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Miasmata

Although not a terrific game, the indie survival adventure game Miasmata (developed by Bob and Joe Johnson of IonFX) is an interesting title that does deserve to be played by its target audience. It's not a particularly challenging game, but players can back themselves up into seemingly insurmountable holes. Knowing the game's mechanics and rules - and knowing them early - is important to ensuring that you aren't forced to restart from the beginning or give up entirely.

Like with my previous strategy post for Alien Isolation, I am not going to provide specific walkthroughs for the game or any of its specific set piece challenges. In fact, doing so would be even harder than in Alien because Miasmata is a completely open-ended sandbox game. Instead, I will be offering some general-purpose tips that should be relevant for the entire game. This will include some techniques for working around the game's bugs and odd design flaws.

Tip #1: Immediately store objective specimens in the storage tray

This should be a pretty obvious tip. If you find the plants that are used for the 3 parts of the cure, or the three emphasis drugs, you should immediately pick them and return them to the nearest camp to store in the specimen bin. The specimen bins act as a "Magic Box", and all stored specimens are available in any storage bin.

Storing objective plants will reduce the risk of losing the plant. Since these plants are found only in a single specific part of Eden, losing them will require backtracking across the map to re-pick the sample. Being killed by the creature, drowning, or the plague will force you back to a checkpoint and cause the loss of any specimens that you've collected since the last save. Additionally, tripping and falling can cause the character to drop anything in his hands, including critical specimens. You can pick them back up again, but sometimes, you can lose track of them or they can fall into a place that is difficult or impossible to get to.

Miasmata - holding objective plant Miasmata - storage bin
[LEFT] Do not hold onto objective specimens for too long, or you may lose them.
[RIGHT] Instead, return them to the specimen bin at your earliest convenience.

Further, once you have the two plants necessary to craft the objective drug, do it immediately. Created drugs cannot be lost or dropped: the emphasis drugs will be consumed immediately, and their effects are permanent; and the cure drugs will be stored till the end of the game and are automatically consumed once all three are crafted. Crafting these drugs immediately frees up space in your specimen tray for storing the plants necessary to complete your next objective.

Tip #2: Keep stocked up on medicine, water, and tonics

Again, this one should be obvious, but it cannot be understated. You cannot carry more than one of any given tonic at a time, so every time you use a medicine or tonic, you'll want to try to restock it if possible when you visit the next laboratory. In some instances, it might even be adviseable to backtrack to a previous laboratory in order to craft a replacement. This is especially true when navigating new territory for which you do not have a map or known destination.

Miasmata - journal
The journal stores at most one of each type of concocted potion and five drinks of water.

In order to accomplish this, you'll want to keep stock of some of the plants with rarer effects in your specimen storage bin.

I recommend always trying to keep handy a plant that can be used to craft the Clarity Tonic, as it can reveal your location on the map without needing known landmarks to triangulate. If you ever get lost, this plant can be a life-saver. Even if you are dying of illness, this tonic may be as valuable - or more valuable - than a medicine, as it will allow you to find your way to the nearest camp, where you can craft a medicine or rest to recoup your strength. The medicine and extra strength medicine then become the most important backup options.

Basic medicine plants are generally easy to find (and owl statues can point you to them), but the plants that are necessary for the extra-strength medicine are not as common. When you find such plants, be sure to pick one up and store it for later.

Miasmata - holding objective plant Miasmata - storage bin
Owl statues point towards a cache of medicinal plants, but they do not count as landmarks or show up on the map.

Tip #3: Triangulate distant landmarks ahead of time

Now we get onto some of the less obvious tips.

Early in the game, most camps that you come across will include maps that will reveal a region of the map as well as all landmarks in the revealed area. However, after three or four maps, this will stop, and you'll be required to triangulate the position of landmarks yourself. Don't get spoiled early into thinking that the game will provide you with enough of the map for you to always find your way. It won't!

In order to prevent yourself from getting hopelessly lost, always be sure to triangulate the position of distant landmarks ahead of time, as you reach the edge of the known map. Whenever you're at the edge of the known map, be sure to stop, turn around, and triangulate your position based on the landmarks available. Then be sure to turn ahead and mark any unknown landmarks that lie ahead of you. Keep doing this as you uncover new areas, and these distant landmarks will become "known", even though you haven't even come close to them yet. You'll significantly reduce the risk of getting lost later. This process is especially easy along coastlines and inland lakes, since the shores are often populated with landmarks that remain visible as you move along the opposite shore.

