MASSIVE CHALICE Review
A look at Double Fine Production’s latest, the story of a magical cup and the immortal ruler it assists against evil.
MASSIVE CHALICE on PC
If you’ve ever found yourself thinking how great it would be to play a game where you’re the immortal ruler of a besieged kingdom taking orders from a giant golden cup, I’ve got some great news. MASSIVE CHALICE, the latest outing from famed indie developer Double Fine Productions, has stepped up to save you. With the same bizarre wit that we’ve come to expect from Double Fine, a dose of dynasty-building, and a heaping helping of strategy, there’s a whole lot filling up this goblet of goodness.
MASSIVE CHALICE puts players in the role of an immobile ruler, tasked with overseeing the defense of the lands from the throne room. Mixing equal parts kingdom builder and tactical RPG, gameplay takes place in two main forms. Players will have to research, build, and manage their empire while also taking direct control of their vanguard – up to five heroes designated as the protectors of the realm. While these two sides to play are separate, each still has an impact on the other as the game moves on. This interaction means players will have to stay mindful of both sides, keeping focused on the overall task rather than any individual piece.
The basic story of MASSIVE CHALICE involves the encroaching of an evil known as the Cadence. As time progresses, the Cadence will attack the outer regions, corrupting them. With enough corruption, regions will vanish entirely. When the Cadence isn’t attacking, players are left to manage construction, research, and bloodlines. The last of these is one of the most genius parts of the game, and integral to success. By constructing a Keep, players can remove a hero from battle to name them Regent (or partner), allowing the creation of dynastic families that produce and raise children who, in turn, become heroes. Since the base timeline for the Chalice to do what it must to repel the Cadence takes 300 years, these bloodlines become a huge part of how your experience unfolds, what classes are at your disposal, and more.
Where MASSIVE CHALICE‘s real scale hits the most is the age system. As makes sense, all of your heroes progressively grow older. They’re also mortal; whether it’s in the glory of battle, or merely wasting away on a throne, your heroes will die. If they’ve achieved enough, they may leave behind potent family relics that can be passed on to others of their house. Otherwise, their only legacy is the children they’ve left behind to carry on the family name. Any of these may be appointed to Regent on the passing of their forebears, keeping the bloodline going and allowing yet more variety for the generations to come. There are even foes on the battlefield that can, with a single strike, remove 5 years from a hero’s life, inching them ever closer to the inevitable.
When you’re not overseeing the kingdom or micromanaging the marital affairs of your Regents, MASSIVE CHALICE treats you to some solid, if somewhat basic, tactical combat. Each hero’s traits and skills come into play in different ways, and there’s a variety of Cadence that require unique strategy to overcome. The acid-bursting Ruptures will cause lingering damage to anything nearby when they die, and powerful Bulwarks can lay huge hits against an entire row of unsuspecting foes. Keeping your Vanguard a mixed party to deal with the threats is always best, and players are given the chance to shuffle heroes in and out before each battle. Personally, I found the best success keeping a core of melee-focused warriors called Caberjacks (or their stealthy cousin, Shadowjacks) with a sneaky ranged-attack Hunter or two for picking off more dangerous Cadence from a distance.
Between the far-reaching scale, the slick and intuitive combat, and the fun of raising heroes through the years, MASSIVE CHALICE brings a whole lot to the table. While each piece may not be strong enough to stand in its genre alone, the combination and way that each plays into the other creates a phenomenally fun experience. I’d consider it more than worth the $19.99 price on Steam, and the $15.99 price through June 7th is sweeter still. Well-made, filled with life, and enjoyable in its many facets, this is one of those rare occasions where I’ll recommend a title without condition.