Billionaire philanthropists obsessed with technology, leading humanity to an era of prosperity, welfare, environmentally neutral transportation, and a safe environment. Sound familiar? The turn-based role-playing game/strategy Miasma Chronicles shows where this road paved with good intentions ends.
|Genre||turn-based strategy / role-playing game|
|Platforms||Windows, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S|
|Developers||The Bearded Ladies|
Some would say it’s stiffness and rigidity, others would say it’s perseverance and personal style. But it’s true: most game studios become hostages of their own games, remaining “tied” to certain genres and game mechanics throughout their existence. This is what happened to the Swedish Bearded Ladies, founded by the natives of IO Interactive (Hitman series).
The first studio’s game Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, a computer adaptation of the board game Mutant Year Zero, was released in 2018 and left a mixed impression. It was an interesting tactical game in the spirit of XCOM with very strange characters and an almost undisclosed universe and heroes.
The next game by The Bearded Ladies, CORRUPTION 2029, was released in 2020, as an Epic Games Store exclusive and went almost unnoticed by the public. It used the same mechanics as Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, but the game world turned out to be so sterile and standardized that it was simply not interesting to play CORRUPTION 2029.
And that’s the third attempt. The same mechanics, the same American post-apocalypse, but a completely different and this time very interesting world full of various locations, side quests, additional characters and short stories from the past. Meet Miasma Chronicles!
Luke, I am your mother!
America has fallen. The technology that was supposed to protect its inhabitants from environmental hazards rebelled against its creators and turned the once mighty country into a wasteland filled with the ghosts of the past. The miasma permeates the earth, shimmers in the air, and oozes out of crevices. The miasma surrounds small, barely existing settlements controlled by the First Family, the almost immortal descendants of the technology magnates who actually created the technologies that gave rise to the Miasma.
The First Family collects tribute from mining settlements with the help of robotic Collectors. Only a madman can challenge them. And once upon a time, such madmen existed. An Order of technomagicians, the Editors, a kind of post-apocalyptic Jedi who knew how to “persuade” the Miasma, defended the settlement and challenged the First Family… And lost.
Today, Editors are just a legend. And only one boy named Elvis, in a small mining village somewhere in the Rust Belt, keeps an old Editor’s glove, a tool for “conjuring” the Miasma, with which he hopes to overcome the Miasma wall and find his mother, who once abandoned him. The boy is accompanied by his “big brother” and bodyguard, the industrial robot Diggs…
Yes, it’s almost Star Wars, but in the setting of the American post-apocalypse, with notes of Fallout and cyberpunk. Is it plagiarism? We don’t think so, in fact, this plot is about 4,000 years old. On the other hand, there’s also a “princess”, a revolutionary smuggler, a city of robots, a Jedi Church of Editors, and many other “coincidences”.
As we said, Miasma Chronicles uses the combat mechanics of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden / CORRUPTION 2029. That is, it is almost the same gameplay. If you played Mutant Year Zero five years ago and have forgotten the details, you won’t notice the difference at all.
Same as in MYZ, in Miasma Chronicles, you explore levels in real time, and the turn-based mode is only activated during combat. It’s wiser not to get into a fight right away, but to cautiously scout the area, setting traps for individual guards to remove unnecessary “pieces” from the “chessboard”. If you hide behind obstacles, use silent weapons, and destroy enemies in one move, you can eliminate most of your opponents in this stealth mode. But, of course, not all of them.
This mix of stealth and turn-based tactics slows down the exploration of the levels, which are actually quite large and contain many interesting things, nooks, and crannies. But this, of course, significantly slows down the pace of the game, which not everyone will like. The slightly broken pathfinding algorithm also slows down the exploration, especially at doors and stairs, where the whole company often gets stuck.
You can, for sure, rush into battle without using stealth at all, but it won’t be easy, because the battles in Miasma Chronicles, like in Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden are very difficult, even with opponents of the same level as you.
Although the developers of Mutant Year Zero and Miasma Chronicles themselves compare their games to XCOM, this is not entirely true. Yes, these are also turn-based role-playing strategies in a fantasy setting, but The Bearded Ladies have removed from their games what players hated about XCOM – misses with an almost 100% hit probability.
In Miasma Chronicles, if you outflank the enemy and have no obstacles to a direct shot, you are 100% likely to hit, and possibly even inflict critical damage. That’s why maneuvering, using shelters, grenades that break shelters, and techniques that push opponents out of hiding are so important in the game. And this is where the game’s AI often fails, running around the level in search of cover instead of launching a decisive attack on almost defenseless enemies.
Some of your characters can use the Editor’s gauntlet and hit enemies with Miasma technomagic. But using the Miasma requires energy, which is constantly in short supply, so firearms and energy weapons have not been declined. However, there are no cold weapons in the game, at least for the heroes.
Searching for additional “spells” that can be obtained from Miasma vortexes and weapons caches is a separate entertainment in a game.
Ecology should be ecological!
What impressed me the most about Miasma Chronicles was Miasma itself and the way the developers depicted the world distorted by this mysterious force. We have never seen such a beautiful and frightening apocalypse.
The people and cities captured, smeared with Miasma, the wreckage, and trifles left over from the world and civilization of the First Dwellers. Legends that people have invented about their past, short stories about the beginning of the end that can be found in audio recordings and logs of old robots that Elvis can hack… These stories, including those told through the environment, are truly impressive.
Yes, I know that many people don’t like to listen to logs and read texts, but make an effort, the writers tried and they really did a good job.
In terms of graphics, Miasma Chronicles seems to be the most beautiful turn-based strategy we’ve seen. The Unreal Engine works both when exploring levels and in video inserts/dialogues that run “without splice”. The level of graphics here is worthy of even some shooters, and the system requirements are appropriate. The game slowed down a bit on my “calculator,” and the cooling fan tried to fly somewhere cooler.
To play or not to play?
In my opinion, Miasma Chronicles is the best game by The Bearded Ladies, in which they have perfected their own game mechanics to near perfection. Miasma Chronicles is better than Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, in which I was not satisfied with the strange animal characters, which were also very poorly “written”. The game has some problems: slow pacing, some secondary characters, combat AI, and pathfinding. But some of them can be solved with patches, and some of them can be forgiven.
I am well aware that for many people this summer will be marked by Diablo IV there won’t be any time left for other games. Besides, the price of Miasma Chronicles for Ukraine is not very humane yet – 999 UAH. So, we wait for the patches and add the game to our Wish List to buy it at one of the sales. This is the best solution.