Miasma Chronicles is the third game from Swedish developer The Bearded Ladies, and is some of their best work yet with a winning formula. A miasma is “an oppressive or unpleasant atmosphere which surrounds or emanates from something”, thankfully the game itself is the completely opposite to that of the foreboding miasma that permeates the game’s story. Building upon the strengths of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, what’s here is an evolution and a revolution. Miasma Chronicles has its own flavor of the XCOM-style tactical combat that’s equally visually stunning and brimming with personality for an exciting experience.
Four difficulties let you make the game as hard as easy as you like. New here is the option to choose between two game modes: light or full tactical. Light tactical tends to be more exact with its dice rolls in whether a shot will land with the probability given. The full tactical mode however, is what I call the “full XCOM 2 “, in that a 90% chance to hit something will likely miss. I played on the Normal difficulty with Light Tactical mode, and everything felt rightly balanced this way.
The story begins well after it all started, but the titular miasmas have caused apocalyptic events to occur in the world. You play as Elvis with your robot friend Diggs, you’re in the Kentucky Hills of the United States exploring. Not long after you return to the town of Sedentary, a mining town named after doing a whole lot of nothing but sitting. It’s here where you’ll learn a lot of the early mechanics, gain some quests, and get settled into this being the hub area of the game. Miasma Chronicles has a mixture of real-time exploration with stealth opportunities. You’re free to explore these sectioned off areas to survey for enemies, collect items, and learn about the world. You’ll find treasures that can be sold, find items to aid in combat, and even discover passcodes to unlock high-tier loot areas. The other half of the gameplay is turn-based combat, a decidedly superior side of the gameplay, and showcases what The Bearded Ladies’ can really do.
You know you’ve entered combat when the game does a splash reveal of a grid across the ground. If you’ve managed to remain unseen, you get the advantage in combat with an “ambush”. Your first attack is not only guaranteed to hit, but you’ll do massive damage and likely kill them outright. If you have a silenced weapon, you can make combat non-threatening as you’ll earn double experience and get all of your action points refunded each time. It’s a rewarding experience to play as stealthy as can be, or at least use it as a mechanism to thin the herd before getting into true combat. Ways you can do this is to accrue glass bottles that you can throw to separate and distance enemies for stealth kills outlined before.
The aforementioned grid is a great visual for not only you, but to see what an enemy can see. It even changes on movement, their awareness, and whether you’re walking or sneaking. Another tactic to employ is splitting up the party and positioning them in key areas. The game also utilizes cover, from partial to half to full cover. Some of it can be destroyed, but is your best defense when attacked. Upon the completion of the combat encounter, all characters are revived if they were downed, and you continue on. The game does allow for manual saving (unless you’re on the highest difficulty), and this can be used to save scum if you wish. Miasma Chronicles ‘ combat is typical The Bearded Ladies, which is not to say that it’s but, in fact it’s quite good. Though if you’re familiar with their games, you know what to expect out of it.
Along your journey, you’ll purchase and acquire all different kinds of weapons from sniper rifles to assault rifles and shotguns. You’ll be able to modify them with things that extend their range of effectiveness or make them silent at the cost of damage and range. Perhaps more excitingly, is that Elvis has a glove that can harness the powers of the miasma, and can swap out different types such as one that sweeps enemies up on a miniature tornado and flings them into objects or other enemies. Or later on, when you acquire the electric power, you can chain lightning between them for chained damage. It should come at no surprise that even the powers can have modifications on there. With the electric ability, I added the vamp chip that siphons health from enemies as it damages them. Each use consumes kilowatts, the “mana” for your powers, and can be replenished if you’ve picked up canisters. The mix of traditional weapons with these powers allows you to be creative to ensure victory.
There’s a mix of main and side quests to take on in your journey. Some will be overt, while others have to be discovered. The quests are pretty standard, and are level gated. This means that what quests you choose to go after might be tougher than others, especially if the opposing force is overwhelming.
Unlike in Corruption 2029, the characters are characters this time. Meaning, they’re reminiscent of Mutant Year Zero offering something different to hear as you interact with each one. Even as you recruit new members into your party, some interactions in a given area might require them, like Jade being able to interact and extract information from terminals. Each member of the party earns experience, and you’ll have opportunities to level them up separately, with different character builds based on the needs of your party. It’s not a super flexible or exciting system, but it’s a welcome one.
The currency of the near future is plastic. You’ll collect this, and earn this from what you sell in order to purchase medical items, new weapons, or mods for your powers. The game lets you cut down on wasted time by allowing you to fast travel at any time, so long as you’ve discovered the place you want to fast travel to. It’s a convenience that only benefits the player.
The first thing I noticed when I booted up the game, was the intense sharpness and detail of its textures. There’s an insane amount of particles onscreen at any given moment, and these are its first few moments. The game’s use of bloom and other techniques is truly impressive. I was shocked to realize the game is only using version 4.27 of Unreal Engine 4. I thought for sure this was a UE5 game, and UE4 is doing some incredible work here. The game doesn’t have DLSS, but it does use AMD’s FSR technology. Even without it enabled, I was getting over 100fps – this is a gorgeous and performant game top-to-bottom.
My PC Specs:
– Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
– Intel Core i9 13900K @ 5.8GHz
– ASUS ROG RYUJIN II 360 ARGB AIO Liquid CPU Cooler
– G.SKILL TRIDENT Z5 6000MHZ 64GB (32×2) DDR5 RAM
– ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4080 16GB GDDR6X
– WD_BLACK SN850X M.2 (4 TB)
– LG UltraGear 34GP950B-G (21:9 Ultrawide @ 3440×1440)
If you’ve played The Bearded Ladies’ prior games, you’ll be happy to know that this is next best thing to a Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden sequel we’ve had yet. If you’ve never played the developers games before, this is the greatest version of what’s come before. It contains the DNA of what made Mutant Year Zero and to a lesser extent Corruption 2029, so good at their tactics and expands upon that. It’s here that you’ll find a gorgeous and enthralling mix of real-time exploration and turn-based tactics for thirty-plus hours well spent. Miasma Chronicles is The Bearded Ladies’ their finest game since their 2018 debut, and is a can’t miss.
A Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes