I've just finished playing MASSIVE CHALICE, which is a strategy/tactical game from Double-Fine... I remember seeing the Kickstarter a while ago (I think a nudge was sent out to all backers of Planetary Annihilation). It's a lovely little game that I really enjoyed...the first single-player game in a long time to hold my attention to the ticks a lot of boxes for me.

The premise of the game is that you must defend a nation for 300 years, while the MASSIVE CHALICE charges up to full power, and is able to cleanse the world the meantime the baddies (called The Cadence) will periodically attack. Your nation takes the form of a simple map with 11 territories...the MASSIVE CHALICE sits in the middle, acting as your HQ, then you have 5 inner territories, and 5 outer territories. The inner ones are easier to protect, while the outer ones provide benefits, but are first to be invaded.

Your key resource in the game is your Heroes...and these are needed for many things;
1) The tactical battles that occur periodically when the Cadence invade
2) Breeding, to give you new heroes when the current ones get old and die
3) Training, as you can appoint a "Standard", who is able to train everyone in the nation
4) Speeding up research, if you build a Sagewright

To enable Breeding, Training, and Speeding up Research, you need to create specific buildings (a Stronghold for Breeding, a Crucible to appoint a Standard, and a Sagewrights guild for Sages). These go in the territories, with one building per territory. There is a single build/development queue (run from the MASSIVE CHALICE), and this contains buildings, weapon, armour and hero research too. The single hardest challenge is managing your limited pool of heroes to ensure that you have future generations to fight your battles, and continue bloodlines. The strategy map is run via a rolling timeline across the top of the map (counting down to 300 years) can fast-forward, and whenever something happens that requires your attention (a death of an assigned person, an invasion, completed research or one of the random events the game throws in), the game will stop the timeline, and let you know...there is never a time when you miss doing something due to lack of knowledge or time.

Heroes come in 3 basic classes...Melee (caberjacks), Ranged (Hunters) and AoE (Alchemists). As you start to build Strongholds, and appoint Regents and partners you can also get cross-class heroes (such as archers with explosive arrows, or Melee with stealth). I generally found the Hunters and Trickshots (exploding arrow archers) to be the most useful main class for fights, but did accidentally breed out all my Melee, which bit me in the arse a few times. There is a nice touch where a well performing Hero can acquire a "Relic", which gets it's own XP, and can be passed down through the the end of my game I had a Hunter in the Direstorm family with a Level 9 bow, who was picking off people from halfway across the map, and an Alchemist who was cheerfully capable of clearing half the map.

The tactical battles really do feel like's a grid/action point based system, you have a squad of 5 (chosen from all your heros of the right over 15 and not dead). The Cadence have a few very different creatures, and most have a unique, and normally annoying ability (exploding on death, stealing XP, ageing any hero they touch, or swapping positions), and you need to approach each one in a slightly different way. That said, I found that apart from the start, and just after halfway (when all the enemies go to the "Advanced" level, gaining HP and doing extra damage), I rarely felt in that much danger of losing a battle.

What I particularly liked was the continuity of the family names (I had the bloodline of Direstorm providing my Hunters and Trickshots, while the Faewells were my Alchemists), and also watching heroes develop...a few times I had a really strong squad, who kicked all kinds of ass, then suddenly you realised you were fielding a bunch of octogenarian murder-specialists (who are doddering around the battlefield very slowly), and you'd neglected to give the next generation any battle experience. I should have been retiring them off to become Sages or Standards, but couldn't bear to lose their hard-earned abilities. It's also a game that doesn't demand that you play long, protracted sessions. I've tended to play for one or two of the tactical battles, make sure that my Nation is in order, then I can go do something else. I ballsed up my first two games (which the game does say is expected...getting your strongholds up and running with a good hero development program takes a bit of trial and error), but have played for about 15 hours over 2½ weeks, typically in 1-2 hour sessions here and there...


I kickstarted this a while back and it reminded me a lot of xcom in that it would take a few goes to get he hang of the larger strategic game. In xcom (and now xcom2) I usually find I don't get the resources right and end up out of money and then out teched by the aliens who then grind me into paste. With this game the first time I played it I didn't start getting new heroes in there fast enough and I ended up with just old people who just died off with no replacements the team sizes dropped down then when some of the few heroes I had bred came online my team was a few laughably unprepared novices having to function on their own.

I've not gone back to it yet after that fairly disastrous first run but I did like what I played.

Evilmatt's picture