PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S
May 23, 2023
The Bearded Ladies
Guerilla warfare isn’t easy to do in turn-based strategy. Sneaking in, staying hidden, and choosing your targets is as far as it goes. Miasma Chronicles adds extra layers to that strategy, such as elevation and pre-battle target elimination. Every battle encourages you to learn about the environment, about your character’s abilities, and asks you to make the best of a bad situation. Throw in an intriguing post-apocalyptic landscape, and you are immersed in the guerilla tactical experience.
Miasma Chronicles is not perfect and there are some glaring flaws that impact the game. In fact, when concepts don’t work the way they are supposed to, enjoyment quickly turns into frustration. Thankfully though the good outweighs the bad and you will enjoy this new twist on turn-based strategy.
A world ravaged by Miasma
Miasma Chronicles begins with Elvis, a young man searching for his mother, Bha Madhi. Along with his older robot brother Diggs, Elvis tries to break through the Miasma Wall which his mother passed through. His quest takes him beyond his small town, making new allies but also powerful enemies.
Miasma has transformed America into a frightening landscape. Life still survives, but it has been twisted in nightmarish ways. It’s a post-apocalyptic world where the advance of technology created horrible unintentional consequences. The divide between the rich and poor has never been more drastic, which sets a big part of the story. Intentional or otherwise, it’s a good commentary about who pays when organisations get unchecked power.
Complex characters and multi-layered motives
While there’s good exposition sprinkled throughout the main adventure, most of the setting will be discovered by going off the beaten path. Reading abandoned terminals, temporarily reviving robots, and speaking to random NPCs slowly pieces the world together. It encourages you to explore the world and take in your surroundings because something interesting could be around the corner.
Twisted forces of nature, robots, and armoured humans form the bulk of the enemies you fight. Each faction has its own motivations and it contributes to the grey-and-grey morality present in Miasma Chronicles. It’s easy to label factions such as the Grabbers as unrepentant villains until you explore their story. Not every protagonist is a shining beacon of hope either. These characterisations actually make the small pockets of goodness stand out. In a world where things aren’t perfect, you can help people and make a positive difference.
Exploring a fallen America
Miasma Chronicles isn’t an open-world adventure and the paths are mostly linear. But there are rooms to explore and minor puzzles to solve. They aren’t overbearing or unnecessary, fitting in with the setting. You might try to find a keypad code for a door, and the hints are nearby. The reward for opening the door is helpful, but not mandatory. This makes exploration fulfilling rather than a vital chore necessary to keep up. Proceeding with just the story is alright, but you can benefit from side quests or some simple exploration.
“Exploring is fun because it’s optional. It helps if you do it, but you are still fine without it.”
There is a benefit to exploring and being familiar with your surroundings, as your combat success relies on it. Elvis and Diggs will find allies, but they are often outgunned and outnumbered. They must resort to using their environment and stealthily taking out enemies to even the odds. Getting to higher ground, evading your enemies, and utilising environmental objects is crucial to victory.
One part stealth, one part combat
It’s a different take on setting up guerilla warfare compared to other games like XCOM 2. Rather than a single assault leading to direct combat, Miasma Chronicles makes the initial stealth similar to games like Assassin’s Creed. You move around the battlefield picking off whoever you can, maintaining silence as long as possible. Enemies notice you if their friends die in front of them, forcing you to lure them away before striking. Players must be careful and stealthy or they will lose the battle. It immerses you in the tactical gameplay and involves you at every step of the strategy. You see your plans come to life in real-time, benefiting from the success or dealing with the failures as they come.
Taking out all enemies through stealth isn’t always possible, and you must engage in combat. Just like other turn-based strategy games with guns, you position your units into cover and fire at enemies. Characters have unique abilities which they can use to give themselves an edge. This can also apply to weapons that allow each character to shine. Characters also gain experience which helps them choose unique abilities. With more resources, you can upgrade your equipment to get a better chance against future enemies.
A big contrast between this game and other turn-based strategy titles is that your health doesn’t naturally recover after combat. Unlike other games where everyone was healed after a mission, your characters bear the scars of combat. While there are ways to heal your party, you must do it with limited resources. Even on easier difficulties, you must carefully consider your combat decisions, finishing them as quickly as possible.
Punishing decisions with flawed execution
On one hand, the lack of healing forces you to be more strategic in your fights. It’s okay to be sloppy in the beginning, since levelling up can heal you. But later in the game, carelessness will put you in an unwinnable situation. You either fight with guerilla warfare tactics or waste valuable time picking up the pieces. On the other hand, the game encourages you to try things that aren’t always working as intended. One feature they encourage is throwing enemies into explosive canisters or knocking them from high places. It deals a lot of damage when this happens, but it’s not always perfect. Even a perfectly aimed throw into a canister won’t always register. Sometimes an enemy can withstand the full force of a push without consequences.
“Why throw enemies at exploding barrels if nothing is going to happen?”
Not being able to trust the game’s concepts makes battles unnecessarily harder and introduces frustration. If you can’t reliably use environmental objects, their presence doesn’t help your strategy. The game “encouraging” you to do this with items doesn’t help, because it won’t always work as intended.
You also can’t take back your moves, which means you must live with accidents. Miasma Chronicles has a different control scheme from other tactical games, and this means accidental mistakes are going to happen. Not being able to redo them can disrupt a successful strategy, especially if you were close to winning.
Beautiful visuals, unsynced audio
Miasma Chronicles is great to look at, with the Miasma twisting nature in a horrendous yet appealing manner. It reinforces the damage done to the world and what you are up against. The audio also succeeds in immersing you, with silence or background noises reinforcing the emptiness of the new world. There are some moments where you can tell the audio hasn’t synced up to the text. If you are playing without subtitles, it doesn’t seem like a big problem, but the omitted words do have an impact. Characters can try to say caring words or represent a different part of their personality at times. This doesn’t come across if you don’t see what’s missing, and it’s a big part of humanising the characters. Given the emphasis on every character having complex layers, you miss out on these precious opportunities without subtitles.
Strategic guerilla warfare at its best
Miasma Chronicles does have flaws, but it does a lot of things well to make up for it. The fun of planning for combat and the stakes involved mean every round of combat is thrilling. Characters get a good look and the story has some good notes. The gameplay might be more frustrating than it needs to be, but you will still enjoy yourself if you love a tactical experience.
- Guerilla warfare draws you into the gameplay
- Complex characters and story continue to drive your interest
- The ruined post-apocalyptic America is horrendous in a visually stunning way
- Some gameplay concepts don't work as intended
- Missing audio can leave out potential characterisation for some characters
- Different control schemes result in lots of unintentional mistakes
Miasma Chronicles takes the turn-based strategy formula and throws on additional layers of stealth to enforce guerilla-warfare strategies. It largely succeeds in this goal, ensuring players take in their surroundings while taking out as many enemies as they can. When combat starts, you use various abilities and character strengths to survive. This gameplay immerses you well, making you want to plan out your next strategy as soon as possible. There are some flaws in the gameplay, such as abilities and environmental objects not working as intended. It’s also too easy to accidentally commit to a mistake while looking over the battlefield. But there are more strengths than weaknesses that allow Miasma Chronicles to deliver a fun strategic experience.