On crumbling highways and inside the meeting rooms of offices, the Originals stood frozen in time. These were the citizens of a brighter America swallowed by the Miasma, a vicious black force tearing through the country’s many states and poisoning the skies.
Humanity still lives on many years in the future, but America has evolved into a badland home to thieves, monsters, and survivors hanging on to what little they have left.
Miasma Chronicles presents a tragic yet captivating world extending from the backyards of Kentucky to the vast wildness across Arkansas, delivering a narrative with shocking moments and magnetic protagonists.
Its turn-based combat forms around strategy and team synergy, offering a range of abilities, items, and guns to tackle groups of enemies however you see fit.
All of this and other features made Miasma Chronicles an extraordinary journey of intrigue and discovery with no shortage of challenging fights to whet the appetite of tactical turn-based enthusiasts.
But even though it has so many incredible highs, under its hood are immersion-breaking technical problems: Characters get stuck on objects, somehow fall from higher elevations of the map, and the game crashes multiple times. If not for those issues, Miasma Chronicles would have stuck its landing.
Miasma Chronicles has an intriguing story, stunning settings, and grueling combat scenarios to test how players will tackle them; however, in its current state, crashes and glitches will ruin some parts of its engaging momentum.
Developer: The Bearded Ladies
Publisher: 505 Games
Platforms: PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S
Release date: May 23, 2023
As the latest project from Swedish developer The Bearded Ladies, much of what the team pulled off successfully in their previous turn-based game Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden inevitably molds core aspects of Miasma Chronicles.
Sneaking around biomes — going from thick bushes to door-stripped cars to silently snipe enemies — will feel familiar to fans who played Mutant Year Zero as they slowly weed out patrolling stragglers around a group of enemies. Miasma has the same top-down perspective and likewise spends gameplay downtime urging players to explore nooks and crannies for items.
It’s a pleasant return for me since playing Mutant Year Zero, but also a dynamic step-up in scale with cutscenes and Miasma powers that made the formula feel more enticing. But the shining beacon of Miasma Chronicles is, without a doubt, its impressive narrative.
Players will follow Elvis, a southern-tongued boy from the mining town of Sedentary in Kentucky. His mother gifted him a strange glove that can control the violent Miasma before vanishing, and years later, Elvis seeks to find her.
Joined by his sassy robot older brother Diggs and the cryptic gun-for-hire Jade, Elvis will learn about the events that led to America’s demise and discover the history behind his glove.
Without spoiling too much, The Bearded Ladies has spun a gripping tale fed to players through environmental storytelling and collectible notes, exposing years of conflict unknown to the protagonists.
Miasma Chronicles sends players through a themed gator park ruled by nasty-looking frog humanoids powered by the Miasma. Later Elvis and the gang will cut through a Miasma-ridden battlefield leading into a massive temple with statues of people with gloves identical to his own. Much of the yore of this America is cleverly woven through each location as players scavenge for materials and get their hands on rare guns behind enemy lines.
The same goes for combat, which blends round-based battles and stealth elements reminiscent of the XCOM series.
Cracked walls of dilapidated buildings, overturned cars, and other objects scattered over maps will serve as half and full cover to protect your characters from enemy projectiles. But as mentioned, sneaking around is beneficial, and Miasma rewards that by revealing vantage points perfect for ambushing groups or explosive barrels to blow up foes.
Unfortunately, here is where the unstable technical side of Miasma Chronicles ruins some of its crucial gameplay elements. Often, characters were pushed around from where I placed them, and even after separating my team to plan better before a fight, one of them would somehow teleport around with the character I was controlling.
Those technical blemishes cropped up often, ripping me out of the game’s grungy and rousing ambiance. And at times, after completing a formidable fight and getting into a juicy questline, Miasma Chronicles would crash.
The game has auto-save, but it will ultimately suck setting up your characters again to ambush opponents, killing a lot of momentum and causing zone backtracking to be a chore.
It’s a shame because battles are immensely satisfying when everything works as intended.
There are various gun weapons with mods to utilize, items to damage enemies over multiple rounds, and skills earned from character trees to burn opponents or knock them down. Elvis will eventually use Miasma powers sucked into his glove to summon a tornado to move enemies or fire off lightning, elevating the ceiling for tactical maneuvers.
But it’s hard shaking the technical factors of combat that can make it a questionable experience.
The devs will implement patches on launch day, so hopefully, those problems will get fixed because Miasma Chronicles is exceptional in every other area.
Memorable moments are littered throughout the game, landscapes are eye-popping with intricate narrative details, and battles unfold on playgrounds where players can experiment. Miasma Chronicles executes the pillars of its identity well, but I hope its downsides get addressed before and after its May 23 release.