Double Fine Productions, the development team known for the infamous Psychonauts and Brutal Legend, taps into their RTS chops for the crowdfunded title Massive Chalice. With a goal of $750,000, the game closed with over $1 million in funding on the strength of the devs pedigree and usual humor.
Massive Chalice is a turn based strategy that embraces the more free-form movement that has become popular in the tactical strategy arena and focuses on building your nation’s legacy as a god-like ruler. One thing you must know before you enter: Don’t grow attached to those you rule.
The Chalice itself, voiced by two absolutely hysterical characters, tasks you directly with leading a nation they can’t manage on their own. It’s not that they don’t think they’re capable, they just understand how weird it is to take instruction from a large chalice. Yup. That type of humor is woven into the narrative as they play on not only the fantasy elements but the even the gameplay mechanics themselves.
When it comes to managing your various families, you manage the units you will take into combat and those that will helm the research divisions as well. You also must decide who rules the various strongholds. This particular part is crucial because the quality of your units is determined mostly by who you decide to pair up as husband and wife. You can gain the occasional recruit through combat, but the majority will be determined by the fertility of your leaders and their individual traits.
With all of these things in mind, we return to the original claim: Don’t get attached to those you rule. Permadeath applies per usual, but that’s not the only means of losing your subjects. The Chalice warns you early that the characters you’re initially managing will be but faint memories by the time everything wraps up…and they’re correct. Everything happens on a timeline that’s fairly realistic in scale. It takes a handful of years for each research specialty, families change drastically over time with birth and death (fairly randomly), and there can even be a great deal of years between conflicts. Though it can be pretty disheartening when a 16 year old prodigy from your strongest bloodline is killed in their first trip into the field, it lends to the dire nature of the experience and forces you to think out every step.
Once you accept that your subjects are merely tools that will fade with the quickly passing years, you’ll find yourself more attuned to the intricacies of the various bloodlines. There are many traits that travel genetically, both positive and negative, and these things must be managed to maximize your chances in this epic conflict.
Let’s not forget the combat. It’s very satisfying and the randomly generated arenas allow for plenty strategy. Though a bit of verticality is desired and even a couple extra unit types would be nice, gamers are getting a steal for $20. Double Fine has another hit on their hands.
This review is based on a digital copy of Massive Chalice for Steam provided by Double Fine.