Miasmata: Completed!

Miasmata was an early Christmas present from a friend.. a first-person survival horror created by two-man team IonFx.  Not only did they create the entire game themselves, they also wrote the MILO engine that powers the game!

Miasma - Statue

You play as a plague-ridden scientist called Robert Hughes, a traitor who has been exiled to an island called Eden.

Stumbling inland, I found a shed and a bloodstained note.. the scientists working on the island had discovered a cure for the plague!  However.. the first scientist was laying on the path just outside..

Miasmata - Murdered Scientist

I took the knife, but all seemed quiet as I carried on down the path..

The next building I found on the path turned out to be an abandoned lab.  Thanks to the plague, our scientist is suffering from a recurring fever and weakness too.. but rather than send you on a chase for med packs or pills, Miasmata has you collect plants, research their properties, and synthesise your own medicines 🙂

Miasmata - Laboratory Equipment

Medicines are stored in the front cover of the journal, which also contains the player’s status, notes and research completed.  Your canteen is also accessible from the journal; water is as necessary for your health as the medicine.  Unfortunately, you can only store one of each medicine type.. though that does mean you have to keep an eye out for shelter while exploring..

Mapping also turned out to be very different.. it’s accessed in real-time, like the journal, but aside from a few points, the contents of the map relied on my own exploration and observations.  I loved it!

To know where I was on the map, I had to triangulate my position by plotting lines from known buildings and statues, and new landmarks had to be observed from two known locations before they were fully added to the map.  When setting off for a new location, I had to use the compass and keep an eye out for landmarks.. and wildly running around or trying to travel by night would just mean getting lost, then dying from dehydration or the uncontrolled fever!

Miasmata - Landmark

I couldn’t help but draw comparisons with Dear Esther.. a beautiful but abandoned landscape, the mystery surrounding the plague and scientists, and the slowly uncovered story.. but where the island in Dear Esther was completely deserted, Eden had a certain threat lurking in the wilderness: the creature.

The game world is beautiful.. but there were a couple of issues with textures popping up only as you reached them, and the modelling: slightly lumpy hands, the water that poured from jugs in strange looking blobs.. and the creature, who I have to say, looks less than scary when you get a good look at him in the open.. he’s just a large cat with horns!

If I’d only seen glimpses of him, my imagination would have made him so much scarier.. growling and creeping towards me, accompanied by the rapid heartbeat sounds..

Miasmata - Creature

Thanks to his AI, though, I hated and feared the creature.  I hated him when he blocked my path.. fighting was a no-go as my strikes with thrown branches or rocks were ineffective, but two hits from him was enough to kill me.  I hated running away, as the weak and sickly scientist was very likely to trip and fall on the terrain, sliding along as if on ice, dropping any gathered plants and ending up dazed and injured.  I feared the appearance of the creature when I’d managed to collect a rare plant, or when I was in new territory, as I didn’t want to lose my progress.  I ended up shouting at my monitor a lot 😉

As well as medicines, the plants can be used to make some other potions including a mental stimulant, to increase my perception and allowed me to track the proximity and direction of the creature.  This meant crouching in bushes and throwing rocks to distract the creature, and not feeling quite so vulnerable.  Improvements to strength and stamina made running slightly less hazardous too!

The exploration and discovery of new locations was great fun, especially when there were extra notes, maps and newspaper clippings to further the story.. but I was still frustrated by the creature, who appeared over and over again in some key locations.  After a few aborted attempts, I decided to dash and grab the plants I wanted, then make a weaving run through trees and bushes.. and if the creature caught me then fine, I’d just reload and try again.

Eventually I found all the key plants I needed to cure myself, and then with the very last parts of the game, got a few answers about the story and what happened to the scientists.. which I’ll not mention because this game really deserves to be played properly 🙂

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