Miasma Chronicles Hands-on Preview – A Sci-Fi Comfort Zone

The Bearded Ladies, developers of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, have a thing for the post-apocalypse - or at least after the fall of society for one reason or another. Even their surprise release a few years ago, Corruption 2029, had the same post-societal collapse setting. Unsurprisingly, their upcoming title, Miasma Chronicles, is also set in a world after society as we know it has collapsed. The unknown phenomenon, Miasma, has spread worldwide, destroying civilisation as we know it and turning harmless animals into fearsome monsters.

Your role in Miasma Chronicles? You are Elvis (not that one) with your brother, Diggs. Only Diggs is a giant robot; the developer told me the game will explain how a giant robot becomes the, somehow more charismatic, brother of a young man. As to why the story we're going to play started, Elvis' mother left and never returned, abandoning him, but before she did, she left him with a special glove. This glove happens to be the key to understanding and utilising the Miasma.

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While at Gamescom, I could get hands-on with an early part of the game. After the opening where Elvis fails to break through a wall of Miasma, breaking the power core within his glove, it's time to head to the town of Sedentary. The trip to sedentary is simple, taking you over a raised motorway (freeway if you're American) and into nearby, destroyed, old-world skyscrapers. Eventually, you get to the end and see a gang of giant frogs murdering a family from your town, so you intervene and start your very first fight.

Worth noting is that The Bearded Ladies were aiming for Mutant Year Zero to draw in XCOM fans but with added RPG aspects. Their surprise came when RPG fans were far more favourable to the title; with traditional tactics fans wanting more of XCOM and less of Mutant Year Zero. Due to the strong reception of Mutant Year Zero, and the reasons behind that reception, they've decided to focus more on the RPG aspects.

While I was hands-on with Miasma Chronicles, I saw a lot of what they'll be aiming for on the RPG side. The level of world-building has been taken up a notch, with many collectables to read, giving you more detail on the world as it is and what came before. In addition, you'll get the usual RPG aspects of looting every random box you find, with plastic being the currency in this world. Plastic has become quite rare - they must not have been to the Pacific Trash Vortex.

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Roaming around Miasma Chronicles doesn't differ from other similar games. You'll be moving around in real-time, but when you enter combat, it's turn-based tactics. As you progress through the game, you'll also find new characters that can join your journey. At most, you can have three characters in your party, with Elvis and Biggs as permanent fixtures. The third member, you can swap around.

But what about when you're in the fight? As said, it takes the form of a turn-based tactics system, much like their previous titles. From the hands-on I had, being in combat doesn't offer much of a different experience to any similar title - though this doesn't mean it's a bad thing. You've got an attack move and another (movement, mainly) move. You want to use cover as best you can, then position yourself in the best way possible to take out an enemy while also leaving yourself protected for the next enemy's attack.

What I did like about combat is how you can enter battle more than anything else. If you know some enemies are ahead, you can start sneaking while in the RPG mode, setting up an ambush. Get close enough and activate the ambush, you'll enter the turn-based tactics mode, but the enemies won't move until they're aware of your presence. Also, your first attack will do more damage, and you'll be able to attack again.

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I did this in the second area of my hands-on with Miasma Chronicles, sneaking and climbing up a set of ladders, keeping behind the sentry, and making myself ready to take it out. At the same time, I used my more damaging attack to weaken the strongest enemy. Combat also features a rage meter. Your rage will fill up whenever you miss an attack or receive damage. Once full, it will result in extra damage on that character's next confirmed hit. Never not helpful, and I did consider it may be possible to game this system by intentionally missing against a weaker opponent before a boss. I'm not sure if rage moves onto the next fight, but I've already thought of a tactic if it does.

Miasma Chronicles seems, and sounds, like a step up from The Bearded Ladies. I'm unsure how the story beats and characters will stand up against the quirky cast within Mutant Year Zero. They're trying to keep it on a lighter tone, with Biggs being over the top and the mayor of Sanctuary being a head in a jar, controlling a robot - but also able to smoke a cigar.

With a projected 30+ hours to play through, it's far too early for me to know if the story will be good and if the quests and gameplay will hold up. If they continue their trend, I imagine it should be well received. There's a way to go until we find out, though, with Miasma Chronicles releasing sometime in 2023.

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