WellPlayed Managing Editor Zach Jackson and I have both had small amounts of time with early builds of the game and came away tentatively excited, if a little wary of the lack of polish at the time, but that was a while ago and the game doesn’t look to be launching in a hurry.
Something else Biomutant-related that happened a while ago is we had the chance to speak to developer Experiment 101’s Studio Head Stefan Ljungqvist about the game. We’ve held onto the interview in the hopes that we’d hear more, or anything, about the game’s release. We can only wait so long though so read on if you’re keen to know more about Biomutant, and trust that WellPlayed will have you covered for any news in the future :
WellPlayed: Hello Stefan, first of all thank you for taking the time out to talk to us about Biomutant! I have to say, Biomutant took me by surprise when it was first revealed. What inspired such a unique combination of ideas?
Stefan Lungqvist: I dream a lot. : ) Other than that, I guess anyone can see that there’s inspiration from one of my favourite movies (series) of all time; Kung Fu Panda, but also Journey to the West which I’ve loved since I was a kid (I still collect Bronze Statues of Sun Wukong the Monkey King) and movies from John Woo, hence the “Gun Fu” aspect of the game.
I’ve always been very interested in Asian Culture and history (primarily China) and have trained Sanshou (full contact Kung Fu) for more than fifteen years, including one year with a monk from the Shaolin Temple.
In terms of the game – its a true collaborative effort. As a team we have different influences and favourite games, and you can see some DmC, Jak & Daxter, Metroid and Zelda DNA in the game for sure. But we’ve managed to make it our own, and clearly we’ve made it stand out on its own merit. We are really grateful that people seem to pick up on our team’s collective idea and passion for a game we’d like to play ourselves. We are putting gameplay first, and live by the game’s motto, “Weird, in a good way”.
WP: Before Biomutant truly began taking shape was the team at Experiment 101 working on anything else? Was the game always representative of what it is now or did you ‘experiment’ with other ideas along the way?
SL: This is the first title from our studio, however a few of us has worked on quite a lot of games before. For example, I helped build Avalanche Studios as Studio Art Director and later Game- and Creative Director (Just Cause series, Mad Max etc.) for more than a decade.
When we started development of Biomutant, the game was more of a “Diablo-esque” concept and the idea was to make something “smaller” with a minimal team, but it changed drastically when we made the collective decision to go open world and return to work on “what we know” from years of working on open world games. We also felt that our vision for the game was better realised as an open world action RPG too, which was a big impact on this decision. Of course, then everything changed as we needed a bigger team and more time to execute on our vision. We’ve had have a quite strong vision of the game, however the actual development of the features has been a true collaborative effort of the team, including lots of experiments (what’s the name of our studio again… ) and iterations to get them to feel “right”.
WP: Tell us a little bit about the story and the world of Biomutant. What sort of setting are we looking at and what’s the end goal?
SL: The story primarily revolves around you as a player and your relation to the world and your history as a character rather than what happened and what is currently happening to the World itself (you are playing as the world is dying).
Basically, there’s three main parts to our story – who you are as a character, your relation to the survivors and six tribes of the world, and how your actions affects that and the state of the world, as represented by the Tree of Life at the center of the world which is currently under attack by five World Eaters gnawing at its roots.
The way you choose to interfere and interact with all of the above dictates the fate of the world. Will you make a stand and try to save it? Or will you help to bring it down? The state and combination of these three main parts will determine your personal ending of the game.
WP: Being an open world action/RPG hybrid, what can we expect from Biomutant in terms of player agency and progression? How different could two players’ games be by the end?
SL: We’ve tried to keep the end game as open and personal as we possibly can. Meaning that the way you play will really affect your ending. At the core of this is Yin/Yang (let us simplify by saying Dark/Light and balanced) which will affect not only the end, but also how other characters relate to you. This has impact on your relation to the six tribes – do you choose to ally with a Yin Tribe Sifu and help him conquer the other tribes, or will you help a Yang Tribe and try to unite the Tribes? Will you make a stand for the Tree of Life and save it, or will you help bring it down and end the world?
All of the different variants and combinations of the above combined with how you interact with the other characters you’ll meet in the world will form your end of the game that’s very likely going to be different to mine.
WP: With the morality system you have in place, how do you manage that? What are the intrinsic motivators for a player to choose to do either good or evil things in the world?
SL: As described above, its a major part of the ending. Also, it plays a part in your current relation to the characters you meet in the game, including dialogue options. You’ll also be able to affect other’s Karma, for example convincing a “Dark” Tribe Sifu to the “Light” side. Obviously this affects current Mission/Quest options and the way the world perceives you.
WP: Looking at combat, you’ve got a mix of kung-fu inspired melee combat as well as gunplay. What balance is there between the two? Can I specialise in one and ignore the other or will I need to master both to do well?
SL: From a tactical aspect, it makes sense to master both as there are enemies with “weaknesses” towards one or the other. Melee also builds up to the “Super Wushu” state, enabling you to perform special weapon based moves and combos. In addition to this, you also have “affix” modules you can modify your weapons with, bestowing cryogenic (frost), incendiary (heat), electric, radioactive and biohazard effects to the weapon you craft it to. There are also different types of both melee and ranged weapons that plays a tactical part; slash, crush or pierce? Shotgun, Assault rifle, rifle or handgun? Singe handed, two handed or dual wield?
There is a lot of tactical choices to be made once you’ve found parts to realise your preferred style/mix of gameplay. Here’s where our deep crafting system comes into play. And don’t forget, PSI-powers (X-Men Style) and Biomutations (physical) will also play a part in your creative toolset for combat.
WP: Further to that last question, will it be possible to ‘max out’ my character with every available stat, ability, gadget, etc or will I have to choose some at the expense of others?
SL: The completionist will be able to “max out” in the sense that you can evolve and “unlock” all the possibilities, however you have to make choices on what to have “active” as you won’t be able to have all of it at the same time. Again, this plays into the tactical aspect of traversal and combat.
WP: Please tell me I’ll have the opportunity to ‘respec’ during the game as well *begging motion*
SL: Yes, you can evolve/change/mutate your character throughout the game and make choices on what you have active (and change that at any time).
WP: You’ve got an extensive weapon creation system in place, with some hundreds of thousands of possible combinations – are the weapon parts all randomly distributed or will there be some rare and unique stuff to find as well?
SL: It’s a true RPG “loot” system with common, uncommon, rare and legendary gear.
WP: Some of the biomutations you’ve talked about in the past sound crazy. What are some of the weirdest ones that made it into the game and were there any ideas you wish could have come to fruition but didn’t?
SL: We’ve shown several, I guess we aren’t really going into more detail than what we’ve already shown. I think the Mucus Bubble and Shroom are great examples of “weird in a good way” and setting fun and gameplay first.
WP: How long do you expect Biomutant to take most players to finish?
SL: We’ve consistently said the “main” critical path is going to take a minimum of 10 hours to complete, but assume its going to take you a lot longer…then you’ll have the rest of the 8×8 km world to discover on your own…
WP: Can we expect a release date announcement anytime soon?
SL: We will announce a date, when we are sure it is the final one.
WP: Are there any plans for DLC in the future? A season pass or something similar? Any microtransactions?
SL: Our focus is to finish the main game and realise our vision to the quality we want first and foremost – then we hopefully deserve the right to add more content. One thing we can say about this though – we’ll definitely not have micro transactions in our game.
WP: Finally, if you were an anthropomorphic animal in a post-apocalyptic world, what sort of animal would you be?
SL: A Shaolin Monkey. A descendant of Sun Wukong ; )
WP: Thank you for your time. Good luck with the rest of Biomutant’s development.