Biomass Review: A Bumpy but Beautiful Souls-like

Biomass is a solid Souls-like game with RPG and Metroidvania elements. The deep combat system ensures a fair fight against tough bosses. Despite a poorly executed story, the game is worth a try for fans of challenging combat-heavy games.

Biomass PC Review- A bumpy but Beautiful Souls-like

Biomass, developed and published by Final Scene dev, released for PC on October 13th. It’s a game that’s hard to pin down into just one genre. Perhaps the most prevalent is the Souls-like approach it takes to combat and bosses, leading to very difficult but rewarding fights. Between those bosses, players can level up their character like an RPG, choosing to enhance one of four basic stats. The navigation of the game takes a Metroidvania approach, locking off certain areas until you find particular items or weapons. These genre tropes combine to allow players to experience the game their own way. The 2D pixel art style shows us a very interesting setting in a dark post-apocalypse. As players explore that environment, there’s plenty to discover. In my personal exploration, I experienced something very enjoyable, if not a bit confusing.

Biomass Launch Trailer

You can find Biomass on Steam for $14.99

Story- A Missed Mark

When I started the game as an ill-prepared man in a dark tunnel, I knew there must be a great adventure in store for my character. After emerging into the sunlight, a new world greeted me, and I was excited to learn more about it. Unfortunately, I don’t know much more about it now than I did then. Progressing in the game does fill in some knowledge gaps about the world. I can name some important places and people, but I’d struggle to tell you why they’re important. 

The best example of this is the idea of biomass. I started collecting biomass early on, and as the game’s namesake, it was clear that it would be an important resource. But, I was never told exactly what it is. I knew that I collected it from enemies and could use it to enhance my character, but that’s still all I’m certain of. Late in the game, it is implied to be a form of currency. Until that point, I’d assumed it was some sort of biological byproduct. In fact, there’s no reason it couldn’t be both. But without being told any of this, it was confusing as to why I was collecting it in the first place.

Factions wear different armor, but otherwise, there's not much difference

Factions wear different armor, but otherwise, there’s not much difference

Putting that issue aside, there are similar problems with the game’s setting and characters. Exploring the world of Biomass is quite enjoyable. The lighthouse and towers particularly stood out as important structures in the setting, though I never heard an explanation as to why. Despite being important to the citizens of the world, their context is lost on the player. The same goes for the various factions I ran into. I know some factions are at war with each other. Some are friendly towards me, and others aren’t. But there was little explained beyond that. What do these factions stand for? Aside from their armor, what makes them different?

Simply put, this game has the building blocks of a great story. I truly enjoy the parts I understand. But the pieces don’t form any cohesive narrative, as far as I can tell. I couldn’t discern any real goal my character had. And in a game with a large interconnected map like this one, it’s important to give reasons for visiting the locations. Without a clear goal for the endgame, I was never sure if the game was actually over or not. I’m still not certain if the game ends at all, or if the exploration is meant to be ongoing.

Gameplay- A Souls-like with Style

Our hero looks ready for a fight at the helm of his boat. But from my experience, he's probably not.

Our hero looks ready for a fight at the helm of his boat. But from my experience, he’s probably not.

In a game with so many different genres, it can be difficult to piece them together in the right way, but Biomass manages it very well. The leading achievement of the game has to be its combat system. Being a Souls-like game, combat is key, as you’ll be facing off against many powerful foes. The combat here seems simple at first. Each mouse button controls one of two weapons you can use at a time. The middle wheel uses items, and that’s about all there is to it. But as you progress through the game, defeating bosses, you’ll gain new and more powerful weapons and items. 

The combinations you can give yourself with two weapons and three items available at once offers a surprising amount of strategy. The controls also felt very tight and precise. When I would lose a fight, I never felt cheated by the game because I felt in control the whole time. The difficulty of the bosses made that very important. Each boss is extremely hard to defeat, but when you do win, it makes the feeling of accomplishment even better.

Early bosses seem simple enough, but even plain looking ones pack a punch

Early bosses seem simple enough, but even plain looking ones pack a punch

But even with the excellent combat system, a few gameplay elements did miss the mark. The biggest issue is the presence of a few bugs that still need to be worked out of the system. Even a few boss battles had glitches that helped me win much easier than I should have. Other bosses, I was able to take down easily because of a particular weapon that seemed far too powerful. When not using the weapon, I couldn’t come close to winning. But with it, I felled the beasts in a few seconds. The weapon in question saved my hide much better than any other, which is why I feel it’s unbalanced compared to the rest of the game.

Graphics and Audio- Elegantly Simple

The pixel art style of the game can be simple at times but is very expressive when it needs to be. One great aspect of pixel art is that it allows the player to see what they need to, and nothing more. Biomass uses this technique to great effect. This also helps the creatures in the game stand out. They feel otherworldly by design, but the pixel technique gives a unique touch. Their depiction gives them a feeling of literally being rough around the edges. The animation of those pixels takes things a step further, showing distortions and alien-like powers in a way I haven’t seen before. A few animation sequences even left me stunned. 

The design of these otherworldly enemies is particularly well done

The design of these otherworldly enemies is particularly well done

The music is also used very well, but somewhat sparingly. Most of the game has a simple background track. It fits the locations well, but it’s nothing that really stands out. But when bosses arrive or important events happen, the music changes to accompany it. The battle music fading out into the more subtle background gives the fights a realistic feeling of winding down when they’re over. There was also a point where the music changed from high energy to nothing at all. The contrast heightened the eerie ambiance, and therefore the experience of being there.

I reviewed Biomass on PC via a key received from Final Scene dev.

Summary
Biomass is a hard game to pin down for me. There were parts of it I thought were executed perfectly. But there were other times when I could see that the game still needs some work. The RPG leveling system, for example, gives a nice feeling of growth throughout the game. But the stats are never explained, and it took me a while to figure out what each one did. The world is huge, and fun to explore, but I often found myself wandering into places I’d already been. A map would have made the game much better. There is an NPC who offers you one, but the price he asks deterred me from using it. The boss battles are excellent, but the difficulty means you’ll die a lot. That wouldn’t be an issue were it not for the tedious journey from the save point back to the fight. This is a game with strong potential, but the lack of clarity drags it down.
Good
  • An enjoyable and intricate combat system
  • Absolutely beautiful Pixel art
  • High difficulty leads to high satisfaction in fights
Bad
  • Still some bugs and graphical errors to work out
  • Story is very unclear
  • Easy to get lost in the massive world
7
Good

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Steven Sweeting

You say the stat mechanics aren’t explained… There’s literally an NPC at the beginning who tells you what they do.

Given this, I’m not surprised you didn’t get the story since, like Dark Souls, it’s heavily dependent on minute dialogue and subtle visuals. You have to figure out what’s going on yourself. It’s not a direct narrative.

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