Miasmata - triangulating
Landmarks along an opposite shore are very easy to triangulate, since the view of them isn't obstructed as you move.

Tip #4: Don't bother with weapons; carry fire instead

Despite having controls for attacking and throwing, and despite containing weapons (a knife and an axe), you cannot attack the creature or any of the wildlife. There is absolutely no reason [that I am aware of] to carry a weapon in this game! In fact, carrying a weapon can be detrimental: when a weapon is equipped, you can't use your lighter. If your right hand is empty, you'll activate your lighter when night sets in order to provide a small amount of light.

Miasmata - fire
You can always pick up branches off the ground and light them on fire for a makeshift torch.

But there's also no reason to leave your hands empty. At any time, you can pick up branches off the ground and they will be lit on fire to provide a makeshift torch. This will illuminate more of your surroundings than the lighter, and is pretty effective for moving around at night. As far as I can tell, branches are just as effective as actual torches. Since creature attacks are fairly rare, you don't have to worry too much about the light giving away your position.

This leads to the next tip...

Tip #5: Sleep instead of travelling at night

Miasmata - navigating at night
You can't rely on your lighter to illuminate
your compass or map at night...

For most of the game, night was pretty much pitch black without a lighter or torch. And even if I had a source of light, the game almost always went pitch black if I opened up my map, journal, or compass. This may be a bug, since there was one time late in the game in which my lighter worked for the compass and map. But from my experience, this is not reliable.

Thus, I recommend not travelling at night at all unless you know exactly where you are going.

The character needs to sleep anyway or else his health will drop. So you might as well sleep through nights in order to keep your strength up and avoid an inconvenient (and unavoidable) death due to fatigue.

Tip #6: Travel near water to reduce creature encounters

In addition to providing easier line of sight to landmarks, there is another advantage to travelling along coasts. The creature apparently can't swim, so it won't pursue you into water. It also doesn't spawn on water.

This leads to 2 tips:

  1. Stay near the coast or lakes to reduce the chances of the creature spawning.
  2. After taking the Strength Emphasis Drug, retreat onto water to avoid the creature,
Miasmata - creature on water
The creature won't spawn in - or follow you into - water.

The creature can move into shallow water, so in order to escape into water, you'll need to have upgraded your ability to swim by using the Strength Emphasis Drug. I don't think the Energy Stimulant will work for this, since as far as I know, it only increases your running stamina. Once the Strength Emphasis Drug is taken, you can safely retreat into lakes or the ocean to avoid the creature, and can even swim across lakes or most bays in order to get out of the range of the creature entirely.

Prior to taking the Strength Emphasis Drug, trying to swim will likely result in you drowning. Even if you escape back onto land before drowning, you'll likely drop any specimens that you're carrying.

But even though you can't swim early in the game, you can still stick close to the coastlines when exploring. The creature can't spawn over water, so having water on one of your sides will reduce the likelihood of the creature spawning, and makes it easier to find the creature when it does spawn. Just be careful that the creature doesn't back you against the water prior to your character being able to swim. This generally isn't a problem, as it isn't too hard to sneak past the creature once you know where it is. Taking a Mental Stimulant once you know that the creature is near will allow you to locate the creature by entering "sneak mode".

Tip #7: Don't bother with the "anti-hallucination medicine"

Early in the game, it is possible to find a note that provides instructions for creating an "anti-hallucination medicine" by using an orange prairie flower, red-yellow hibiscus, or sunflower variant. This medicine does not actually exist in the game, nor do any of the three flowers mentioned above have any actual in-game effect. You can still pick those flowers (and they count towards the achievement for picking 32 unique specimens), but if you analyze them, the journal will inform you that they have no effect, and attempting to create a potion with them will result in failure.

Miasmata - anti-hallucination memo
A memo provides instructions for creating an "anti-hallucination medicine", but this drug does not exist in the game,
and the referenced flowers have no actual effect.

If you want the achievement, then go ahead and collect these flowers and analyze them. Otherwise, you can ignore them.

Regarding the narrative significance of the "anti-hallucination medicine"...

The non-existence of an actual "anti-hallucination medicine" does not appear to be a mistake or bug. It appears to be a deliberate inclusion designed to provide more insight into the backstory revealed by the various memos collected during the game. Some of these memos make other references to hallucinations, and it appears likely that one of the scientists on the island suffered from hallucinations.

