Developer, The Bearded Ladies, are launching Miasma Chronicles, but are best known for their 2018 turn-based strategy game set in a post-apocalyptic world which put anthropomorphic animals in the driver’s seat in Mutant Year Zero. They were putting themselves in that same echelon of strategy developers as Firaxis and their XCOM series.
Back in 2018, Preston Dozsa for CGM had this to say about Mutant Year Zero “Thanks to its emphasis on stealth and ambushes, Mutant Year Zero is a tense and rewarding strategy game that feels rewarding to play.” So with The Bearded Ladies’ next foray into the genre, Miasma Chronicles, they have set themselves up for a certain level of expectations.
Miasma Chronicles is set up a lot like Mutant Year Zero, set in the distant future after a cataclysmic event that left the world enshrouded by this deadly force known as Miasma. We follow Elvis, who grew up in a mining town after being abandoned by his mother with a robot brother named Diggs and a glove with the ability to control the Miasma.
Setting out on an adventure across the Wasteland, Elvis and his brother attempt to break through the Miasma, find Elvis’ mother, and discover the reason why the Miasma is such a threat. While the dynamic between the brothers is interesting, with Elvis taking the more careful approach to situations and Diggs being more guns blazing, they play well off each other. They tend to be at the exact opposite ends of the spectrum while approaching situations, from combat to meeting one of the many weird and sometimes zany characters we come across in our travels. That being said, outside the characters in the opening town, none of them felt as fleshed out as the disembodied mayor.
“…Miasma Chronicles takes some steps to open up the turn-based strategy genre to newcomers by really making the difficulty two separate options.”
My biggest issue with their growth as characters and the overall journey is that it took me so long to buy into Elvis as our hero. Something about his characteristics stops him from being the sort of person I would want to put my faith in. Thankfully, after approximately three to four hours, I slowly started to change my tune, but for some, that four-hour buy-in time might be too much to ask. The adventure the brothers go on overall is an enjoyable one, but not one that sticks with you very long after the credits roll.
Gameplay, though, that’s a completely different story. In Miasma Chronicles, the gameplay is king, evolving the strategy of turn-based combat by adding in this free-roaming exploration half. It allows you to try and stealth by enemies and set yourself up for these amazing ambushes. There is something that is so satisfying about sneaking your way around the environment, all so you can get in the best position possible to take down your enemies. You will need to learn this system and push your strategic implementation to the limit if you’re going to see Elvis and Diggs journey through to the end because make no joke, Miasma Chronicles is a tough-as-nails game, just like Mutant Year Zero.
“…Miasma Chronicles is a tough-as-nails game, just like Mutant Year Zero.
There are a lot of similarities to draw between Mutant Year Zero and Miasma Chronicles, but I wouldn’t call that a bad thing. It’s almost like The Bearded Ladies know what they do incredibly well and just refined it over the years. While the genre as a whole can be a bit of a hard one to break into if you are not inherently into it, Miasma Chronicles takes some steps to open up the turn-based strategy genre to newcomers by really making the difficulty two separate options.
One difficulty option affects combat, like enemy health and damage output. The other option is how tactical you want to be in your planning. For example, flanking always guarantees a hit, and cover grants the same bonus no matter the distance, or roll the dice with full tactical and have every decision matter from the angle of your approach to the distance from your enemy.
For the most part, the performance was pretty smooth. I never noticed any dips in frames or pop-ins, at least while I was on my PC. Now that the Steam Deck has been out for a while, it is how many people enjoy their PC gaming, myself included. Once I could get the game to load on Steam Deck, I didn’t have too bad of an experience outside of a few crashes here and there. I’d recommend running it with all the graphical settings on low. Steam Deck is not really the place to enjoy Miasma Chronicles, but on desktop, there were little to no issues.
Overall, if you enjoy turn-based strategy games like XCOM or Mutant Year Zero, or if you are a newcomer, then Miasma Chronicles is right up your alley. Just know that the gameplay is king here, with a forgettable story.