The Miasma Chronicles is the latest release from the always dependable 505 Games, who this time are teaming up with developers The Bearded Ladies, of Mutant Year Zero fame. Anyone familiar with the title will know that Mutant Year Zero is also a turn-based, tactical role-playing game, which should give you some idea of the pedigree of the studio and that they really know what they’re doing with an admittedly niche genre.
With that said, The Miasma Chronicles isn’t just a ripoff of the studio’s prior games, if anything it learns from their mistakes and misgivings, ending up with a more complete experience than you might expect from an indie studio.
The Miasma Chronicles – A Desolate, Broken Future
“Left by his mother in the care of a robotic older ‘brother’ and given a mysterious glove with which he can control the Miasma. Join the brothers on a quest across a post-apocalyptic wasteland to find the answers they crave. Answers which may change the course of human history forever.”
As the games’ synopsis above describes, The Miasma Chronicles opens with an introduction to Elvis, the human tasked with breaking through a wall of miasma, an aggressive and unstoppable force beyond understanding, and Diggs, his robotic and incredibly loyal brother who only wants the best for Elvis. Of course the story ends up a lot more complicated, and for the better, but the relationship of the two lead characters is what really drives the story and the universe they inhabit.
Set two hundred years in the future after ‘The Great Stability’ went wrong and the miasma took over everything, the post-apocalyptic nature of the world the game inhabits may seem tired and over-used at this point, but with The Miasma Chronicles manages to tread a line that is anything but. If you’re wondering what The Great Stability is, it was a time in universe where life was paradise. Disease, poverty, famine and war all erased becoming a long-forgotten scourge, replaced by what would end up being a short-lived idealistic world.
The game does a great job of drip-feeding this information to you, rather than ramming it down your throat with heavy-handed cinematics, it is left to the player to explore the world around them and find a mixture of collectibles, both pictures and text in nature, as well as interact with the many NPCs available, each elaborating and expanding the players’ knowledge of the world bit by bit.
The Miasma Chronicles – The Universe at Large
Whilst the exploration and traversal of the world is done in real time, the combat, both stealth and direct combat are handled in a tactical, turn-based style, with each of the playable characters having their own impact. Want to use Diggs to mount a quick, powerful offensive? Use his sprint and shoot skill and he’ll do exactly that. Want Jade to use her sniper to silently pick off the enemies in a turn-based Splinter Cell? Crack on.
There’s multiple ways to approach each encounter, and it’s this diversity that allows the game to stay fresh throughout its playtime. Early on players are instructed on how to perform an ambush, which allows the traversal of the map with each of the three characters in your party at the time, to sneak up and – you guessed it – ambush the enemies before you’re detected. Pair this movement with some silenced weapons and you’ll end up with a huge advantage over the multiple types of enemies on offer. From humanoid frogs to Lord of the Rings style walking trees, The Miasma Chronicles definitely includes a wide variety of miasma affected enemies.
Unsurprisingly in a game titled The Miasma Chronicles, miasma itself is the main character and ends up affecting all sorts, from the world itself, to central gameplay elements. Having quickly mastered his miasma glove, Elvis is offered a new ability in miasma powers. Essentially elemental in their nature, there are the usual RPG staples of acid, electricity, fire and many more.
As with every RPG ever, The Miasma Chronicles tries to put its own spin on skill trees for each of the characters, however they don’t differentiate enough from character to character, meaning levelling can feel pointless or even cookiecutter from character to character. Also the amount of abilities on offer per character doesn’t allow for a huge variation in gameplay from that perspective.
As already mentioned, The Miasma Chronicles has a companion system in place which functions like the average RPG party system. Without spoiling too much, there are a selection of different companions you can take with you on your travels, including the likes of Jade and Mason. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages, and depending on what you’re trying to accomplish can dictate what companion you need.
All in all The Miasma Chronicles does exactly what it sets out to. It’s a more than serviceable turnbased tactical RPG with some good gameplay ideas, but the game really shines in the world it has created. Where most games I find myself ignoring collectibles, with this I was actively searching them out intent on discovering more about the world and universe at large.
The Miasma Chronicles was played and reviewed on a code supplied by Indigo Pearl.