A Few Hours In - Miasmata in altogether too many words

Felt like writing some more about some'n that hasn't had much exposure. Might follow up with more thoughts upon completion.

Miasmata is certainly an interesting premise; a first-person game heavily focused on exploration, the protagonist (that's you, buddeh) finds himself stranded on a seemingly deserted and verdant island, desperately staving off an unspecified plague. The objectives are starkly laid out right from the beginning: find a cure, find a boat, escape. Certainly there's some intrigue to be unravelled in between, but honestly it's not immediately compelling; of course it remains to be seen if that'll change, it's certainly not in a hurry, and it certainly doesn't do itself a disservice to be so.

Context aside, it's interesting in that, so far, it revolves quite heavily around survival, exploration and crafting; so what better and more fascinating way to describe them but going through them in order! What fun we're having!

So, exploration. This is certainly a large and disorienting island; equipped with a map, compass, and occasional notes scattered about the island, one of Miasmata's core mechanics is mapping the island. Since the map doesn't track your location in real-time, it's largely up to the player to keep themselves from losing their bearings. Instead, the concept of triangulating your position is introduced early on. Basically, the player can use landmarks (structures and statues, mainly) to calculate their location, and thus reveal more of the map. The purpose this serves is to...well, reveal more landmarks.
See, the way that this works is that y'can only triangulate your position from 'known' landmarks, and landmarks become known through either finding notes left by the island's previous inhabitants, or triangulating your position while having two 'known' landmarks in sight and an 'unknown' landmark nearby. This sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is, but so far I'm finding it interesting; it's something of a 'firm, but fair' mechanic that certainly shows Miasmata's dedication to it's premise of being an exploration/survival game. Sometimes you'll find yourself in a position in which you *know* where certain landmarks are, but can't triangulate your position because there's a dense canopy blocking your vision, but I never found that *too* annoying. That being said, the ability to leave a breadcrumb trail or make your own annotations to the map might have been appreciated, certainly it could have added a certain extra layer of interaction to the exploration; but I certainly wouldn't say the game's poorer for it.

That was something of a wall of text, but perhaps unfortunately there's a little less to say concerning the survival and crafting, at least so far. The only things you really have to keep a tab on are hydration and fever. Hydration is depleted by - surprise surprise - not drinking fresh water, and fever is induced by taking nasty falls. The latter will happen a surprising amount, more on that later, but both will cause death when left unchecked. Fresh water is fairly easy to find in puddles and ponds scattered about the island and you automatically fill up your canteen with enough to sustain you for a while, so unless you're in need, it's not much difficulty to keep yourself hydrated. What might have been interesting would have been a more subtle visual indicator of thirst, so to speak, rather than a simple 'YOU ARE THIRSTY' popup.
Now as for the fever...Well, the movement system in Miasmata is certainly a deviation from the norm. See, the player moves about in the typical WASD-and-mouselook fashion, but there's also something of a momentum system at play. Basically, touching 'W' at the top of a slope will 'push' the player over the edge, and the protagonist will continue of his own accord, gradually speeding up unless the slope levels out. Start walking down a slope and your walk will very quickly develop into a run, which, while realistic, can feel a little clumsy at times; seriously, there's only a hair's breadth between runnin' and tumblin', and if you're stuck too far from a crafting station or ingredients for fever cure, you're basically fudged. I have to say I quite liked it as a mechanic, but it certainly takes some getting used to.
Much as survival has been done more expansively and in more refined fashions in other games, Miasmata could feel a little lacking in comparison, with no need to eat or hunt for food (though you do need to sleep periodically, and boy does it get dark at night); but I think it manages to pull off what it tries to do fairly well.

As for the crafting; your main objective will be finding various plant specimens in an attempt to synthesise a cure, and secondarily to provide yourself with various buffs that aid mapping and survival in a pinch, as well as fever cures for the aforementioned tumbles. The specimens themselves are fairly distinct against the environments, so there won't be any frustrating pixel-hunts here; however, collectible specimens are actually fewer and further between than I was expecting, so you'll be taking quite a few long journeys out from camp in search of them. Of course you'll be walking the same distance back to your crafting station (or laboratory) to identify the specimens and synthesise new concoctions. Even though there's a 6-slot storage bin that can be used to store specimens, these 6 slots bizarrely teleport themselves across the island to any further storage bins you may come across, rather than having unique storage options for each bin. Coupled with the fact that y'can only carry three specimens at any one time (in your hands, strangely, rather than your pockets or in your journal as with the concoctions themselves), choosing between your undoubtably hard-found plants when you have yet to research any of them can feel like a crapshoot at the best of times. Then again, repeated treks into the wilderness is what this game is all about; but some mind find not being able to mark specimens on the map a little galling, though.

And here is what makes this a first impressions-type writeup. One of the main features in this game is that there's a carnivorous 'creature' hunting you. Rather embarrassingly, I've not actually reached that point in the game yet, so I can't comment. Another thing trying to kill you in a game about survival is hardly unwelcome, though.

Now let's take a look at the visuals and the sounds. First things first, this is a game developed by two people - brothers Joe and Bob Johnson. As such, the low budget and small development team can show a little; while the environments are lush and verdant - with some particularly impressive HDR lighting - some of the smaller details look a little ropey, and there are certainly a few visual bugs here and there, as well as a touch of the clone brush, to quote Zero Punctuation. But know what? For all it's visual flaws, a game developed by two people, in full 3D and with it's own engine (the purpose-built MILO engine)? That's pretty damned impressive. That being said, one thing I found strange is the position of the protagonists arms in the HUD; put simply, it can feel at times that your arms are where your ears should be. Just sayin', felt a little strange.
Sound design is overall immersive, as large outdoor environments go; though the protagonist's various grunts and heavy breathing while running can be a little grating at times, especially on headphones, with no option to adjust them. Remains to be seen how the creature sounds.

So far, Miasmata is certainly an interesting experience, though not without its flaws, I'll admit I picked it up in a GoG.com sale, but it's certainly worth a look for a game that doesn't shoot it's load too soon.

Interested so far? You can find it on Steam, or DRM-free on GoG.com

http://www.gog.com/gamecard/miasmata

http://ionfx.com/product_pc_Miasmata.php

I talk too much, nonetheless, I'll probably follow this up eventually.

Ciao.

Thanks for writing about it! I have been interested in Miasmata for some time, but somewhat doubtful whether I'm gonna enjoy it or not.

Looking forward to your encounters with the creatures, since that's gonna be either the breaking or selling point of tbhe game.

Karoshi:
Thanks for writing about it! I have been interested in Miasmata for some time, but somewhat doubtful whether I'm gonna enjoy it or not.

Looking forward to your encounters with the creatures, since that's gonna be either the breaking or selling point of tbhe game.

*creature

Far as I'm aware there's only the one. Truthfully I've not heard much about it; closest analogy I can think of is Slender, i.e. the creature spawns in randomly (I assume), you have to prevent yerself from getting caught/killed. I assume it ends up being more important than I'm making it sound, but far as I know it just seems like another thing between you and the boat outta there. It's a shame they reveal the creature in the promotional material fairly openly, though. Mainly because, well, how to put this. I've seen it described as a 'Demon Kitty', and I'm not inclined to disagree. I reckon if the game was really going to revolve around the creature it would have made that clear by now (2-3 hours in), but that's just an assumption.

 

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