Mutant Year Zero was an incredible title overshadowed by the likes of Gears Tactics and XCOM 2. It introduced a whole new universe of human-animal hybrids, a high fantasy setting in a post-apocalyptic world, and mysteries that are still unanswered even today. Its downloadable content and expansion have further increased the insane amount of intrigue the base game has to offer. Now The Bearded Ladies are back with the Miasma Chronicles – a title featuring a similar setting, familiar gameplay and even more intrigue.

Turn-based strategy titles are a dime a dozen, and so are video games with “light role-playing elements”. What sets Miasma Chronicles apart from its brethren, however, is a plethora of genre-bending features and a solid framework from which an entire franchise can effortlessly spawn. The Bearded Ladies have taken everything learned from past endeavours and applied it expertly to their latest title.

Just like Mutant Year ZeroMiasma Chronicles throws players right into the thick of things, but with a few more relatable scenarios. This time players takes on the role of Elvis, a human (and future “Editor”), and his “big brother”, Diggs; as they walk away from yet another attempt at breaking an impenetrable particle wall of dust and cloud. Right off the bat, Elvis’ fancy glove, which his mysterious “mother” gave to him before she disappeared behind the wall, has broken, and a new power cell is needed to get it going again. This seemingly innocent quest turns into one where the duo eventually learn of the dire consequences of the world, and how their part will have to play out in order for everything to work out.

Miasma Chronicles features a not-so-unique premise, yet carries strong with an absolutely stellar and freakishly beautiful post apocalyptic setting. Humanity still thrives, albeit at the hands of an almost god-like people called the “First Family”, whom the inhabitants offer tributes to at steady intervals. The game is set in America, where most of the world has turned into a wasteland filled with Miasma, a dangerous and all-consuming substance said to live and breathe like the creatures, lands, and even robots it envelopes. As Elvis and Diggs go on their journey to break the wall and find “Mother” on the other side, players discover a land rich in lore and cross paths with unforgettable companions along the way. Without spoiling too much, calling the narrative the best tale The Bearded Ladies have spun might be selling it short of the narrative marvel awaiting gamers. 

With that said, tactical turn-based titles often find most of their enjoyment in the kind of gameplay they offer. Thankfully, Miasma Chronicles has easily raised the bar here as well. As one might imagine, Elvis and Diggs cannot just go and save the day without so much as breaking a sweat. Instead, the duo will have to go up against multiple factions of all shapes and sizes and some of the widest ranges of unique enemy variations in a strategy title to date. From the very first “Grabbers” (horrible bi-pedal frog-like beings) players meet, through to the First Family (Egyptian-themed robotic-like people), and even bandits and thugs called “Thievers”, players will be hard pressed to find any fault in the constant barrage of new enemy types and side content – and side content features aplenty in Miasma Chronicles

While Mutant Year Zero featured quite a few side stories and bonus objectives during the course of its campaign, Miasma Chronicles features an entire journal ripe for filling up with side missions and gameplay experiences. As soon as the first hour rolls around, players find themselves able to explore most of the available zones at their own pace. With side missions and objectives lying in wait around just about every corner, it can become a challenge to stay focused on the main task. However, with the number of scaling enemies lurking in those same corners, finishing up side content may or may not be the difference between success and failure.

Unlike most turn-based tactical titles, Miasma Chronicles allows players to roam freely throughout all explorable zones. There is loot to be had, puzzles to figure out, and even mysterious individuals called “Watchers” to be found. Plastic, which is the main resource in the game, is few and far between, making exploration a pivotal feature. Thankfully, players will also occasionally come across treasures, which are “old world” objects and artifacts rewarding massive amounts of experience — another vital piece of the puzzle. 

Where plastic is used to buy consumables and weapons, players will also focus on attaining experience more than anything else. When levelling up, players can choose how to spend skill points on their heroes, deciding which abilities to grow and specialise for their characters and how the additions might benefit their own gameplay styles the most. Both Elvis and Diggs start out with assault rifles, but going through their skill trees will quickly show players what kind of gear they will be best at utilising. Suffice to say, the way players choose to level them up will be massively different for every player! Unfortunately, however, the skill trees do feel somewhat limited. Once characters have maxed out and specialised in a certain field, players will have played them so long that levelling any other skill feels rudimentary at best. If only these skill trees expanded even further, or allowed for more nuanced levelling.

When players come across groups of enemies, their range of sight will be displayed as blocks on the ground. Like other turn-based titles, these represent both sight, range, and movement. Sneaking and stealth play an important role before combat, as players can then enter a sneak mode, which allows them to maneuver their heroes and get them into ideal positions before the gunk hits the gears. Certain actions, such as throwing glass bottles and using silenced weapons, will not alert all enemies to the player’s actions, allowing them to dispatch some enemies quietly and with ease – as long as they are not spotted in the process. When combat truly starts, however, veterans of the genre will feel right at home. Heroes get two action points per turn, where taking cover and ensuring heroes have ideal aiming conditions all come into play. As usual, flanking enemies and gaining access to the high ground are vital to success .

Unfortunately, Miasma Chronicles is not without its technical issues. The game ultimately runs smoothly on Ultra Settings with most of the hardware on offer, and loads abnormally quickly. A ninth-generation Intel Core i9, and a RTX 4080 graphics card seem to run the game just as well as a six-year-old AMD Ryzen 7 1700 and a GTX 1060. Similarly, streaming the game via Steam Link worked just as effortlessly. The issues that kept cropping up, however, seem to stem from a memory leak that happens once the game runs longer than an hour. Regardless of the hardware used to play the game, or how far down the graphics settings were dialed, the same stuttering and crashing occurs after about an hour of play – every single time. Naturally, this is something the developers can easily patch out, and if The Bearded Ladies’ past is anything to go by, they most certainly will.

Thankfully, the game is so much more than the few technical hiccups in the launch code. The world is absolutely beautiful. From the state of buildings through to the environmental design depicting a semi-futuristic world in ruin, everything is a sight to behold. The only nitpick here is how the colours all seem muted, and to its credit, it kind of needs to be in order to convey the feeling of uneasiness that it does. Alas, it would have been somewhat more palatable if the colour palette was just a few nits brighter than it currently is.

Miasma Chronicles brings a strong contender to the table with its heavy focus on free movement and exploration. While the RPG elements need some expansion, the basis of a good idea is here and will keep most players engaged for hours on end. The Bearded Ladies have crafted an eye-opener of a dystopian post-apocalyptic America where Miasma, mutants, and cyborg overlords run rampant. The world is rich with lore and collectable bits and bobs, teaching players more about the setting they traverse. Most importantly, the stellar gameplay and mechanics on offer provide for a superb experience overall. Free roaming and exploration are a breath of fresh air for the genre, and the tacked on stealth mechanics make the experience all the better. While there are a few technical hiccups, the game is an exceptional title worthy entry and enjoyment.



Free roam is tremendousSome technical hiccups after lengthy play sessions
Stellar environmental designThe world seems a bit too muted in colour
Runs on potato hardware

Title reviewed on Microsoft Windows (via Steam) with code supplied by 505 Games.

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Junior Editor at Vamers. From Superman to Ironman; Bill Rizer to Sam Fisher and everything in-between, Edward loves it all. He is a Bachelor of Arts student and English Major specialising in Language and Literature. He is an avid writer and casual social networker with a flare for all things tech related.