Miasma Chronicles Review – In this Miasma Chronicles review, we’ll take a closer look at developer The Bearded Ladies’ next entry into the turn-based strategy genre following their successful game, Mutant Year Zero. Instead of quirky mutants roaming through a post-apocalyptic landscape, we have a boy and his brother in search of their mother… through a post-apocalyptic landscape. How does their second game fare? Does the tactical combat feel satisfying? What can we expect from the Miasma? We’ll discuss all of these and more!
Miasma Chronicle Review: Story & Setting
Miasma Chronicles has players following the path of two unlikely brothers living in the backwater town of Sedentary. Meet Elvis and Diggs, a young man who was abandoned by his mother and a sassy robotic companion. The basic premise of the story is that we are trying to find out what happened to Elvis’ mother and why the Miasma came to be.
There aren’t any surprising twists and turns in Miasma Chronicles’ narrative. It just about shows what we would expect when following a boy looking for his long-lost parent – a lot of anger and confusion. Here, the story doesn’t reinvent the wheel and merely serves as a purpose for us moving from points A to B.
Also, most of the characters you meet are your usual run-of-the-mill archetypes, such as trigger-happy sheriffs and whatnot. So they’re largely forgettable. But you do get to come across some memorable faces, such as the town’s over-the-top mayor who may have been serving the government for way too many years. I won’t spoil the surprise, but he was one of the more entertaining people to talk to.
The world itself is much more interesting. We are presented with a post-apocalyptic version of America, one that has been ravaged not just by wars, but by the Miasma. Humanity is on the brink of literal extinction, as they can no longer rely on themselves to stay alive. Areas are very diverse and effectively convey how deprived and broken the population has become. The town of Sedentary looks perfectly like what a group of survivors would build up in desperation.
You can see that life goes on, despite all of the horrors lurking just outside their gates. There are also imposing statues for tribute collection. This gives us a glimpse of how people have become oppressed by The First Family, the ruling class of the game. Overall, the environment sets the tone of the game even more so than the story and its citizens.
Miasma Chronicle Review: Gameplay
Miasma Chronicles is a nice mix of free-roam exploration, tactical turn-based combat, and light RPG systems. Overall, they blend quite nicely with each other as they work together to create a cohesive gameplay loop.
Players can choose to move around areas fully in real time. This loop will usually consist of looking for loot, going through secret passages, and scouting out enemies. You get to gather a lot of different things laying around the wasteland, such as currency, consumables, and text logs that further flesh out the post-apocalyptic world. If you’re lucky, you may even find valuable keycards that open up locked doors containing rarer equipment, such as weapons and weapon mods.
Going through areas with hostiles is a tense endeavor. The game has a basic stealth system. It lets you crouch down to try to avoid the enemies’ lines of sight. While you don’t have things like vision cones to determine their field of view, there is a small indicator that lights up when you’re just about to be discovered. This indicator fills up surprisingly fast, however, and gives you only a split second to react before you’re caught red-handed in the middle of your sneaking session. But enemies can also be distracted in a few ways, prompting them to comically investigate and split up from the rest of their group.
Stealth is not optional in most cases, as you can’t go in guns akimbo like you would in other turn-based tactics games. That simply isn’t a viable option in Miasma Chronicles. Instead, you will need to mix in the game’s stealth system to remove as many enemies as you can from the equation before committing to the engagement. Not utilizing stealth will put you at a huge disadvantage as you will quite often be overwhelmed by the number of foes on the map. It would’ve been great if the game would’ve been more open to a guns-a-blazing style of play for those who just want to shoot things and yell at the top of their lungs.
Once you get discovered, or if the game throws you into a combat scenario where you’re disadvantaged, the fun can begin. Think of Miasma Chronicles as a light version of X-COM wherein you ideally hide behind cover while pelting your foes with bullets. Similarly, you have a chance-based system that determines whether your attacks hit or miss. This is based on many factors, such as distance to your target, height elevation, as well as whether your foe is behind light or heavy cover.
