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Review: Miasmata

Steam PC indie Greenlight

Developer: IonFX
Publisher: IonFX Studios
Platform: PC (GOG, Steam)
Release Date: November 28, 2012
ESRB: N/A (Teen suggested)



In this era of gaming we are seeing many people create titles without ever requiring massive studios. While many of the most popular games still do come from hundred-person development teams, indie titles are taking more of the spotlight. The game Miasmata is one such game which was made by only two individuals. These brothers set out to make a free-roaming adventure/survival game which fulfilled their dreams and it seems to be just that.

The question is, how much will their very specific dream appeal to anyone else? It manages to work quite well for a larger audience, although still has very niche components. In Miasmata, you arrive at the shore of an island. Your character is a scientist who has been stricken with a deadly disease. This island has the cure to your sickness but you have to survive long enough to find it.

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How are you supposed to find a miracle cure on an island? At the start of the game you are quickly introduced to the fact that scientists had been here before trying to gather local flora to search for cures. This is the whole reason why your character has gone to seek them out. Unfortunately, none are living still to tell you what they learned, but their notes are still around. The clues left by others are most of what you have to go off to begin with, but exploration and studying plants yourself yields many more discoveries.

Obviously, the scientists did not leave perfectly explicit instructions. Instead, their remaining documentation serves as hints to keep you going. Not only do they have notes as to cures, but to the island itself as well. Oftentimes, you will discover abandoned shacks with map pieces in them. Whatever is found is what needs to be made use of, as no one is going to be coming to your aid if you get lost in the middle of a swamp or dehydrated.

Exploration is handled in a very different way from most games. Instead of having a map from the start, or having one procedurally generated, you must instead create it. This is taken care of via a cartography function in the game. You must mark out known landmarks (visible on map pieces or pictures you’ve found), unknown landmarks, and then triangulate them to reveal that section on the personal map. This isn’t a requirement, but is incredibly helpful as the island is fairly large. The cartography is fairly complex at first if you have no concept of it, but once you learn how to make use of it this becomes a really neat part of Miasmata.

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Earlier, this game was defined as part “survival”. Along with searching for a cure, you must also keep track of your character’s general well-being. They must sleep, drink water, and generally do everything they can to stave off the disease fever. There are many places around to help you with beds, fruits, and the like but if you get lost you may not stumble into the safety of one soon enough. This is where keeping your map updated comes in handy, although it is possible to learn the landscape with enough dedication. The player carries their personally concocted healing goods and weapons but other than that it’s hard to live long while being completely lost.

Although the game is an entirely interesting experience with just the exploration and survival, there was a decision made at some point to include a monster on the island. All the time that you are looking around the world you may be spotted and attacked by this being. He seems to appear randomly, although may be able to better target players who have succomed to a ever. Most often, being spotted is a death sentence. It is possible to hide until he leaves, but other times you’ll be down with just a few swipes.

The inclusion of this being doesn't feel necessary, but it does add more to the experience. It makes you more cautious about exploring at night, or how far you wish to go into the heavily-wooded forest. Other times, it can become a pain if you haven’t saved for a long time and then whirl around to find him inches from your face. Having an option to turn off the monster would have been great for exploration lovers but currently such an option doesn’t exist.

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Visually, there is a lot to be said about this indie title. With everything cranked on maximum settings, it looks great. The water is definitely on the better side of things, as are the environments. The world has a nice design and things rarely look out of place for it. This is astonishing considering the engine was built from the ground up by the brothers. However, this does lead into the fact that it causes issues for some players.

While Miasmata definitely brings great game concepts to the table it also shows its humble roots. One main issue is that certain features of the game cause it to lag out massively for a fair bit of players. Water tech in particularly can slow certain machines to a crawl, so if it happens to you, try lowering it down. More amusing, there are issues revolving around resolution. Switching resolution while in game tends to be a death sentence as the re-sized screen will freak out and be stuck spinning until the entire thing is restarted. There are other, smaller bugs to be hammered out but these are really unacceptable for those having said issues.

As it stands, Miasmata is an incredible game for a survival and exploration enthusiast if they can run it at an acceptable speed. IonFX have stated they are trying to fix these big issues and will release a patch soon. The game has so many fantastic features that just wouldn’t be expected to come from the big names. A lot of heart went into this game but so too did interesting mechanics. Either buy this game now and hope it runs, or try it out once a patch has been released. Miasmata offers an engaging experience that deserves more attention than it’s getting.

 

Pros:

+ Lush, huge island to explore
+ Cartography functions are quite interesting
+ Visuals are great considering the small development team

Cons:

- Bugs that make the game unplayable for some
- Monster can cause more annoyance than fear


 

Overall score: 8 (out of 10)
Great


Miasmata is an excitingly innovative game marred only by its own ambition.




1 Comments

Miasmata is probably the game I had the highest hopes for when I voted yes for it on Greenlight. :)

Really glad it did well. Technical issues aside, I'm really looking forward to hopefully I can get it for Christmas.

 

 

 

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