Biomutant has released to mixed reviews, to put it politely. It sits at a very average 62% on Metacritic, and 63% positive reviews on Steam. While many people have complained about its lacklustre combat or old-school style open-world, I found that its most egregious fault lies with its narrator.
Instead of sticking to convention, and having each NPC that you meet speak with their own voice, Biomutant opts for an omniscient narrator that translates and explains everything to you. It is perhaps one of the most confusing narrative decisions I’ve seen in a video game, and the only thing truly hindering my enjoyment of it. But I believe I’ve found a fix. This article is not a review, but more a guide on how to have the best possible time with Biomutant. If that’s even possible.
Well, the main complaint that seems prevalent on the internet is the narration reduces the personalities and charm of the individuals you meet. Outside of a few characters who have overbearing quirks, the individuals populating the world are entirely devoid of their own personality.
In addition to this, the narration slows everything down to a screeching halt. Biomutant is littered with cutscenes, exposition and dialogue interactions. Within each one of these laborious narrative segments, every single sentence is prefaced with gibberish delivered by whomever you’re speaking with. Once that’s out of the way, then the narrator speaks. Essentially, every encounter delivers the same information twice, it’s just the first time it’s incomprehensible.
It is clear the internet dislike him, as just typing in “Biomutant narrator” into google reveals a heap of search results informing you on how to turn him off. Only you can’t. Not really. While there is a slider to reduce (or increase if you’re a psychopath) how much the narrator speaks during the open-world exploration segments, there isn’t an option to turn him off completely.
The Narrator Is Not All Bad…
But is he all that bad? Well yes, he’s awful. But is he really terrible? Well no. In fact, I genuinely believe that this type of narrative structure can be a good thing. For one, I believe it’s commendable that Experiment 101 attempted something new in regards to the conventions of storytelling in video games. It didn’t pay off, that’s for sure, but it is commendable. It’s also worth noting that a narrator does make sense in the context of Biomutant’s “fable” narrative. While that facet of it doesn’t wholly translate, I can appreciate what they were trying to accomplish.
Fortunately, there is a solution to the narration issue in Biomutant. I believe it might just make the game playable. With the current narrator, with whom I hold no grudge, I feel that Biomutant is an arduous slog. Fortunately, likely due to the fact that they have saved money thanks to only having a singular voice actor doing almost all of the dialogue for the game, Experiment 101 have a slew of alternate language options you can choose from. Being a huge fan of JRPGs, and watching the majority of my anime subbed, I chose Japanese.
Learning A New Language
I found, when playing through Biomutant with a Japanese narrator, it offered a unique perspective. For starters, playing a game in a different language is a great way to learn it. A survey from 2016 even showed that 58% of English learners used TV and film as study aids. While for some, it may not be entirely practical to learn a whole new language through a video game, for others, it may prove beneficial. Learning through repetition is also a great way to pick up a second language, and what’s a better way of doing that than through hearing the same preachy dialogue throughout a 20-hour journey?
Aside from just being a great way to learn a new language, playing in Japanese helped transform my experience. It’s not something I do all that regularly, so I found it to be quite a refreshing experience. It’s like watching a bout of Marvel movies, before switching on a foreign language film. Sometimes it is enlivening to be immersed in a different culture, language and atmosphere.
Playing Biomutant in a different language really helped me enjoy it a lot more. It is definitely something I’m considering doing with future titles. It’s refreshing to get a unique perspective on a narrative and to hear a different language once in a while. Sure, it doesn’t fix Biomutant’s many other shortcomings, but it did help me get a little more out of the title. So, why not change the language? I say give a shot. What’s the worst that could happen?