Electron Dance
4Mar/14Off

Counterweight 11: Miasmata

cw-miasmata
In this episode of Counterweight, Eric Brasure and Joel "HM" Goodwin fall in love with island survival game Miasmata (IonFX, 2012).

Contents

01:00 "I think this is probably one of the better games that I've played in the last couple of years."

03:10 "The game gives you just enough information to get in a lot of trouble."

04:10 "The strength of the game is that you feel lost in the beginning but the atmosphere powers you through..."

10:50 "I felt like I had done something really great."

23:30 "Nobody had a bag on the island? Like nobody? At all? Like, nobody thought to bring one? Or make one?"

26:30 "...and I literally rolled backwards away from my desk."

31:50 "The game was made by two people so it's amazing that the game is as complicated as it is."

37:10 "And I was really upset, I'll be honest."

42:50 "Some of the environmental narrative aspects are really quite... they're a bit crude."

44:00 "The game is so good at creating this atmosphere of loneliness..."

46:50 "But it is one of the most striking things I found on the island."

50:20 "It's really a meditative game in a way."

Download the podcast MP3 or play it right here in your browser:

References

No companion notes this week as I've already written about the game previously in The Beast and The Island.

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  1. After a long hiatus from Miasmata, I finally finished it on Monday and have finally been able to listen to this here podcast. The truth is, the game made me so anxious and tense that I couldn’t sustain my fortitude during the day never mind the winter when night time set in before I even got home from work.

    Anyway, a great chat and I think you covered everything apart from the natural soundtrack of the island, something which I found as unnerving as I did soothing, depending on my position, the time of day and weather.

    I’ll just comment on things as they come to me. SPOILERS ETC.

    The music at the outposts was delicate and yeah, almost ambient. I always took some pleasure in hearing it after long stretches of exploration.

    I too, Eric, spent most of my time hiding from the beast. In fact, the video that Joel sent me showed more of the beast than I personally saw in the entire game. I concocted the perception-enhancing drug early on in the game (by chance) which I welcomed because I only witnessed the heart beating once and it really shook me up. Honestly, Miasmata was one part soothing and meditative to two parts sheer edge-of-seat terror for me.

    Early on, shortly after tumbling down a cliff, the beast appeared some way behind me and I did the usual thing of moving away crouched, blocking line of sight. Once I’d escaped it, I cut across the other side of a river to hopefully get a better look of it in relative safety. It was at this point that my perception told me it was BEHIND me, despite it being physically impossible for the thing to get ahead of me, which felt a bit cheap. But then it started to become apparent that the beast may be a hallucination so that quirk started to make some sense.

    I actually didn’t mind the story, although my being particularly slow, I didn’t twig on to the whole Herbert/Robert thing until after the game had ended (I didn’t catch the name on the journal cover as it moved quite fast). I will say however, that early on I envisaged one of the vital ingredients being in the beast’s lair and the thought of that being a reality really soiled my loins. Worse, having to retrieve it at night when the creature was out hunting! It was bad enough getting the bio-luminescent algae!

    One of my favourite things about the game is the shifting sky and how the colour palette of the island changes so dramatically depending on the clouds, weather and position of the sun. I was always much happier to explore when the sun was out and visibility was good. When it started to rain and get bleak, with rainfall putting a veil over my vision and drowning out any other noises I found it quite claustrophobic. Other times, I’d find the silence deafening and fear-inducing. Nothing but creaking trees and the rustle of wind. Brrr. God, I really am getting worse. Routine? Soma? Amnesia? No. Way.

    And that’s another thing, Miasmata can scare you in broad daylight, in the open. I can’t think of any other games that manage that.

    Funny story: I think I fell over more times legging it to the boat than I did prior to curing myself.
    Also: I didn’t encounter the beast for over a week before developing the cure. I’m guessing it was a bug but it took several days before any sort of complacency set in, such was my fear that it would catch me out.

    I think I saw that dog statue as a silhouette when the sun was going down before my first (and only) night out lost. That was horrible and I vowed it would never happen again!

    Did you notice Paradise Lost on the table near the hammock?

    Here’s a gallery featuring most of the screenshots I took while playing:

    http://imgur.com/a/mchNK/#0

    Anyway, I’m really glad Steerpike covered Miasmata and you later sung its praises Joel because it’s one of the most deeply memorable experiences I’ve had with a game in years, perhaps since STALKER.

  2. Congratulations on finally escaping the island, Gregg.

    I’m glad you had just a strong response to the game. I feel like Miasmata is important to me. That sense of place, the normality of it, really. It’s like a game of two halves.

    The exploration component, wandering the island, piecing the map together – working with the environment and not walking through the night. Then there’s the gamey half, where you cure the plague and flee from the beast. It all fits together beautifully and I can only wonder at the complex mechanics thrown out in the prototypes. You’re right, the palette changes are so effective. I never liked the island when it was raining and always pined for the noon day sun.

    Did notice the Paradise Lost.

    Again, my all time favourite beast encounter video – “Good cat. Fuck you cat!”.

    Also Brendan Caldwell who writes for RPS every seven moons and usually writes something that’s twenty times the size of the average article has started a Miasmata Let’s Play series. I don’t know how far he will go with it, but here’s the first (and, right now, only) part. “Oh, it’s Lenin! Why did Lenin get here?”

    And I don’t know if this will end up being a spiritual successor to Miasmata… The Forest. Check out the video also.

  3. I didn’t realise you’d responded, must have forgotten to toggle notifications.

    Anyway, yes, that video is hilarious. I think I saw more of the creature in videos than I did in the game myself — such was the wide berth I gave it! I thought this was a pretty funny video too but nothing can beat ‘Good cat. Fuck you cat!’ and ‘We always say in Russia: “I am not a coward but I am afraid’

    I saw The Forest a while ago before all the ‘reveals’ and it did remind me of Miasmata but something tells me it will be quite… I dunno, ‘on the nose’ and heavy handed by comparison. Like, it won’t have that quietness or modesty about it. Majesty even. I have no idea obviously, but that’s my general feeling from what I’ve seen. One to watch though, for sure. If only to realise I’ll never have the balls to actually play it!

  4. Gregg, I don’t think I’ve watched that video all the way through before – it is pretty funny. But, yeah, I love my fatalistic Russian a little more.

    I’m not sure about The Forest, either. It looks more… gamey, right? The idea of going into a fucking dark cave, though, Gregg. NOT GONNA HAPPEN. That’s just like that crazy idea of a beast’s lair in Miasmata.


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