By Lex "Gaz the Dungeonmaster" Ansems on June 1, 2015

The one thing I miss when playing non-board game are the really long and immersive strategy games. In the world of board games, there’s the Twillight Imperium series which essentially are a days’ worth of game play and the burning desire to end the game after 8 grueling hours. In the world of video gaming, however, non such games exist. But wait, what’s that appearing on the horizon? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s a video game that features long term planning, medieval x-com style combat, interesting mechanics and good visuals. And what game might I be talking about, I hear you ask? Well, sit down and listen carefully to a tale of woe and breeding. It’s time to play: Massive Chalice.

Massive Chalice is a strategy game, developed by Double Fine. It’s all about an empire that is under attack by some kind of alien goop called Candence. You, as supreme ruler, pair lesser rulers to birth heroes and train them to fight so that you can finish an ancient ritual that will wipe out the nefarious Candence. That’s about it, that’s the story… no epic plot twists, just a clear goal and the means to accomplish it.

The ritual takes 300 years to finish so that is the timer of the game. During those 300 years you make choices on how to build your empire. Do you build a keep that lets you appoint 2 heroes from a family branch as rulers and make them… well… do the ‘horizontal tango’ in order to make babies that will turn out to be future heroes. Or will you build a Sagewright's Guild that lets you retire heroes to help research, or even build a Crucible to send to a specific hero in order to make that hero a shining example for all other future heroes. During the downtime you sometimes get random choices that you have to make for your empire. These choices will affect heroes, your research or even the empire itself.

Whenever the Candence attacks the game goes into a turn-based, x-com style of gameplay; you move your squad consisting of 5 heroes. These heroes can be any of 3 core classes or 6 variations, depending on his or her parents. The available classes are:

  • the hunter class, the sneaky snipers of the game (and incidentally my favorite class). they carry huge crossbows and allow you to snipe the enemies before they can even reach you.
  • the Caberjack class, the melee and heavy hitters of the game. They carry around a big log and use it to smash your enemy’s face in.
  • and last but not least, the alchemists aka the grenade throwers. They throw their concoctions around, which explode in all their destructive glory, wiping out all the small and sometimes big enemies.

The visuals of Massive Chalice look really good; the heroes, environments and maps are all beautifully crafted and very well-made. The soundtrack matches the given situations perfectly and enhances the overall gaming experience greatly. The voice acting in this game is also superb. The main voices you’ll hear are the voices of the chalice, and the first time I heard it, it reminded me of the good and evil conscience, featured in Black and White. They help you, make funny remarks and even have some degree of personality of their own.

But alas, to all this good there is, unfortunately, a bad side. This side to Massive Chalice is that the game, in my opinion, lack depth. The heroes you select eventually just become stat blocks, the only thing the family line does is add some flavor when they kill something and pass down relics to the next generation. But beside that… no, that’s it really.The world doesn’t evolve, in a single game, I have watched over 150 years go by, but the map still only has 1 keep, 1 Sagewright or 1 crucible in the region. So basically, you stare at a blank, non-moving map a lot. Whenever the enemy breaks into a keep, the combat map is totally empty, apart from your five heroes and the enemy's forces, which is kind of a pity.

Final Verdict
The game is great but lacks depth; it lets you plan ahead and think about the future, not about the present. It features an interesting combat system, great voice acting and a more than decent difficulty. You are looking at a well-thought out medieval X-com game. However, the lack of depth means that you are probably just going to MIN MAX everything by stats and not get involved with he heroes or the general story. While this is a bit of a shame, it’s nowhere near to being a game breaker. So my advice would be to pick up a copy of the game, play it and see for yourself what can happen in a kingdom over the course of three centuries.

available on:

Double Fine Productions
June 1, 2015