This scientist, Herbert, is an integral component of the game's narrative.

[Show Spoilers] [Hide Spoilers]

There are other documents scattered around the game that hint at hallucinigenic effects of the island's flora. This, combined with the fact that Robert's journal has Herbert's name on the front, implies that Robert is an hallucination-inspired alter-ego of Herbert.

Miasmata - anti-hallucination memo
The name on the front of the journal is Herbert Goughs - the same scientist who went mad and murdered the others.

The memos and dead bodies imply that Herbert killed the other scientists, and this is why we find weapons scattered throughout the game (even though they aren't useful in any way). Robert's hands also appear wounded and bloody from the start of the game, implying that he had been in violent confrontations. And although I didn't notice it when I played, other players are reporting that Robert's hands return to normal immediately after taking the cure. This would suggest that Robert's hands are not actually dirty or wounded, but rather, they appear to him as wounded as a representation of his own guilt (think of MacBeth's bloody hands).

The rapidness of Robert's recovery after taking the cure also implies that he may not truly be sick with the plague either. One note within the island tells us that plague victims die within a week or so; however, the player can survive indefinitely as long as you drink water and treat the fever with medicine. My first complete playthrough lasted over 20 elapsed days. It's also possible that the very plants and fungi that you use to create medicines to treat your psychosomatic plague symptoms may be further feeding the delusions, since they are noted to have psychotropic effects.

So did he murder the other researchers during a psychotic episode, repress the memory, and then manifest his own guilt psychosomatically in the form of the very plague that he sought to cure?

Is the creature an hallucination?

No documents written by other researchers make any mention of the creature (or any hostile wildlife whatsoever), and one document by another researcher talks about Herbert looking around as if searching for some kind of animal that wasn't there. This has lead fans to assume that the creature is also an hallucination.

This explains why the player can't damage the creature with attacks, and why it appears and disappears without warning. It is also worth noting that none of the primitive statues on Eden depict anything resembling the creature. You'd think that if such a dominant creature did exist on the island, then the natives would have taken an interest in it.

Notes in the camps inform us that the country was taken over by radicals who destroyed the Academy of Sciences and killed or banished its scientists because they feared that the scientists had somehow caused the plague. Notes also show that the nationalist emblem is similar to the shape of the creature's horns, implying that the look of the creature was inspired in Herbert's mind by the nationalists. Because of this, it would also seem that the creature is a representation in Herbert's mind of the nationalist dictator, ordering him to kill the very scientists that have been vilified by the fundamentalist revolution.

Miasmata - Chancellor Kallas' anti-science agenda Miasmata - Nationalist emblem
Kallas' fundamentalist nationalists have an anti-science agenda, and their emblem resembles the creature.

But there is one piece of in-game evidence that seems to completely contradict the idea of the creature being an illusion: other animals run from the creature in fear. If the creature doesn't actually exist, then what are these other animals afraid of?

The most likely explanation is that they are running from the player character. But this doesn't seem to be the case, since they will sometimes run towards and past the player, as if running from something else. This implies that the creature must physically exist and is spatially separate from the protagonist.

In this sense, the diary stating that the island is rich in wildlife could even be seen as foreshadowing the arrival of the creature, in much the same way that the art work in Herbert's cabin foreshadows the first appearance of the creature.

Miasmata - animal running from creature
Other animals run from the creature.

... Unless all the animals on the island are hallucinations. After all, I'm not aware of any document in the game making specific reference to any animal life on the island. One note makes mention of the abundance of wildlife, but then it only specifically talks about the plants and fungi. All the researchers seem to care exclusively about the plant and fungal life, even though animals could also contain bacteria or antibodies that could be used to create medicines for the plague or a vaccine.

Did the designers neglect the ability to hunt or collect animal specimens for research because it would have complicated the game programming? Or was it a deliberate element of the story? All animals being hallucinations would explain why none of the animals seem to be affected by Robert's attacks, why we can't hunt and eat them, and why they aren't studied for useful drug compounds.

So while it seems to be incontrovertible that the player character is, in fact, the psychotically murderous Herbert, there is conflicting information about the existence of the creature. But the evidence definitely seems to point to the creature being an hallucination. And if the creature is an hallucination, then it also stands to reason that all the islands animal life may also be hallucinations in Robert's mind.

End of Spoilers

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