If you've ever gotten deeply addicted to tactical strategy games like XCOM: Enemy Unknown, like I have, then you'll probably feel right at home playing Massive Chalice. The fantasy themed game puts you in the role of an immortal ruler of a small kingdom, appointed by a giant talking chalice with powerful magic properties. But the kingdom is besieged from all sides by an enemy called the Cadence, which is comprised of a variety of creatures. It's your job to raise an army that spans generations, because it takes 300 years for the Chalice to charge up enough magical power to wipe the Cadence out for good. The centuries-long struggle is a tough one, and one prone to a lot of teeth gnashing and hair pulling, but it's all worth it to see your Houses flourish.
The Children Are the Future
You're the only immortal presence in Massive Chalice. The rest of your heroes will grow old and die, so they need to procreate in order to keep your army supplied with soldiers. It's part of your job to make sure the families live on, or else your kingdom will soon run out of people to defend it.
Managing over Bloodlines is a complicated process, and it took me several restarts before I really got the hang of it, but its complexity is one of the key things I love about the game. Heroes age and deteriorate with the passage of time. So, you need need to make the most of them while they're still in their prime. A mistake could mean that your house will develop in a bad way, like passing down nearsightedness in a House full of archers, or that the generation gap will be too wide to populate your Vanguard.
There will be periods when an entire generation of heroes will suddenly perish. You can help safeguard against these events by having lots of children ready, but a huge part of the game is left up to chance. It takes a lot of luck and planning to breed out unwanted personality traits, gain specific fighter classes, or populate your kingdom with a proportionate gender ratio. It can be a painful system to learn, but I grew to appreciate it because it challenged me to figure out how to gain control over my families.
Mixing and matching the different classes and creating hybrids is part of the fun. But the bad news is, you don't actually know what a hybrid class can do until you take one out into the field, and by then, it might be too late to change course. At the same time, until you have a couple strong Houses, you're never quite sure what you'll have to fill out your Vanguard. I was once forced to make do with just one geriatric melee fighter and two archers because I had mismanaged my Houses. I won, but it was a painful victory.
The 300 Year War
The Cadence will invade your kingdom from time-to-time, and will hit multiple territories at once, but you can only defend one territory at a time. Allowing a territory to be hit three times means that you lose it along with everything that was built on it. Things intensify during later parts, when up to three territories are invaded at once. I won't go so far as to say that it's impossible to keep your kingdom intact, but it is incredibly difficult. Especially when there are events, like an old man coming into your court begging for your attention, which have multiple solutions. However, you have to guess which solution is beneficial, otherwise you'll lose influence to the Cadence, or damage one of your heroes. The right decision could lead to big bonuses, but it's all a gamble.
Cadence creatures are diverse and extremely challenging. Missions take place in randomized maps, which I sometimes felt went completely overboard. Multimple missions dropped my team in the middle of an open area, surrounded by creatures. But at the same time, there's nothing like the thrill of overcoming seemingly impossible odds. Plus, the final mission is so fantastic that I can't help loving the game, despite its frustrations.
The tactical gameplay is satisfying, but the game could do better if it made use of cover. Standing behind objects can block line of sight or impede movement, but cover does not actually mitigate damage. In fact, your archers have to step out from behind a tree in order to see and fire at something down the line.
Between the bloodlines, research, and combat, Massive Chalice tosses a ton to micromanage, and it can feel overwhelming. But it all builds up to a spectacular ending that makes it worthwhile and satisfying.
This review is based on a PC code provided by the publisher. Massive Chalice is available digitally for $19.99. The game is rated T.
- Complex Bloodline System
- Challenging tactical gameplay
- Fantastic ending
- Steep learning curve
- Much is left up to chance
- No cover system
Steven Wong posted a new article, Massive Chalice Review: My Cup Runneth Over