Biomutant — A Phenomenal Narrator… But Only One?
Despite the criticism, I like this game
There’s this game that I started playing some 4 months ago, and I am somehow still playing it, mainly because I don’t have a lot of free time nowadays, at least not like how I used to. And this game has been accompanying me for these 4 months quite well, and despite what you might’ve been told about it, Biomutant is a pretty solid experience. That’s the name of the game, by the way.
Biomutant isn’t much for the story, but it goes something like this: you play as a furry anthropomorphic animal (the kind that’s reminiscent of PS1 and PS2 protagonists). You are tasked with saving a world dying because of pollution, and you do so by uniting the strongest tribes and slaying giant monsters gnawing at the Tree of Life’s roots and threatening its very existence. Interestingly, the plot concerning the state of the game’s world overshadows the story and motivations of the protagonist himself, as his backstory only seems to give him a reason to be the hero to save the world from the massive oil spillage and radiation poisoning that covers the land. As for gameplay, the world is MASSIVE at 64 square kilometres (and yes, that’s a lot for an open-world game), and you explore this vast world, completing missions and crafting new weapons, meeting new faces. In this regard, the game seems like just a regular open-world action game.
The game was deemed “ok” by most critics. Frankly, I understand the criticism regarding the lacklustre RPG elements, the not-so-challenging puzzles, and the somewhat repetitive combat. I also get that maybe the story wasn’t much for meat. But for a game made by a team of roughly 20 people, it is pretty outstanding that they managed to make something of this calibre. After all, the game is massive, and the exploration alone was enough to keep me going as there’s so much to see despite the critical anecdotes. The world is really vivid to the point that it’s almost evident that most of the effort was channelled into making this world look good, which probably explains why the gameplay was given less thought (and it kind of shows). But there’s one more thumbs-up that this game deserves, and I suppose you can already tell where this is going…
And he is… David Shaw Parker
Biomutant is a lot of things, but not too many things. Among those hard-to-miss things is the ever-present Narrator, whom the player will hear quite a lot while playing. The Narrator is such an important part of the game storytelling that the developers knew that players would think that he talks too much, so for this reason, the options menu allows players to adjust the frequency at which the Narrator delivers his lines. Not only that, but the Narrator is also one of the only three voices you hear in the entire game (the other two being characters who also accompany the hero on his journey).
That being said, the addition of the Narrator was met with both praise and criticism. The man who provided the voice for the Narrator was David Shaw Parker, whom I commend for his outstanding performance as the Narrator because I enjoyed an omnipresent disembodied voice accompanying me on all my adventures through the chemical factories in the game. But yes, while the voice actor was praised for his performance (and not just by me), some people found it uncomfortable to hear the same voice over and over, and he’s one of a few who can talk. But his presence is needed because the inhabitants of this dying world speak gibberish, and he’s the only one who can understand them. So basically, repetitiveness and the forced necessity of a translator are more or less most of the reasons behind the criticism that people say about the Narrator. And I get it, maybe having just one guy talk all the time, no matter how well it might be, just wasn’t for everyone.
And that’s what I want to examine this time: how to make the whole Narrator shtick work better because there’s room for improvement… judging from the criticism, that is.
Biomutant 2, anyone?
Assuming there will be a sequel, and since nothing can be done about the current state of the Narrator in Biomutant, this is a solution that can only be applied in future instalments. So yes, like most of the problems that I present, this is a design problem.
But how do you make a narrator better? Well, first, we think about what made the Narrator great and what made it bad. After that, preserve the good and address the missing parts. The performance was great, so that definitely should be preserved, so always get good voice actors. The things that people didn’t like were repetitiveness and forced requirements. One idea I have is maybe multiple voice actors could be employed for multiple narrators, all of which have a unique voice. This way, people won’t complain that there is just one voice to hear all the time. Then there’s the less popular idea: to make all of the characters speak English instead of gibberish, but then it would take away from the game because it’s one of the things that makes it special.
Of course, I could come up with more ideas, but then it would just be a list of things to choose from. Anyways, it’s not for me to decide how the sequel will happen… assuming it will.
What’s your take on the Narrator
If you’ve already played the game and maybe even finished it (unlike me), then tell me what your take on the Narrator is and if you have any ideas as to what could make it better, even though it’s not our job, but we do it anyway. But talking about making things better, this section in every article I write needs it the most.
I, personally, am enjoying Biomutant despite some of the flaws. It’s not for everyone, which is understandable, but this is definitely one to check out for those who love huge worlds to explore.
The Narrator was awesome, and I don’t care what anyone thinks. I feel less lonely in the game every time he talks, but not everyone is satisfied makes room for improvement. How the developers choose to address this is theirs alone. And seeing how they are 20 people who made this huge game, I’m sure they’re a smart bunch learning from their mistakes.
By the way, one of the reasons that this game caught my attention was because it reminded me of times when video game heroes were cartoonish anthropomorphic animals instead of realistic humans all the time. However, there were so many cartoon characters back then because of the technological limitations and cultural perspective. But that’s a discussion for another time.