Licensed video games are funny things. Sometimes a licence elevates a game, making it more than it would have been otherwise. I adore Respawn’s Jedi games, for instance, but I doubt I’d feel the same way if they weren’t set in a beloved galaxy far, far away. On other occasions, it can be overly restrictive, holding developers back as they try to work within and around the constraints of an existing setting. I rather enjoyed what I played of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, Bearded Ladies’ stealthy tactics ’em up based on a venerable TTRPG, so I was more than happy to take a look at the sort of follow-up Miasma Chronicles and see what it could do with a new world. Sadly it seems that the Mutant Year Zero licence was doing a lot of heavy lifting, as Miasma Chronicles doesn’t have a fraction of that game’s charm, while featuring some very questionable characters.
The basic elements remain the same and they do provide a reasonably solid foundation. Like its predecessor, Miasma Chronicles is a turn-based tactics game at heart, with a lot of conventions borrowed from XCOM. The twist that Mutant Year Zero put on the formula is that this core is plopped into a real-time framework that sees your team ambling about the game’s levels and getting into a prime position before fights start. Miasma Chronicles expands on this by letting you stealthily execute as many enemies as you can, instead of a single kill kicking things off. It’s a great idea in theory, but I’m not sure how I feel about it. The stealth bits are well executed with vital information clearly marked, like enemy sight ranges and whether or not a comrade is close enough to notice them being killed, even with a silenced weapon. I adore this kind of stealth-as-puzzle solving, and taking out three quarters of a squad before they even know you’re there is rather satisfying.
What puts me off is that maximising your stealth kills before each battle isn’t a choice, but a necessity. Without heavily reducing the number of foes and setting your team up for an advantageous alpha strike, you will quickly be overwhelmed, even on the standard difficulty. Make a mistake half way through a plan and you may be able to squeak through a victory, at significant cost to your limited resources, otherwise you may as well reload your save and try again. This isn’t as frustrating as it could have been, thanks to some generous autosaving, but I’d much rather feel free to make mistakes and enjoy the ensuing chaos. As it stands, it can make the whole process a tedious chore.