I have somewhat mixed feelings about Miasmata. On one hand it is very atmospheric and the triangulation needed to determine your position and map the island is a unique gameplay mechanic and it is quite fun to do, at first. On the other hand the game is rather amateurish with plenty of spelling and grammatical errors and not so good optimization meaning that the game sometimes runs very slowly even on a fairly good computer and, more importantly, there just isn’t enough variation to the gameplay to support a full length game.
What you do in the game is mainly to map the island that you’re stranded on, to look for plants to be used for making medicine that cures fever, which you suffer from every now and again, as well as a cure for the plague and to ocassionally run away from the beast. The beast I thought didn’t add very much to the game. It shows up every now and again and then you have to run. Looking for plants is really just part of exploring the island. So that is what the game is about, exploration. Central to the exploration is the concept of triangulation, which means that if you see two known landmarks you can determine your current position because you must be where lines drawn from the two landmarks (in the direction your compass tells you the landmark is in) cross. This process is fun at first, and it can be an interesting challenge to find a good place to triangulate your position from, but it isn’t enough to keep the game interesting for its entire length. I also found the triangulation to sometimes involve quite a bit of pixel hunting, a pair of binoculars would have been nice. There is a bit more to the game of course, in particular you can make medicines that improve your abilities to run fast, swim for a long time and sense the presense of the beast. But these things mainly make you die less and doesn’t affect the way the game is played. To sum up, gameplay is mainly about exploration and mapping through triangulation and this is not sufficient to keep the game fun for it’s entire length.
The best thing about the game is the atmosphere, which is supported by the beautiful graphics, and appropriate sound effects. Getting lost at night, and trying to figure out your position with the only light coming from your lighter can be quite an experience. Or perhaps you are more of a morning person and will enjoy climbing a hill at dawn, to look for some landmark or building to head towards.
Had the game only had a bit more varied gameplay, perhaps involving some more survival related tasks such as hunting and making a fire to cook or looking for edible plants and mushrooms it could have been a great game. As it is, it is a good game with some great moments, which frankly is impressive enough for a two man production.
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Time Played: 10-20 hours
Difficulty: Just Right