Breath of fresh air
Miasmata is an open world, exploration focused game set on the rich island of Eden. Miasmata takes the trivialities of other games such as navigating, mapping and movement into something full featured, fleshed out, challenging and compelling. IonFX abandons so many of the archetypal gameplay mechanics while successfully implementing an array of perfectly fitting and imaginative new ones.
At it's root, Miasmata is a game of navigation. From the start, the entire island is accessible to you and it is entirely left to your discretion to decide where to go and when. The environment is a puzzle, and although you may find yourself stumbling through your first moments with the game, the movement really shines once you grasp the mechanics. On top of this, is the cartography mechanic, in which you triangulate distinct landmarks to find your position or the position of an unknown landmark. It works well, encourages exploration and constant thinking. If you want to be successful, you will have to learn to be mindful of your position at nearly all times. Traversal of the island becomes second nature, as you learn the geography of the island, you can intuitively go off the beaten path, find shortcuts and pockets of ingredients for medicine. Medicine is probably the simplest of all mechanics, but to the benefit of the game. Searching for flowers and fungi is always a challenge, and the synthesis of medicine really only serves as a reward for reaching the safety of a cabin or research lab around the island.
You start the game knowing very little, aside from your name and your goal. As you wander towards the first huts and camps you learn that the researchers on the island where trying to discover the cure for the same plague you suffer from. Through exploration you can discover more documents which give backstory, and more importantly, insight into the various flora which can aid you in discovering the cure to the plague. I never found the story to be very interesting, but the few allusions to the creature did make me frightened. Perhaps most interesting, is how successful Miasmata is at creating a personal narrative. When I started the game, I was frightened and naive, and by the end I was confident and knowledgeable in my actions. By creating a situation which the player has most likely never experienced, finishing Miasmata feels like a substantial achievement. The island itself is diverse and beautifully detailed. You will traverse mountains, mesas, seasonal forests, evergreen forests, rain forests, swamps, and tropical beaches to name a few of the environments you will find yourself in. The game uses dynamic volumetric clouds and lightshafts, and on the highest settings, look incredible. Often, the textures and models of the interiors don't reach the same level quality of the outside environment; so the graphics can be considered a mixed bag. Roaches, flies, rabbits, mice, squirrels and birds roam all over the island and are all rendered in 3D and interact with the grass, trees and land believably. Most of the time, the sound of the island's flora and fauna is the game's soundtrack.
On top of all of this is two factors which can drastically alter your immediate goals, the day/night cycle and the creature and the attention to detail in both is staggering. Miasmata looks beautiful, light shafts dynamically react to the position of the sun and create intricate patterns of shadows and light, as the sun sets, the majesty of the environment is in stark contrast to the immediate danger you may soon find yourself in. At night, any misstep could spell death or injury, the pitch-black nights hide more than just dangerous falls. A creature stalks you throughout the course of the game, it's frightening and illusive, but above all, it is believable. The movement and AI of the creature is truly incredible, it reacts to you and the environment with a level of grace and detail that I haven't seen in any game. The creature behaves like a real animal. If it spots you, it will circle you, make a few playful swings at you and react with fear and aggression towards any sudden movements. Confrontation is usually only a last resort, and you are always better off running away or hiding.
In short, Miasmata is a breath of fresh air. I think a lot of people, including myself were sceptical but vaguely interested, and to those I can assure you Miasmata is deserving of your time and money. IonFX manages to overcoming one of gaming's biggest hurdles; creating a world, story and mechanics that all contribute and culminate to one singular vision, and that vision is one of the best games ever made.