GamingGame ReviewsPC / MacPS5

Miasma Chronicles, Review

Unfortunately, as a console gamer my platforms of choice don’t equate to a plethora of games in the tactical genre space. So, when I caught wind of the upcoming Miasma Chronicles, I was a happy little tactical camper. 

As soon as I started playing, I fell in love with Miasma Chronicles’ unique spin on the post-apocalypse. 25 hours later…we’re still together.

Miasma Chronicles comes from The Bearded Ladies, who developed my 2018 GOTY honourable mention – Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden. I bring this up, as Miasma Chronicles is VERY similar in design and gameplay, which is both brilliant…and if I’m honest, a bit disappointing. Great, in terms of it being a solid tactical, turn-based game with awesome XCOM-esque design touchstones throughout. However, I struggled to shrug off my nagging thought that in the 5 years since Mutant Year Zero, The Bearded Ladies have not evolved or iterated much of anything in their core games systems.

So, what is Miasma Chronicles?

In simple terms, think XCOM 2. But with open world isometric gameplay, RPG-lite systems and some stealth combat elements. Set in post-apocalyptic America, the long-taken-for-granted environment has fought back against humanity, with violent storms of black crystalline “Miasma”, destroying human civilisations. It seemed at first glance that the “environment” has, to protect the world from us humans, made itself dangerous and uninhabitable. Even creating foot soldiers to protect itself. Frogs and other creatures now tower over humans, with bows and magic at hand.  

The main character, Elvis is an “Editor”. A hero who through the power of a specially designed glove, can control and manipulate the Miasma. The overall story is about Elvis, his robot side-kick, Diggs and various other party members, helping out their muddy town, before getting sucked into a larger battle for human-kind.

I won’t get stuck in the minutiae of the story, to be blunt, it’s not the reason to play the game. I applaud the attempt to create a roster of interesting characters, all fully voiced and animated. But it doesn’t hold up to the apparent devs ambition. The voice work is pretty inane. Elvis is a bit to cringy to take seriously with “the worlds on a knife edge” type talk and Diggs sounds just like Barrett from Final Fantasy 7…but without the firmly inserted tongue-in-cheek. If I hear “Oh yeeeeah, Tiger Tough!” one more time, I take no responsibility for my actions!

That said the wider Miasma Chronicles world and canon is brilliant.

The history found through the world and in the Codex on the rise and fall of America to its current state and the voice memo collectables, add to the fabric of the game environments, akin to Bioshock or The Last of Us. Seriously, it’s that good. Each area or map has a particular flavour, with waves of Miasma which have crystalised in place after ripping through buildings, cars and people, trapping or destroying whatever or whoever was struck in its path. It all looked fantastic on my PS5.

The real stand-out and reason to play Miasma Chroniclers though, is the gameplay. It is a rock solid XCOM style tactical game. Moving from cover to cover, flanking and using various weapons or Miasma Skills to take down massive frogs, monsters, robots and bandits. The two major differences which the XCOM analogy doesn’t address, is the use of stealth leading into a combat encounter and the replacement of any base-building and development cycles, with RPG-lite systems. So, levelling up skills and finding loot in the world to improve weapons is the way.

Just like Mutant Year Zero, stealth is the key preparation phase to every combat encounter. As I entered a map or zone, I would use stealth to skirt the bad guys and pick off the low level targets with the characters equipped with silenced weapons. But once I ran out of low level targets, or missed a shot, the map was alerted and traditional XCOM combat would ensue.

Same as it ever was.

This is where my earlier mentioned “issues” with the lack of iteration over the last 5 years, come to the fray. Just like Mutant Year Zero, the required pre-battle thinning of the heard with stealth becomes more of an annoyance than fun. Having to pick off those low level enemies just to get to the main fight with a chance of winning. It felt like a repetitive hoop to jump through in the late game, as opposed to something to look forward too. Exactly how it felt 5 years ago in Mutant Year Zero…

Minor gripes aside though, Miasma Chronicles is still a fantastic game. It looks stunning on my PS5. Has some of the best world building I have seen for a good while from a double A title and is importantly fun to play.

If you have any interest in Tactical or Strategy genres… you must buy this game, it will not disappoint.