It’s clear that Miasma Chronicles is trying to carve out a niche in the tactical role-playing game market, but when we went hands on last year at Gamescom, we were worried. Worried because Bearded Ladies’s post-apocalyptic world, which is filled with lore and activities, felt like too big of an ask. So when we were offered a second sneak peek behind the game development curtain at GDC in San Francisco, we were keen to see if our opinion could be changed.
For those that don’t know much about Miasma Chronicles, the game follows a chap called Elvis and his robot brother Diggs, who are tasked with solving the mystery of the sinister substance of Miasma – a unique force of nature which is destroying the world around them as they know it. On paper, it’s clear that the game is trying to do a lot all at once – but after seeing a one hour chunk of gameplay and chatting to lead producer Mark Parker, Miasma’s scope certainly didn’t come off as problematic.
The different tools and abilities at your disposal during Miasma’s XCOM-style, turn-based battles are plentiful, and include exciting toys like the Tactical Disc Launcher, which fires a ricocheting shot that any 8-Ball Pool player will love lining up. Every character also has their own substantial skill deck, but it all seemed meaningful, and any tweaks Parker made to his skills or upgrades had an evident, noticeable effect.
From a mechanical standpoint, Miasma’s combat gets even deeper. Free-roaming traversal before you enter battle makes stealth and positioning super important, and it forces you to think tactically before a shot is fired or a grenade is lobbed. There are also action points, a “rage meter” akin to Street Fighter’s Super Combo Gauge, “overclocking” of abilities, critical hits, RNG in the form of percentage chances for actions being successful or not – the list is endless. In fact, I found it difficult to keep track of every facet of the combat system, but at some point, everything made an appearance. Yes, preview stages for any game are often tactically-selected and choreographed, but Bearded Ladies was really flexing Miasma’s strategic combat muscles to prove it hasn’t skipped leg day.
Aside from combat, Miasma offers a lore-filled world that you can explore in your own time. While it is perhaps not the most graphically-advanced game coming out this year, the depiction of a post-apocalyptic USA, and the game’s characters, really struck a chord with me.
In my preview, we explored the swamplands of Florida, but a quick glimpse at the menus shows that Elvis and Diggs will go much further than that. Parker coyly says that you will travel across “multiple” US states. With the environmental storytelling on offer, I’m hoping there’s lots of variety given how hard the developer has worked on creating this unique world.
Miasma Chronicles also wants to lean as much into being a proper, semi-open world RPG as it does a turn-based strategy game – NPCs, side quests, environmental puzzles, “extra encounters”, and much more are present here to encourage exploration, add to the narrative, and give you something outside of turn-based combat to think about. While Parker says that Bearded Ladies has put a lot of effort into this side of the game, he does humorously warn that this is not some Elden Ring-level experience. “You’re not gonna go down a fucking tunnel and end up in some huge new world,” he jokes.
He estimates that the main questline and story content will clock in at “a good 20+ hours”, but with all of that side content on top, Miasma is serving up a substantial offering.
So, after going into this preview slightly apprehensive, I can say that Miasma Chronicles is going to offer deep turn-based combat, an intriguing and (hopefully) diverse world, plenty of opportunities to take you off the beaten path, and a decent amount of content to sink your teeth into. That sounds like a whole lot of good news ahead of the Miasma Chronicles release date next month.
However, mastering every promising component is going to be a tall order. Most turn-based fans will probably enjoy the intricacy of the combat system regardless of all of Miasma Chronicles’ other extremities, but if Bearded Ladies manages to keep all of its offerings feeling relevant and enjoyable throughout the entire game, it could be on to a real winner.