Rewarding Turn-Based Apocalyptic Adventuring in Miasma Chronicles

A few years ago, a talented indie developer known as The Bearded Ladies brought us a clever adventure with an interesting post-apocalyptic plot and challenging turn-based combat. That game was called Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, and despite being a little rough around the edges, was still quite a refreshing entry into the turn-based combat adventure realm. Mutant Year Zero earned 4 out of 5 GiN Gems in our review, and was pretty entertaining to play.

In a lot of ways, the newest release from The Bearded Ladies, called Miasma Chronicles, follows the same basic format as Mutant Year Zero. But the developers also seemed to learn from their mistakes when making Miasma Chronicles, particularly in the combat section, which has been greatly simplified and brought more in line with other titles that gamers are more used to playing. They did that without sacrificing the unique feel of the game. That makes Miasma Chronicles the better overall title, although both are pretty enjoyable, especially if you like post-apocalyptic stories or turn-based combat.

When I say that the two titles are similar, I really mean it. In fact, the post-apocalyptic setting could almost place them in the same world. But in Mutant Year Zero, the ecosystem is ravaged by a virus while in Miasma Chronicles the entire world (which was remade using a substance called Miasma to try and negate natural disasters) seems to be coming apart at the seams. There is actually a little bit more hope in Mutant Year Zero’s world because humanity and their mutant allies are starting to slowly wiggle back out of their fortified bunkers to try and reclaim the world. But in Miasma Chronicles, it looks for a long time like the entire world is going to be destroyed no matter what you do.

There are other similarities. Whereas in Mutant Year Zero we had Dux and Bormin , a wise-cracking duck mutant and a stoic warthog person, in Miasma we get Elvis and Diggs – a human boy of 15 and a wise-cracking mining robot that has been programmed to believe that Elvis is his brother. In truth, Dux and Bormin were better characters overall and developed a kind of buddy cop movie type of rapport. In Miasma, Diggs is really awesome while Elvis is a pretty poor main character with a decisive lack of appeal. He’s 15, and he either whines or is unsure about everything most of the time. At other times he is overly brave and short sighted, and generally not that smart. I suppose that is because he is 15, and an orphan whose mother left him to go “beyond the miasma,” but he’s still an odd choice for the anchor character in a game, and I doubt too many gamers will identify with him. Thankfully, Diggs is able to carry most of their interactions and keep the flow moving.

There are other similarities between the two titles. Both are played by moving through an overview map to get to various locations in the game which are then played in real time as the characters wander through them scavenging for loot. And then things drop into turn-based mode whenever there is a combat. And the two characters also have different abilities and a small skill tree to improve them. Elvis mostly uses ranged weapons and has access to a miasma-enhanced and electrically-powered tech glove that gives him the ability to do magic-like attacks such as tossing bad guys through the air or zapping them with lighting bolts. Diggs can shoot too, but his real power is charging up and knocking out bad guys – an extremely helpful skill when there is only one or two enemies left hiding in deep cover. Instead of plinking it out with them, you can just have Diggs charge in and lower the boom.

In terms of the combat, Miasma is much more balanced than Mutant Year Zero, while relying on the same basic idea that players need to approach each level in stealth and make at least a few quiet kills before dropping into a general melee. The levels are pretty much designed so that if you go in guns blazing, you are going to get killed because you are extremely outnumbered most of the time, and there are even summoning type enemies who can bring even more troops into the fray if you don’t eliminate them quickly.

Where Miasma is different is that stealthily killing enemies who wander away from the rest of the group is much easier to do, especially once a character named Jade joins your party with a silenced sniper rifle. You can use her to go around and almost clear out levels without Diggs and Elvis, unless she screws up and gets spotted, or fails to completely drop an enemy. Later on in the game, Elvis and Diggs can help out with silent attacks of their own, but you will still mostly be relying on Jade for pre-battle cleanup.

Gone are the extremely annoying kill-dependent cooldowns for skills that made Mutant Year Zero so frustrating to play. So, you don’t need to kill multiple people over several fights just to refresh a basic skill anymore. Instead, you have actual cooldown timers like with every other title. There are also four levels of overall game difficulty which can be set according to player taste. At the easiest level, players have more hit points and fully heal up after each combat ends, making Miasma Chronicles much easier to play. At increasingly more difficult levels, it adds more challenges, but never seems as unfair as some of the Mutant Year Zero levels were. When playing on normal difficulty, the fights always seemed extremely balanced, and I was often able to conquer enemies who were higher than my level by smartly using a lot of consumables like grenades and healing packs, which made them actually useful to collect and deploy. All in all, that makes Miasma Chronicles fun to play for gamers of any skill level.

The plot of Miasma Chronicles is good, if a little bit predictable at times in terms of the main story. It does however do a great job of keeping you guessing as you adventure on side missions. You never know if your supposed milk run type of assignment or rescue mission is going to turn into something much more dangerous. And more than once, it surprised me with an encounter that I was not expecting. Overall, I think players will enjoy coming along for the ride as the plot of this detailed story unfolds.

The Bearded Ladies are clearly talented developers who are carving out a nice niche for themselves in the game industry with titles like Miasma Chronicles and Mutant Year Zero. Miasma Chronicles improves on many of the shortcomings of Mutant Year Zero, which was also really good overall. If you enjoy turn-based combat, post-apocalyptic stories or even just enjoyed Mutant Year Zero, then you should also have a great time with Miasma Chronicles.

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3 thoughts on “Rewarding Turn-Based Apocalyptic Adventuring in Miasma Chronicles”

  1. I enjoyed both games!! Just wanted to give you an FYI – they are in the same world. I came across Farrow’s tombstone in MC (was a stab to my heart as she was my favorite character in MYZ).

    1. Hi Jbumi. Wow. I had no idea. Thank you for letting me know. What zone did you find Farrow’s stone in? I will definitely check that out. I hope you are doing well!

      1. In the Editor Archive. Before I went into the building to talk to Mama. I’m ok – hope all’s well with you too!

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