Do you remember Mutant Year Zero, the strategic made by The Bearded Ladies inspired by the Swedish game and novel series Mutant Chronicle? That title which, apparently, had received a timid reception, proved to be a good success for the development team, to the point of making them start working on a completely new project.
The curious aspect, however, is that Mutant Year Zero, despite being a turn-based strategy, was particularly appreciated by RPG lovers, while X-Com aficionados lambasted it for some ingenuity derived from the lack of experience of the development team. You may wonder why this is a curious aspect, well, it is enough to know that according to the developers it was precisely the motivations behind the success of Mutant Year Zero that convinced them to change direction and, after the failure obtained with the following Corruption 2029, start to work on Miasma Chronicles.
Miasma Chronicles first impressions
During Gamescom 2022, in addition to being able to chat with members of The Bearded Ladies, we were able to get our hands on a trial version of Miasma Chronicles which allowed us to view the initial stages of the game and understand how much the developers are committed to enhancing the character design and settings.
As per practice for the genre, Miasma Chronicles is also set in a world devastated by a cataclysm, the Miasma, which has permanently changed life on the planet. Many humans have become captives of a crystal-like organic substance, most of the fauna has been transformed into disgusting mutant creatures and almost all the cities have been wiped out.
In this landscape worthy of the best postcard to send to loved ones, he grew up Elvis, the protagonist of the game, that from an early age he was abandoned by his mother. Accompanied by a robot named Diggs and a mechanical glove mysteriously linked to the origins of Miasma, curiously given to him by his mother, the young man sets off in search of answers.
The playable demo showed us the mining town of Sedentary, the first destination of Elvis' journey. What stood before us was a city teeming with people, alive and pleasant to explore. As we moved the duo of heroes, looking for someone capable of repairing the mysterious glove, we got to chat with the various inhabitants and make some purchases by spending the plastic found around.
What we appreciated most during our test of Miasma Chronicles was, ironically, what was revealed to us by its creators. During the game it will be possible to freely explore the various cities and even visit other states of this new version of the United States but it will be necessary to constantly keep in mind that the Miasma will never stop and that its constant rise will be able to transform places in real time, making the game world much more dynamic and the exploratory phases more reasoned.
The basic idea is to be able to tell the stories of the inhabitants of this dystopian version of the earth, through their last actions before coming into contact with the Miasma. The crystallized bodies that will meet during their journey will all have something to say thanks to body language, some will show fear, others surprise, still others an apparent disinterest due to the commitments of everyday life.
The atmospheres will always be very melancholy and disturbing, while the dynamics between the characters will be the element capable of making the player smile and have fun, with a ton of dark humor and a few jokes to break the anguish transmitted from the game world. Regarding exploration, in addition to illustrating the expansion dynamics of the Miasma, the developers of have confirmed the presence of a multitude of things to do and characters to meet.
The party, in fact, will be expandable to contain eight characters, even if Elvis and Diggs can never be removed purely for narrative reasons. This peculiar choice was born from a study carried out on Mutant Year Zero, where players rarely raised Dux and Bormin from their party, confirming that most players generate a sort of affection towards those characters who are presented in the initial stages of the adventure.
Turn-based strategy RPG?!
Although Miasma Chronicles has been presented several times as an RPG, the reality of the facts is that we are once again faced with a turn-based strategy that draws heavily from the universe of Western role-playing games but it does not differ much from the formula already seen in Mutant Year Zero.
Entering battle during the exploration phases is undoubtedly fun, given that Miasma Chronicles allows you to create real ambushes for your opponents, allowing you to position the protagonists in the shape of an encirclement or, alternatively, to stealthily destroy less threatening threats, avoiding just starting the battle phase.
Once you've made the transition from exploration to actual battle, the dynamics that confronted us are the same as any strategy known to the general public. You move around the area, take advantage of the two actions available to each character to attack enemies, or rescue your companions, and try to get the better of your opponents.
In addition to the typical mechanics of the genre, we find an indicator that allows you to carry out a 100% effective offensive once it is fully loaded, as well as a set of skills unique to each character. These are not sensational novelties for the genre but they offer the right amount of variety to the battle phases.
As surprised as we were to find a combat system so anchored to the strategic model, we must admit that it fits perfectly with the dynamics proposed by Miasma Chronicles in the exploratory phases. Where in Mutant Year Zero there was an excessive level of naivety given by inexperience, in this new production everything gets a more homogeneous dimension, precisely by virtue of not wanting to implement a hard and pure strategy.