Influencing fights is extremely important. Combat is immensely punishing and brutal, especially if you’re a newcomer to the genre. Playing on the Normal Difficulty, I found it hard to keep my squad healthy since they were always bruised and bleeding after encounters. Characters take a ton of damage – sometimes two hits from fodder enemies are enough to knock them out of a fight. What makes matters worse is that a lot of foes have gap closers that will make them leap into your group or teleport themselves right beside your sniper. So cover is essentially negated.
Moreover, units do not heal in between battles in the Normal and higher difficulties. As healing items are extremely scarce, avoiding damage outright is key to emerging victorious. Cooldowns do not reset either. If one of your abilities was on cooldown at the end of a fight, it will still be in that state once you start your next encounter.
Despite these issues, fights are very gratifying when pulled off correctly. Combat is quite exhilarating, especially when the rare critical hit just ever so satisfyingly takes out a foe in one blow. Doing so will restore an Action Point, giving you the opportunity to continue the onslaught provided you still have bullets left in the chamber.
The RPG Systems
The game has some light RPG systems in play that lets you customize your party in limited ways. Take Diggs for example. He has a unique skill that allows him to be used as cover by the rest of your group and can even charge at enemies. But the rest of his skills are somewhat disappointing since there’s so little to choose from. The same is true for the rest of the characters. Every “tree” comprises four branches with three skills, bringing this to a total of 12. There is some overlap between them so there aren’t too many options to differentiate each character.
You can further customize your group by collecting various consumables and Miasma upgrades. Consumables are your traditional things like Medipods (healing bombs), grenades, and energy refills. But you also get grenades that deal acid damage which eats away at enemy armor, or even explosives that summon dormant monsters from the ground that will do your bidding. There’s a nice variety to these items, but controls can get a bit finicky when using them. I’ve accidentally wasted one too many healing bombs by accidentally clicking the item as soon as I selected it.
Players will also have access to nice “Miasma” powers that have powerful effects. They are more interesting compared to simple weapons as you have a wide variety of choices. You can fling enemies in certain directions, cast chain lightning, or summon minions to heal you. To further shake things up, you have a lot of Miasma modifiers to choose from as well. You can change an ability to shrink all enemies hit or steal life instead.
When it comes to equipment, players will have access to two weapon slots that they can deck out with one of the game’s four weapon types. Miasma Chronicles offers your standard Assault Rifles, Shotguns, and Sniper Rifles. It also features a more exotic “Bouncer” weapon that fires projectiles that ricochet across surfaces. Doing so will increase the critical damage, but drastically reduce accuracy. It’s nice to get a risk-reward-styled weapon that the players themselves can influence in some way.
We also get to customize these weapons to a degree. We can attach either a scope or a magazine, giving us small stat bonuses. While the increased numbers may be nice, it would’ve been better if there were some attachments that could fundamentally change the gun’s playstyle instead, such as adding different damage types or even granting additional abilities to use in combat.
Miasma Chronicle Review: Audio, Visuals, & Design
Quite frankly, Miasma Chronicles is a looker in terms of its visuals. The Bearded Ladies are able to effectively create large and open spaces that truly show how dark and desperate times have become. We get to see ruined cities that have been taken over by nature or explore settlements that are just a meld of random parts and materials strung together. Even further, we get to know what it’s like if the world just stopped one day and gave up. Everywhere we look, we see ruin, and it seems like nothing humanity can do can change things.
It would’ve been fine if the developers just featured devastated towns or broken buildings, as what they created already is great and detailed. What ups the ante even more, is the bubbling Miasma that is almost ever-present in the locations. It is a visual marvel to see the black blobs of the Miasma float menacingly into the air. Areas are chock-full of this disgusting goo that seemingly has a life of its own. Vehicles and other structures are literally torn apart, leaving husks of their former selves. Even humans aren’t spared this fate, as we can often see them frozen in place with only the dreaded element bathing their entire bodies. Screenshots don’t do the game justice, since watching everything in motion is at times, somewhat mesmerizing.
