Thursday, May 15, 2014

Feeling Lost in 'Miasmata'

Image from PopMatters
This week my PopMatters piece is about wandering around the wilderness in Miasmata.

Jorge and I took an initial foray into the game, but we didn’t get very far. In fact an early wrong turn meant I didn’t really even discover how to properly use the map system until I spent some more time stumbling around on my own. Luckily I happened upon a hut with some written instructions detailing the game’s cartography system. Even so, I’m still finding myself in uncharted territory more often than not.

Miasmata made me realize that, in most games, I don’t pay attention to where I’m going. It’s hard to get lost in modern shooters and any game with a significant exploratory component gives you a mini map replete with waypoints and quest markers. The end result is a feeling of implicit safety: you know where you are and where you’re going at any given time. Miasmata removes this safe feeling and makes even simple journeys into the forest a potential disaster.

I touched on this briefly in the column, but I suspect Miasmata would appeal to the type of person that liked the emergent disasters of Far Cry 2. While not as bombastic, Miasmata's navigational system constantly puts you in unexpected situations. This is coupled with a movement system that put s heavy emphasis on momentum, meaning that walking down hill leads to awkwardly running downhill which can then lead to careening down a ditch and into the jungle. Haste is often my biggest obstacle, as rushing around (as I do in most other games) tends to leave me in a bad position.

I definitely don’t have the time or the patience to put up with this in every game I play, but Miasmata is a bit like camping: it’s nice to disconnect from modern amenities and a great reminder of how convenient those amenities can be.

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