Massive Chalice – What We Think:
Developed by Double Fine through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, Massive Chalice is a turn-based strategy RPG that combines elements of random chance, permadeath, and loads of selective breeding. As your heroic ruler delicately slurps the wisdom from a golden talking mug of sparkling water, you are to embrace the power within, forge an unstoppable empire, and bring the destructive Cadence to their knees (or lack thereof).
Design Your Destiny
Unlike many other games that only offer you the choice of difficulty, Massive Chalice runs with game design a bit further and introduces an entirely different feel to the gameplay by adding tons of outlandish random events.
Normal, Hard, or Brütal? Silly, Serious, or the best of both worlds? These combinations are obviously interchangeable and can make for some very unique twists. There are also other options such as a “balanced” mode that allows you to start with three different classes, instead of them being left to random chance, and an “IRON MODE” option which treats your game as one save; in other words: every choice is permanent.
I’ll Have The Red Wine. Hold The Sentience.
It’s year one of a three hundred year war against the Cadence. The Chalice has awakened and is performing an extremely powerful ritual that will, coincidentally, take three hundred years to finish. In order to maintain your indestructible empire, you will need to constantly utilize this potent energy in order to research new buildings, weapon training, armor, items, and sometimes even adopt babies.
On the kingdom overview screen, you’ll see various zones with your timeline at the top. Click play and time skips forward until something happens that requires your attention, such as the death of a regent, random event, or a Cadence attack.
During each Cadence attack, you will need to load out your five hero vanguard. Depending on which classes you’ve bred together and which strategy you’ve taken, you’ll want to send a balanced mix of classes. Unfortunately, the Chalice doesn’t offer more details about the Cadence until after you’ve loaded out your team and will ultimately seal your fate between a victory and a defeat.
I would like to have had a bit more information on the enemies before loading out with an imbalanced or weak vanguard. It seems you have to play through the entire game blind in order to see which classes counter each Cadence enemy per encounter.
You Are All But Pawns
If you have never played this type of game (turn-based strategy), the controls are laid out for you in the HUD. Left click to move with a confirmation message and right click to move without confirmation. Q and E rotate the camera while A, D, S and W move the camera. If your character is in range, you can click on an enemy to attack it. Once an enemy has fallen, the heroes responsible will gain exp.
Each individual hero has his/her own XP table, depending on traits, and you’ll be prompted to choose their next ability after each new level milestone. Hero abilities and items are specifically labeled at the bottom with corresponding number keys. There are also hotkeys and shortcuts to help navigate for the more experienced user but I’ve found that clicking works just as well.
The game utilizes “fog of war,” a classic mechanic based on vision and discovery. Where there are no heroes, there is darkness and potential danger. The objective is to carefully move through the fog to eliminate the lurking Cadence. Each move requires action points and each hero gets two AP per round. There are also specific movement zones. The orange zone requires one AP while the white requires two. For instance, if you move to the orange zone, you’ll still have one AP to use for an attack but if you move into the white, you’re left with nothing.
Understanding and mastering these fundamental mechanics is the key to your victory and survival in the field.
As with many other strategy games, focusing on the long term can save you many hours of heartache later. While your regent candidates might not always carry the best traits, keeping at least two-thirds of any desirable traits within your heroic bloodlines is recommended for the highest rate of success. As I was playing through the game, I felt as though my heroes were dropping like flies around year one hundred twenty. There was nothing I could do but watch as my empire crumbled under the hand of random chance and poor trait successors. Choose your regents carefully.
More Cowbell But, Please, No More Brass
Man the gates! Arm the cannons! Sound the terrible MIDI! I do understand that horns of war are to function as an alert, but these are comically awful. In addition to the actual sound file being bad, the horns of birth and war are completely identical, which makes for some fairly annoying gameplay if you keep your sound on.
On the other side of the audio spectrum, the music is brilliantly crafted. Low driven futuristic symphonic melodies with just the right amount of electronic music production completely modernize the medieval playing field.
Despite its few flaws and sometimes seemingly endless meandering in the fog of war, this crowd-funded strategy game really packs a punch in terms of replay value. With all the turn-based tussling, ill-advised marriages, and destructive decision making you could ask for, Massive Chalice will have you playing for hours on end.
Watch the trailer for Massive Chalice: