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Should I be excited about… Massive Chalice (PC)

Massive Chalice is a game built around war. Not an uncommon thing for strategy games admittedly but rarely do they have a sense of scale like Massive Chalice does. That said, the whole game takes place on a tiny map with only a handful of areas that can be built on. The sense of scale doesn’t come in landmass, or how far reaching your war against the corruption that is destroying the world is, but instead through time. This is a war that cannot be won by some predestined group of heroes but maybe they can make a dent in it, then their kids might be able to help out too and their kids, and their kids…

KeepView02The main bulk of the Massive Chalice experience borrows heavily from XCom; you spend time building extensions to your base, researching upgrades and training heroes to fight when enemies are at your door. There are only three types of buildings that can be built to extend your base which feels a little lean. Crucibles are staffed by one of your heroes and help the rest of your heroes level up as they’re hanging around between fights. Initially they seem relatively useless as the amount of experience they give to your heroes is based on how powerful the hero running them and so of course they become more useful as a game progresses, but a couple of them manned by level 1 or 2 heroes is going to feel completely pointless. SageWrights are a similar idea but increase the speed of your research instead and Keeps are strongholds that hold your heroes. A running theme with these three is that they take some heroes out of the action, meaning that when it comes time to get to fighting you have slightly less units to pick from and take into battle. Time is passed in this stage, literally it is fast forwarded through and your heroes grow old and eventually die, being replaced by their kids instead. Random events also pop up from time to time which will have a series of responses which can lead to some bizarre bonuses or issues. These are all brilliantly absurd and funny and a nice little break from running the country.

HeroInfo02The most interesting part of the game to me is without a doubt how every character has a series of stat increases and decreases and skills based on their personalities and traits. This is where comparisons to something like Rogue Legacy or Crusader Kings come into play as these can range from things like having increased movement range during battles because they are naturally Quick, to having it seem like they have 100% chance to hit during an attack when really the character is just Optimistic about their odds. These can be a little silly and have some funny flavour text around them but they all make a decent impact to the battles themselves. These traits and personalities also have a significant importance when deciding who to dedicate to Crucibles for training and Keeps. When creating a Keep a Regent is assigned and married off to another hero, this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly as these heroes will pass traits on to their children who will then age and become able to fight too (I found this out the hard way as I ended up with an army of Hunters with low accuracy but were super Optimistic…) Their personalities seem to be based on a mix of their parents and the personalities of those heroes assigned to train at Crucibles. It’s a surprisingly in depth system that has you trying to breed the best out of your heroes in a kinda creepy way.

BeesThe battles themselves are fun too but it’s the same grid-based tactical combat that can be found in a bunch of other similar games. It’s done well and there is a good mix of drastically different enemy types that need to be tackled in different ways which keeps it interesting. It’s also the part I personally found the most difficult. Massive Chalice is not afraid to kill off your heroes quickly and precisely before you have had a chance to learn how to fight the stronger enemies or to level heroes up. It’s a difficulty that is actually pretty refreshing and forces you to get good. There only being three classes of hero feels especially limiting during these battles however, especially given their skill trees are relatively small and don’t give much chance for customising them to be drastically different. The only real differences come from the traits and personalities which alter their stats a lot but with the idea being you can breed the same or similar skills this doesn’t feel like enough of a change at times.

All of this is tied together with a really nice looking low polygon art style and a lot of voice over by the voices of the Massive Chalice itself. These two voices will guide you and bicker with each other and generally just make a lot of jokes. The writing is spot on as should be expected from Double Fine but I can’t help but hope they add an option to perhaps…reduce the amount of it. The chatter seems almost constant and even good jokes can get grating after a while.

RuptureExplosionAt the moment Massive Chalice is still in Early Access on Steam but what you get for your money feels like a near finished product. There’s some flavour text missing from some of the traits and such, the graphics seem like they need a bit more polish even if the art style is great and of course the balance seems to be getting tweaked pretty frequently as Double Fine try to nail down what feels best. It’s a game that’s pretty easy to recommend even in its current state, especially with the developer being pretty transparent about updates on their forums. I hope they add some more classes down the line to add some variation to the battles but the main meat of the game is in the out of battle sections anyway and what’s there so far is great fun to play.

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