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Miasma Chronicles

Miasma Chronicles: Hands-on with The Bearded Ladies upcoming tactical RPG

We visited the developer behind Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden to get a taster of what they have planned next.

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Recently, we travelled to Malmö to visit indie developer, The Bearded Ladies, and to play their upcoming project, Miasma Chronicles, which is being publsihed by 505 Games. 505 has a knack for funding large indie projects that exist in a middle ground between indie and big budget. Miasma Chronicles exists in this grey area, and is a great tactical RPG that draws on genre classics such as Final Fantasy: Tactics, Ogre Battle, and X-COM.

Miasma Chronicles is set in a devastated America, where the world has been destroyed by a mysterious energy source called Miasma. The country is characterised by a violent class divide, with the upper class exploiting the rest of society. The player takes on the role of Elvis - a mechanic who, in search of his missing mother, unravels the nature of the energy source but also the totalitarian structure of society. On his journey, he meets a colourful cast of characters who help him overcome the challenges. The environment of the game is straight out of Firefly and Cowboy Bebop, with a cool sci-fi western aesthetic.

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Miasma Chronicles tackles a multitude of different themes. The game mainly revolves around the climate crisis, but also touches on the consequences of unchecked capitalism. These themes are not explicitly articulated, but rather lie between the lines of the game's environment and characters. Game director Lee Varley himself describes the themes as "rampant consumerism" and a naïve belief in relying on big business to solve our environmental and climate crisis. He believes both issues are problems in society today.

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Varley elaborates: "One of the themes that runs through the game is: If we abuse mother nature to the point of no return, what replaces it? What comes after?" - an uncomfortable question that is interestingly explored in the game and makes Miasma Chronicles one of the more interesting games of 2023.

The game's producer Mark Parker also highlights the game's dark humour, including the use of plastic as in-game currency: "It's an ironic currency. We talk about plastic in the lore. You can see that undamaged plastic is very valuable, because it's very rare and it's a hint towards what the Miasma might be. We thought it was funny to have an ironic element but also touching on an important issue."

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The game is not only promising on a thematic level, but also the gameplay, which draws the player into the universe. The developers have managed to create a minimalistic UI that seems hugely inviting to players. The tactical RPG genre is notorious for having complicated menus that take up all the space on the screen, which makes the UI in Miasma Chronicles very impressive. The sophisticated and intuitive approach is also reflected in the game's combat gameplay, where you effortlessly navigate your players around the field and set up the perfect attack.

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Genre blending has also played a role in the game's design philosophy, since Miasma Chronicles utilises rather impressive stealth mechanisms. The player can therefore choose their own approach to combat, either killing enemies one by one with a silenced rifle, or attacking them with rocket launchers and hand grenades. This invites the player to come up with creative approaches to the challenges of the storyline.

However, there are some problems with the game. The dialogue seems stiff and shallow, but that plays well into the genre film aesthetic that the game borrows from. It's a dystopian sci-fi western that borrows from the greats of the genre - and it's an aesthetic that really works. The environment is vibrant and packed with details that give the world character. So even if the cast of characters is a bit cliché, it's balanced out by strong world-building.

Miasma Chronicles seems like a promising RPG game that can surprise the experienced gamer, but also grab newcomers to the genre.

The game will be released on May 23 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.

Miasma Chronicles

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Miasma Chronicles

REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

The Bearded Ladies are back with another tactical-RPG that takes players to an unforgiving post-apocalyptic America.



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