‘Biomutant’ and ‘Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart’ Epitomize the Gaming Budget Gap
This summer saw the release of two games featuring talking fox-like creatures as the protagonists. Biomutant, the first game from Swedish studio Experiment 101 has found an audience, although it is unlikely to praise the game wholeheartedly. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, the latest in a nearly two-decade-long video game series from US studio Insomniac Games, has done much better, commercially and critically, as you would expect from a technologically impressive release backed by major publishers. The two games having furry mutant heroes as protagonists are a coincidence, although it does put the two titles into conversation and in doing so demonstrates the differences between games created with vastly different budgets and audience expectations.
In Biomutant, the player is presented as an oddly shaped creature, its limbs mismatched, and its evolution into a seemingly unfinished, cohesive form. It may, depending on the customization options, have large furry cat ears, small eyes and an underbite; one arm may glow an angry red to indicate resistance to fire while the other is wrapped in bandages and grips a rusty revolver. In Rift apart, players control a pair of bipedal foxes called Lombaxes. One of them, the holder Ratchet, is a guy with wide eyes, floppy ears and yellow fur. The other, Rivet, is a girl with wide eyes, floppy ears and blue fur. Both are perfectly formed, their design reiterated and displayed in pixel-perfect resolution, to ensure they form a striking silhouette both in-game and on promotional images. Their cartoon features are arranged to be cute and expressive without becoming unintentionally off-putting in the process. Their weapons are shiny.
Although Biomutant and Rift apart are different types of games – the first is a fairly open-ended role-playing game that emphasizes the player’s freedom of choice, while the second is a well-run series of action-packed levels with a predetermined storyline – their release within a few weeks of each other and their shared goal of attracting a large audience, rather than the usual over-18 audience of most blockbuster games, illustrates a notable split in the mainstream media .
Biomutant is basically a bit of a mess. Its world is often wonderful to watch in the form of a green field sprouting on a cool spring day, but players interact with this setting by running from one mission marker to another, hitting enemies with all of them. the weights of two pillowcases bumping into the dryer. Her story turns into an amorphous set of (literally) black-and-white moral choices between a dark “evil” and a “good” set of bright characters who appear alongside text boxes depicting viciously cruel or holy choices. A karma gauge moves from side to side after choosing between sparing or murdering enemies, attacking a newly freed captive, or sending them on their way. Ultimately, these decisions result in a watery and unforgettable conclusion. It’s extremely rough around the edges. But he is also distinctly himself. There are a number of stylistic choices that may not work as well as they should – his characters speak in cutesy sentence fragments that don’t stand out quite correctly, as if they are confused as to whether ‘they spoke lacon, the timid punctuation dialogue of hardened criminals from a Cormac McCarthy novel or filling the pages of a children’s storybook. But with his goofy animal characters and sustained environmentalist message, he’s also motivated by his one-sidedness.
Rift apart, on the other hand, is so meticulously crafted that it feels like it’s formed entirely from the sweet skull of a cheerful, cartoonish 10-year-old. She too is colorful and full of life. But unlike Biomutant, it demonstrates its creator’s experience in refining the physicality of an interactive cartoon character into something tangible – the joyful jingle of collectible bolts sucking into the character’s body, the tapping of the feet of a character on the metallic paths felt through the vibrating controller of the PlayStation 5, the ears of Ratchet or Rivet flop as they spring from a railing or platform to fly in the sky. Every hour you spend roaming its uniquely themed planets feels like you’re eating handfuls of candy without the stomachache that comes with it. In short, it’s an exceptionally beautiful and well-designed game.
For all these qualities, however, Rift apartthe story of has a much more general purpose than Biomutantis a theme unevenly executed but expressed with passion. Or Biomutant spends a dozen hours telling the story of a fantastic child about the annihilating effects of corporate climate destruction, Rift apart the same time devotes to a more intimate story of founded families – discovering connections in places beyond those you’ve always known and embracing change with a spirit of adventure rather than fear. It’s a valuable message too, though it may seem lacking in bite compared to the more specific concerns of an environmental apocalypse.