Miasma Chronicles looks to be a promising upcoming Tactical RPG
I should play more Tactical RPGs; this was my prevailing thought upon finishing up my time with the upcoming Miasma Chronicles during a 505 Games hands-on event last week in downtown LA. While I've certainly had my fair share of TRPGs that I've played, it's definitely a sub-genre that I could stand to better familiarize myself with, as The Bearded Ladies' most recent development has so thoroughly reminded me with its blend of stealth action, Tactical Grid combat, and RPG skill and level progression.
Miasma Chronicles takes place in a post-apocalyptic Kentucky, in an America ravaged by the titular Miasma - poisoning the landscape and warping the world beyond recognition. Players take control of Elvis - a child whose mother left him at an early age, only gifting him a mechanical older brother and a mysterious glove in which to find a means of crossing the Miasma to find her. For obvious reasons, I can't comment on how well the story of the game holds up - I only had around 50 minutes to play with the game, its world, and its mechanics - but it's definitely a promising enough setup for an adventure, and the Kentucky Bayou is similarly an interesting landscape for the games' world.
Aesthetically, despite being what I can assume is a smaller budget release, even in this pre-Alpha state Miasma Chronicles is a very good-looking game. It's a current-gen exclusive, coming to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC on Steam and EGS. The few areas that I had a chance to explore had plenty of detail, including both the main hub and the handful of smaller zones where combat encounters could be found. Of special note here, is that unlike the most immediate comparison - that being XCOM - not all of Miasma Chronicles' combat encounters are static. Many of them allow the player to sneak up on enemies, to find a suitable position before they start to fight.
What little I saw of this gameplay quirk in action was already very promising, but what especially stood out to me was the implications for how that might correspond with the party's various skills; while Elvis gains access to a number of Miasma skills that require energy - which is replenished upon killing enemies - every party member has a skill tree you can deposit skill points into upon every level up. These can range from unlocking an overwatch ability, to being able to fire at multiple enemies at once, to giving Diggs - Elvis' mechanical "brother" the ability to double as full cover for the rest of your team.
All-in-all, the gameplay loop of exploring each region to search for resources and to complete sidequests, to sneaking up on enemies and deciding the best angle from which to mount your attack, to the immediately eyebrow-raising utility for Miasma skills (the first which you unlock gifts Elvis the ability to send enemies flying to a specific square, which includes explosive barrels), I have to admit that I'm quite curious how the full game will stack up once it releases sometime next year. I can't deny an interest in wanting to go backwards to play The Bearded Ladies' previous project in Mutant Year Zero, too.
There are a lot of RPGs coming out in the coming months and years, but it's always good to give these smaller releases a chance; I feel like with our audience especially, it can be easy for these smaller Western RPGs to fall by the wayside. At any rate, consider me interested for when Miasma Chronicles sees its release in 2023.