I've been following Miasma Caves ever since Play NYC 2017. Every hands-on demo I've played has had a time limit of under ten minutes, something that was put in place by developer Windy Games to keep people from spending too much time playing at an exhibition. Following another great playtesting session at Play NYC 2018, I was afforded the opportunity to experience the game's current build in full. I have to admit that I find myself somewhat disappointed with what I've seen so far.
Here's the basic idea. You play as the adorable dragon girl Lesath. You'll dive down into the titular caves to acquire treasure. You can then sell that treasure for town upgrades or to inch closer to purchasing equipment. There is no combat to worry about in the game, but there are certainly environmental hazards to watch out for. The developers aptly described it as a "pacifist rogue-like" and I believe that fits nicely.
I started my journey with a short tutorial that explained the basics of using items and gathering treasure. Once that was sorted, I sold the handful of things I found and dove right back into the caves. These are randomly generated caverns and you can keep returning to the same instance as often as you like. Once you're looking for something fresh, you can visit an NPC and have the caves regenerated. A freshly-generated cave took about a minute to load for me, but your mileage may vary depending on your computer hardware.
The caves themselves have a handful of hazards to worry about. Primarily, you need to concern yourself with three things: time, miasma clouds, and cave-ins. Cave-ins deplete your health if they hit you. Miasma clouds rapidly deplete your health if you stand in them. As for the time element, well, there's always a bit of toxic gas in the air to worry about. Your health is constantly draining, putting an upper limit on the amount of time you can spend underground.
One interesting bit about the caves are the special little bonus areas you can find. I discovered a crystalline cavern and what appeared to be an abandoned mine. Each of these had a chance at having multiple treasures available. Amusingly, sturdy digging tools filled the mine, but none of them were equippable.
Treasures will pop up on the ground right in front of you. They weren't terribly difficult to find, but they were often difficult to actually pick up. I encountered several buggy treasures that I couldn't quite seem to grab no matter what angle I approached them from. Whether due to bugged entities or poor hit detection, it's awfully hard to be a treasure hunter when the treasures themselves don't cooperate.
Some of the treasures were actually pieces of equipment. These provide special effects, although I couldn't always discern any noticeable change to my abilities. Frustratingly, this equipment had a habit of disappearing after a while. I suspect that there is some kind of hidden durability system in there somewhere.
Miasma Caves is a game that's going into Steam Early Access, and I suspect that this is one of the cases where it's going to be an actual testing beta. There really isn't much in the way of content to explore right now. I earned 7,500 gold and purchased all three building upgrades in under 2 hours. You should expect to get the same sort of mileage out of the game right now unless you get a significant amount of joy from running around underground collecting money for no reason. I played for a bit longer and found a new backpack, but there really isn't much of a driving motivation to play without anything else in the town to buy.
You also feel the Early Access status in the general feeling of roughness about the features. To access shops, you simply talk to a door. The NPCs in the town have two or three lines of dialogue apiece at most. Digging into the caves would occasionally reveal the void behind the level geometry. I noticed all sorts of little things here and there that made it clear that Miasma Caves is very much a work in progress.
Graphically, Miasma Caves looks decent enough. The character models seem a little rough around the edges and the walking animation for Lesath is a little janky. I get the sense that these haven't yet fully been refined as much as they could have. The world looks pretty neat, too, save for the occasional issue with exposing the void while digging underground. As for the sound, well, the sound effects are serviceable. The music is a real highlight of the game, although the tracks have a tendency to loop awkwardly. I noticed that there were different tracks depending on where you were underground, but these didn't always change over in a smooth fashion.
Miasma Caves is an Early Access title bursting with potential, but there's work ahead. The developers are going to need to do a lot more if they want to have something more than a passing novelty. I can see this turning into a title that would eat up a solid 10 or 20 hours of my time after the gameplay was solidified and there were more substantial goals for players to work towards. I'm happy to finally get my hands on the most current version of the game and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes.
TechRaptor previewed Miasma Caves on PC via Steam Early Access with a copy provided by the developer.
What do you think of Miasma Caves? Do you like the idea of a treasure-hunting game without any combat or is having something to fight a must for you? Let us know in the comments below!