REVIEW – A post-apocalyptic technological tour with strategy gameplay and a top-down view, divided into rounds, 140 years after a massive catastrophe threatened the Earth. Since then, a substance called Miasma has persisted, contaminating the air and interfering with evolution, creating monsters that defend Miasma with all their might. It’s combined with a clichéd story and XCOM-style strategy gameplay…
From the creators of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden comes a beautifully crafted tactical adventure you won’t forget. Embark on a quest across a post-apocalyptic wasteland torn apart by a savage force known only as the ‘Miasma.’
It isn’t some kind of idiotic joke, but the name of our protagonist, who fortunately isn’t from Mississippi or Tennessee like that particular singer, but from Kentucky (or what’s left of it). His mother left him a metal glove, and he has a robot dog named Diggs. Elvis sets out on a journey to find his mother (thus filling in all the elements of the cliché story). As the previous sentence sounded somewhat robotic, one can rightly think of Horizon Zero Dawn, as its style (essentially its background and plot) refers to it heavily. Elvis and Diggs would get through a Miasma barrier because, supposedly, Elvis’ mother is on the other side, and in the process, he finds out the secret of the glove because it’s the way to control the weird material. Prominent among the ruins is the First Family (in Hungary, it’d obviously be Orbán), which sells ridiculous food rations for gold and uses the technology for mysterious purposes. Diggs, who also functions as an older brother, is player-dependent: his style does not fit the setting and seems inspired by a particular wheeled robot from Borderlands.
You’ll hear a lot of it as you engage in turn-based battles, and although others will join you, the game leaves you behind by not providing any sort of a showcase. Jade, who is on the run from that particular family, isn’t given a proper introduction, so we don’t get to see her abilities in action, and this perceived debauchery in tone makes the atmosphere feel inconsistent. At least there is some background dialogue between the characters. There is not much to complain about except that we get used to them too late, except for the motionless mayor (head in a jar), and maybe some NPCs, so we can get to know better, for example, Edezen Technology, which was fighting against the pollution of the Earth before the disaster (those years are said to be the era of excellent stability). So for the backstory and lore, it’s a messy, scattered whole, perhaps suggesting a lack of focus for The Bearded Ladies, the studio. Fortunately, it’s not the only thing that makes or breaks the title, but enough can be said about it to fail, scoring an eight out of ten, which it might have gotten with more attention.
At least the battles are polished, and with four difficulty levels, plus two additional settings for the cover system, it might not be so challenging to learn the basics of the game, and that’s one of the positives. Those unfamiliar with the genre can gain experience with Miasma Chronicles, but those who didn’t find XCOM 2 challenging can test themselves, too. The bottom line is that team members are awarded two action points (AP) per turn, which they can use to move around, use special attacks, or fire weapons. Each character has a different fighting style, and using the right combinations can produce good results.
For example, for those who would use a more defensive style, Jade’s sniper rifle will silently take down opponents at long range, giving way to Diggs’ rampage or Elvis’ glove (he can also use Miasma for elemental attacks, slightly distorting the sci-fi style), and meanwhile, don’t forget that the inventory: the item pool is shared by all so that medkits can be used by anyone, or even from grenades in a pinch. It’s a shame there’s no permadeath, though. For this reason, the fights are not to be taken seriously, but they cannot always be called easy because our opponents can adapt. Still, the XCOM touch is overly noticeable, such as with the overhead view jumping over the shoulder for critical damage. It’s also positive enough that skill points aren’t locked, so if you’ve tried something and didn’t like it or it doesn’t suit your play style, you can re-stack them, making for a more relaxed experience than other games in the genre.
Miasma Chronicles gets a six-and-a-half out of ten because the characters are not memorable (even Diggs) and came across as somewhat divisive. The combat is primarily good, and the skill trees are varied, but the game is best described by this term: run-of-the-mill. It’s a kind of S-Budget Horizon Zero Dawn & XCOM lovechild. It might be worth it on the cheap, but buying it at full price is not recommended. Several elements are acceptable, but they’re either underdeveloped or clichéd, so that it won’t be a long-term success. In any case, beginners should give it a try…
+ Multiple difficulty levels and easing options
+ The backstory isn’t that bad
+ Skill points can be transferred to something else at any time
– The characters
– Clichés of the genre and the story
– Elvis’ gloves are out of style
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: The Bearded Ladies
Style: bootleg XCOM
Release: May 23, 2023.