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Video Game / Miasmata

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Miasmata is a 2012 first-person adventure/exploration/Survival Horror game, notable for being one of the first full releases from the Steam Greenlight service.

The player takes the role of Robert Hughes, an exiled scientist infected with a mysterious plague. Searching for a cure, Robert travels to a secluded island that is home to a commune of talented naturalist scientists. Upon his arrival, Robert finds the island completely abandoned, and must use the island's abandoned facilities to study the local plantlife and develop a cure for the plague before it claims his life. However, Robert is not alone; something else is alive on the island, stalking him across its vast terrain, and Robert must learn to adapt and evade his foe if he is to survive long enough to develop the cure.

The game takes place from a first-person perspective, with the player exploring a vast island. Players must survive day by day... finding water to stave off thirst, dealing with fever and other sickness, getting enough sleep, etc. The local plantlife can be researched and used to concoct a variety of helpful tonics and medicines. The game also uses a unique cartography system where the player uses nearby landmarks to triangulate his position, expanding the area shown on his map as well as revealing his position on it.

Tropes present in Miasmata include:

  • Artificial Brilliance: The A.I. of the creature is a central feature of the game, and considerable work has gone into making it a complex, challenging opponent.
    • Artificial Stupidity: With a system so complex, glitches are inevitable. One first-day Let's Play of the game already shows a player managing to get the creature to run around in circles seemingly infinitely.
  • Beautiful Void: A huge tropical island's worth of scenery, and only you and a murderous creature are there to enjoy it.
  • Driven to Suicide: Isabella, most likely, given the note you find in her bottle. This is also an interpretation of the ending, given how the camera focuses specifically on a bottle of alcohol and a knife.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: Once you cure yourself, you can sprint and swim indefinitely, no longer take fall damage, have no need for medicine, and the creature never shows up.
  • Evil Luddite: It's revealed that the whole reason the scientists are on the island in the first place is that they had to flee their homeland due to a fascist revolution led by Chancellor Kallas, who took advantage of the plague and used the scientific community as a scapegoat to seize power.
  • First-Episode Twist:
    • The presence of the creature on the island, which would otherwise be a genuinely shocking and terrifying reveal the first time you encounter it after an hour or so of relaxing solitary gameplay, is given away by the game's description and title art on Steam.
    • If you happen to synthesize a mental stimulant before meeting it, the drug's journal entry states that it "temporarily allows you to sense the creature's presence."
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: Animals will flee from the creature's presence, so the player is often warned by the sight of rabbits and squirrels running away before hearing the creature.
  • Imaginary Enemy/Your Mind Makes It Real: It is heavily implied that the creature is actually a hallucination caused by the plague, and is specific to Robert Hughs/Herbert Gouhs. Notably, none of the other scientists report being stalked by a bizarre demon-beast in their journals. Also, the creature stops appearing after you inject yourself with the cure.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: The player has a watch; sleeping passes time as well.
  • The Klutz: The player, potentially. The unconventional and slightly disorienting momentum system can cause the player to take frequent tumbles down the island's hills and slopes, which seem to invariably have hard, painful-looking rocks at the bottom.
  • Late to the Party: Robert arrives to find the entire island abandoned, with the scientists nowhere to be found, although it doesn't take very long before you start stumbling upon their systematically murdered corpses.
    • The ending implies that you were the party.
  • Made of Iron: It's actually very difficult for Robert to be "hurt" per sé. Falling can exacerbate the plague and require medicine, but he can endure some pretty tough stuff and only need to swallow a pill to get back to normal.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The creature, for a variety of reasons.
    • On the one hand, its realistically predatory behavior, the fact that other animals flee from its presence, and the fact that one of the members of the previous expedition painted pictures of it suggests that it may just be an animal native to the island. Not to mention the fact that it is very capable of throwing Robert around, and that taking medicine that boosts one's senses allows one to detect it nearby, indicating it does have a physical presence. Unless the latter points are a very severe and terrifying example of Your Mind Makes It Real.
    • On the other hand, the fact that it disappears after taking the cure implies very heavily that it may be nothing more than a hallucination.
    • And thirdly, the fact that witnessing it apparently causes madness and obsession with its visage, and that it gets pointedly more and more aggressive as you get closer and closer to the cure may imply a more malevolent and supernatural origin.
    • It should be noted that in regards to the previously mentioned paintings of the creature the game heavily implies that the protagonist is actually the member of the previous group who painted them in the first place. As no one else acknowledged the beast's existence it could very well have been a product of one man's mind.
    • As an extension of the above possibilities, the creature becomes much more aggressive and violent the closer Robert is to curing himself of the Plague. Is it simply more territorial about the regions in which the Cure ingredients are found? Or because it is indeed just a symptom of Robert's mental state?
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The creature appears to have elements of a panther, a lizard, and a bull. This hints at its psychological origins.
  • More Predators Than Prey: Apart from the scientists and the creature, there is no animal on the island larger than a rabbit, which begs the question as to how precisely an enormous carnivore can manage to survive so well there. It's quite possible the creature is a hallucination, given that it disappears when Robert is cured of the plague.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The island takes on a whole different atmosphere after your first encounter with the creature.
  • Obvious Beta: The game had a very rough launch, between incredibly glaring bugs and abysmal performance on even the most powerful of machines. A post-release patch ironed out lots of these issues.
  • Ontological Mystery: The beginning of the game is very reminiscent of Lost. Who is Robert? What is his crime? What happened to the island's previous inhabitants? What is the creature?
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The benefit of mental stimulants is being able to tell if the creature can see you. If it can, a faint pair of red eyes show up on the screen.
  • Room Full of Crazy: A milder example than most, but the cabin with paintings of the creature certainly counts.
  • Scenery Porn: The beauty of the island is comparable to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or Far Cry 3, with its lush vegetation, colorful flowers, and beautiful water physics. Pretty impressive for something made by two brothers over the course of four years.
  • Shout-Out: A memo from the research team located near where you start the game is addressed as from Professor Dagless to Doctor Sanchez.
  • Stellar Name: All the science outposts are named after stars or constellations.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Robert can barely swim, and will drown very easily. Justified with the plague exacerbating physical trauma.
    • Super Not-Drowning Skills: The more permanent medicines you've imbibed, the better you get at swimming, until after you're cured, you can swim indefinitely.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The creature will stalk you throughout the entire island, is liable to strike at any time, day or night, and will ignore all living creatures who aren't you. It's a very extreme example, as the only way to get it to stop hunting you is to force it to despawn, which can only be done by either running very far away from it (virtually impossible), driving it away via torches, or hiding until it leaves.
  • Survival Sandbox: The primary goal is to survive for as long as possible while trying to cure yourself. In this case, the time pressure comes from the plague (causing a fever in which the player needs to either take medicine or sleep) and thirst (which can be replenished if Robert has water in his canteen, at a body of fresh water, or in most outposts, which have a pitcher of water; these latter two will have Robert refill his canteen if it's not completely full).
  • Teleporting Keycard Squad: There are a heavy concentration of spawn points for the monster around rare, important plants, namely ingredients for permanent ability-boosting medicines, as well as for the cure. However, the monster spawns are still random instead of being definitely triggered by picking up these plants; if you're very lucky, you can grab multiple cure ingredients without ever running into the beast.
  • Time-Compression Montage: Done whenever you do something such as synthesize medicine, or research flora. Checking your watch will show you that these do in fact take up some time, usually around an hour.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Upon exploring the island, it quickly becomes clear that one of the researchers, Herbert Gouhs, went insane from the plague, began worshipping the creature, and went on a killing spree, slaughtering all the other scientists. It's heavily implied that Robert Hughes is actually an amnesiac Herbert Gouhs, based on various clues found at the outposts, the game's ending (which reveals the name Herbert Gouhs written on Robert's notebook), and the fact that their names are anagrams of each other.
  • Tropical Island Adventure: The game has you exploring a tropical island.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?/Red Herring: The island's original inhabitants and their giant stone heads don't seem to have any significance to the plot. They seem to only be there to use the cartography mechanic on.
    • The creature, despite being one of the game's main selling points and one of the biggest mysteries on the island, is simply never seen or heard from again once you've cured yourself. While this makes sense due to the heavy implication that the creature is a hallucination, it feels odd that there's never a final showdown or any real resolution.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: The player can only see Robert's arms and shoulders when he moves, but it's clear he doesn't wear a shirt.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: Your only things limiting your exploration are the plague and Robert's terrible climbing ability.