So Massive Chalice is Double Fine’s first forray into Kickstarter and I have to admit, I don’t know how I feel about a reasonably successful company using Kickstarter to fund a project. I admit, I’m looking at this on a surface level, but this is how disappointment happens. It’s not uncommon for some semi-famous names (or in this case, a company) to put forward an AMAZING-sounding project and for the end result to not even close to expectation. Spacebase DF-9 is a prime example of this, another Double Fine game released on Steam’s early access. Long story short, people paid money and the Double Fine gave up on making the game, leaving everyone with a game that essentially never left alpha.
I was prepared for the same disappointment with Massive Chalice and funnily enough, that wasn’t the case. Massive Chalice is essentially XCOM cross the map from the Game of Thrones introduction.
You play an immortal ruler of a kingdom being assaulted by an elemental force of destruction called the Cadence. The Massive Chalice is literally that, a giant cup inhabited by two spirits that aids in your defense of the kingdom. The Chalice has to spend 300 years powering up in order to produce a permanent defense for your kingdom. You start your rule with a set of heroes, each with their own standard, class (alchemist, caber or hunter), traits, personality and stats and you have to spend the next 300 years defending your kingdom while the Chalice power ups.
Every five or ten years the Cadence generates an attacking force against two or three territories and you can defend against one. And then we move to the turn-based strategy part. The enemies are varied and you can use their corpses ro craft new weapons, items and armor. Someone dies and there’s no getting back up again. Every mission is very simple: Kill all the Cadence monsters. With no variance, the game can be a little one-dimensional and repetitive at times. But I don’t enjoy this game for the combat.
Almost unheard of, but one of the best parts about this game is the micro-managing between battles. And here’s where the Game of Thrones comes into it. You have several families/clans under your control which you place into keeps around your kingdom. Each clan has a dominant class and by intermingling different clans, you can produce hybrid classes and place emphasis on certain traits. You choose partners to your regents, the next in line, who inherits the relics, who gets committed to the sage’s guild for life (very useful if you want to dissolve a clan), who you use in your defending force. Except for not being able to evict a clan, you have complete control over your kingdom. You are an immortal dictator with complete oversight of your kingdom, the oversight and totalitarian control needed to save the realm.
So 200 years in and I’m still really enjoying the game, especially with victory in sight. Though I have picked up some issues. The classes are really, really unintuitive. An alchemist has a giant claw and throws flasks, a hunter has a crossbow and a caber just bashes the shit out enemies with a caber (log of wood used in the Scottish sport Caber Tossing). The hybrid classes are even more confusing with names like Blastcapper, Enforcer and Boomstriker (lucky guess as to what hybrids they are).
The game isn’t particularly hard… until 150 years in where suddenly, I not only had my first death, but had five deaths resulting in a lost battle, which then repeated again straight away. Not only did the amount of enemies triple, but they became a lot harder. The jump in difficulty was alarming and meant I had to change my play style from aggressive to defensive, a complete turn around.
Asides from this, still a good game. It has a simple eloquence to it which Double Fine have always had a knack for. Even though your heroes die of old age, the next generation start at a higher level, meaning that you feel like you’re progressing despite losing your best warriors to the ravages of time. Double-Fine have made some game design choices which are great. Knowing about the game before I started, I expected heaps of flaws. But somehow Double-Fine have managed to find ways around it.
The next review in 3 weeks will be on Shadowrun – Dragonfall