by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Forage For Your Life (cntd)
Maybe this is part of the reason why you can only carry three plants at one time, which seems an odd design decision. Eventually you will increase your attributes of Strength, Endurance and Perception, the latter being helpful when faced with the islandĺs monster. Having higher perception will give you a greater indication of whether you are hidden from the creature, although even without upgrading the attribute I found avoiding it fairly simple. I tested the AI by standing out in the open, and it seemed fairly erratic. It seemed to ignore me for a few seconds, then become very interested in me by knocking me over, and then it wandered off for a while before returning to finish the job. I feel that a more vicious, ruthless monster would give the sense of fear that the developers are going for. Saying that, the first time you encounter the thing is fairly terrifying as your heartbeat rises in your ears and you catch glimpses of the strange cross between predatory cat and horned beast through the flora. At times though I wondered whether your character is actually the monster, as your arms are always visible, and from your first person perspective seem to be coming out the side of your head.
Graphically, Miasmata is impressive considering it was made from the ground up by two people, but it is a mixed bag when it comes to quality. The water effects look superb, and sometimes the lighting effects match it, but at other times the light beams just look like lasers shining through the trees. Some of the foliage textures look great, but other textures like the wood in cabins and the blood on the ground look tacky. The game also suffers from severe frame rate issues even on lower graphical settings which really dampens the experience. Hopefully this is something that can be fixed with a patch soon. The sound design is decent, with some good ambient forest noise, and the occasional orchestral piece, as well as the aforementioned heartbeat and breathing. The best sound effect of them all though is a fantastic buzz in your ear when a fly zooms past, which made me flinch every single time.
Inconsistencies in the gameplay and design decisions continue throughout the game. There is a great sense of momentum when you slide down a hill and break out into a run, but sometimes you will get stuck on a branch, or fall down a slope that you did not think was very steep. It is nice to have simple controls, but when left click does just about everything you run into complications. When you are carrying more than one plant, you cannot simply select which one to put down, you have to cycle through them all by clicking. Robert will put one plant down, then swap it with another, then put a different one down, pick everything up without putting another one down, and so on. It is hard to know exactly what will happen, so you just keep clicking until you finally get the desired result. Having separate buttons to lay things down and pick things up, or even a basic inventory system would have solved this.
A Little Short of Greatness
It was certainly ambitious for Joe and Bob Johnson to take this project on alone, and there are ups and downs to show for it. The core gameplay ideas are sound, but the overall game lacks the execution to make it really enjoyable. Miasmata is at its best when you are exploring the island, searching for plants to find the cure, and enjoying the atmosphere. It is at its worst when you are attempting to overcome one of the numerous small frustrations just to perform a simple task. With a bit more work, it could have been so much more.
A great premise and some interesting gameplay mechanics. Scary looking monster is frightening the first few times you encounter it.
Multiple performance issues. Erratic AI and strange design decisions.