However, where the visuals do fall flat is in the animations. While some of the characters are beautifully rendered, others look stiff and robotic. There are also some minor animation bugs that occur, like your party sometimes taking cover behind thin air, or clipping through trees and concrete when shooting from cover. Furthermore, Miasma Chronicles does not do well when zoomed in too close during cutscenes. This is due to the poor lighting conditions in some areas, making them appear too dark.
The game’s audio is a bit of a mixed bag as well. Music is epic and exciting, especially during the game’s combat encounters. Weapon sounds are hefty and really do highlight the weight and “oomph” that each bullet provides. Even the basic assault rifles give off the feeling that each shot is quite impactful and painful. But the voice acting of the game hovers between passable to just plain cringe. Some of the performances were quite flat and failed to convey the emotion of the scene. Elvis also can’t quite seem to stop whining about trying to find his Mama to everyone he meets. Diggs barks out too many one-liners that are borderline painful to listen to. One prime example is when he yelled “Namaste my ass” to one of the game’s more zen quest givers.
Technical & Controls
Jumping into the technical aspect, the game runs quite well. Running on a Windows 10 PC, equipped with an AMD Ryzen 3700X and an Nvidia RTX 3070, I was able to consistently manage a stable 75 fps on 1440p resolution. This was using the game’s “High” preset. These numbers are also without AMD’s FSR upscaling technology, which the game supports natively. Using FSR even on Quality Mode minimally increased the framerate but the visual fidelity did suffer since it became too blurry. Miasma Chronicles also doesn’t have innate support for Nvidia DLSS. Overall, the game is a bug-free experience as no major glaring glitches appeared throughout my playthrough.
Miasma Chronicles can be controlled with either a keyboard & mouse or with a controller. However, you can really tell that the interface was designed with the controller in mind. You can freely use the mouse when selecting tiles that you want your units to move to. But you can’t use the mouse when choosing your targets, which is an odd choice and makes issuing orders a bit more difficult than it’s supposed to be. As the controller feels more natural and smooth, it does look as if the mouse & keyboard were an afterthought.
Miasma Chronicle Review: Replayability
Just like Mutant Year Zero, Miasma Chronicles is a linear game. While we do get to choose in which order to do side missions, ultimately we are on a set path with a very defined beginning, middle, and end. Furthermore, you can’t really change combat encounters dramatically, aside from picking off some targets here and there so fights won’t be different on subsequent playthroughs.
We also don’t get too many weapons or unique skills. This essentially means that there are not that many opportunities to try out different builds. You won’t keep coming back either to experiment with various party combinations.
Considering these aspects, the release price of $49.99 is quite steep for what you get. It would’ve probably hit a sweet spot if the initial ask was $39.99 instead, which would put it much closer to Mutant Year Zero’s $34.99.
Miasma Chronicles is a mixed bag. On one hand, you have an amazing-looking game that features some jaw-dropping visuals, especially considering how busy things are. Yet on the other, the voice acting ruins the immersion at numerous points of the campaign.
You are also afforded some options when it comes to customizing your ragtag group of explorers, though you can’t help but feel like it would’ve been so much better if these systems were expanded more. More unique skills, more choices, and more weapon types would benefit the game greatly.
If you’re looking for an extremely challenging tactical turn-based game that mixes stealth and X-COM, then you’re in for a treat. Fights are frantic and very tense, especially on higher difficulties as one mistake will spell doom for your group.
What did you think of this Miasma Chronicles Review? Does this type of gameplay interest you? Let us know in the comments below. Be sure to drop by our Twitch Channel if you have questions about the game! If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out Redfall Review – PC & Xbox and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review.
My journey through ruined America was an alright experience. Miasma Chronicles is definitely uneven in parts. The good bits shine brightly, but the bad ones are glaringly obvious. Since the asking price is also on the high side, I would recommend most players wait for a sale unless they are die-hard fans of the genre.