Review: Miasma Chronicles – Big Brain Shootin’

Gritty battles, unique stealth mechanics, and puzzling tactical combat is all found in Miasma Chronicles by The Bearded Ladies. Miasma Chronicles can get tense as you expertly plan out your team’s next moves to defeat hordes of enemies. Will you be the hero America needs to control the miasma and overthrow the First Family?

The story in Miasma Chronicles isn’t too deep. The first chapter consists of you helping the mayor uncover research on the First Family and gaining enough power in your glove to be able to break down the wall where your guardian is waiting for you on the other side. After breaking through, you are confronted with some light story twists that I won’t disclose here. While the mood of Miasma Chronicles is mainly dark and gloomy, the writing does well to keep things light hearted at times. After descriptions of what an item does, it typically has a sarcastic comment to add flavor. Characters you overhear conversations of are usually goofy, but still keep to the somber theme. While battling, there isn’t much background you can glean from the characters, so Miasma Chronicles throws in fireside chats with the main characters, where you all reflect on the events that just took place. They’re typically skippable and not terribly exciting, but at least you get a small taste of emotion.

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This is such a silly reason why the main protagonist’s name is Elvis. I love it.

Miasma Chronicles is a heavily tactical game, which means it involves a lot of planning, area control, and resource management. It can almost feel like a puzzle game at times, where you’re trying to find the most optimal solution. When the battle gets rough is when you’re jamming the pieces together, trying to forcibly solve it. This game takes patience, and can be unforgivably difficult if you plan things poorly. The introduction and tutorial-like battles helped a little in understanding how the mechanics worked, but it’s going to take some time to find a clear strategy. It wasn’t until getting through more than half the game that I realized the strategy isn’t based on your character’s abilities, but your enemies. Even if you stack your character to be more up close and personal (like how their upgrade tree suggests), you will stand no chance in fighting against the acid exploding monsters.

The gameplay definitely gets more fun and interesting once you have solid equipment. Getting through the first chapter is really difficult near the end, where you become swarmed with enemies everywhere. Of course it’s through knowledge and learning how to deal with these enemies that makes the later game easier, but the introduction of them feels unbalanced. The robots, which I think are probably the easiest enemies in the game, don’t show up until later, ruining the game’s pacing. The void monsters are considerably the most difficult as they can easily spawn more of themselves and all of them produce health draining acid in a wide area when they die. Battling the robots was seriously the most fun, and probably why I was so engrossed in the game. Not having to worry about splash damage and focusing solely on planning out your next move while vaguely knowing what your enemy will do made the joyfully immersive.

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Eliminating enemies can be super satisfying with these heroic action shots

Miasma Chronicles’ graphics are high resolution, as you would expect from a game made in the Unreal Engine. There are even animated cutscenes signifying important benchmarks in the storyline. I had to hold myself back from saying “fully animated” because the mouth movement of the characters don’t sync up with the actual dialog, they just flap aimlessly. I’m not sure if keeping the mouths shut would have been better, but at least it would have been less distracting. At least the large body movements are in line with the characters’ reactions.

One of the most important aspects of art in a tactical game like Miasma Chronicles is the user interface. While the user experience (how to actually navigate the UI, not the art) is mostly intuitive, besides struggling to highlight enemies and having to manually swap around weapon mods. The UI can be glitchy at times, especially the diegetic (in world) UI where you need to know details about enemies. Sometimes spaces that trigger enemy awareness don’t show so you think it’s safe to travel through. Other times the sight lines have different color states, but it’s not exactly clear on what it means. Those sight lines also don’t show if you’re unable to do a certain move, so it can be difficult to plan ahead.

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You can really appreciate the amount of work the devs put into the art, just….don’t open their mouths

There isn’t a noticeable amount of music in Miasma Chronicles, but being unnoticeable is what makes the audio great. The audio is mostly textural: groans and rustles in the background to let you know enemies are by, or a quiet rhythmic synth pulsing to mimic the intensity of battle. The audio is dynamic and expertly put together to be a part of the natural game scene. Instead of sitting on top of gameplay, it builds with the battle. Sound effects are also well done to the point where you almost don’t need to see the game to play it. With such positive feedback, it gives every action a sense of purpose. The voice acting is the cherry on top. The acting goes beyond the bland reading of the script and adds contextual emotion to the characters. There are fireside chats, cutscenes, and passive conversations happening in the world. When characters get hurt or when you land a hit, you are greeted by characters or enemies letting out a quick quip. Some seem odd, like Elvis yelling “Why are you running, are you scared?” when you move him away from battle, but at least the responses make Miasma Chronicles feel more alive.

Jordan played Miasma Chronicles on PC with a code provided by the developer. Miasma Chronicles is also available on Playstation 5 and Xbox Series.

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