12 Jun 2015

Game review: Massive Chalice

12:20 pm on 12 June 2015

Score: 6/10


Fun Combat
Good Ideas


Poorly Executed
Lack of combat mechanics
Messy and confusing strategy layer

Developed and Published by Double Fine Productions
Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux

Massive Chalice is a turn based strategy game set on an island besieged by a mysterious threat known as “The Cadence”. However, the island is protected by an immortal sentient chalice that produces an elixir to keep the monsters at bay.

You play the immortal king of this island, who must protect the kingdom by breeding and training heroes and fighting back the enemy throughout the centuries that it takes for the chalice to create the elixir.

A strange premise for sure, but fortunately the strangeness of the story and concepts is handled with all the levity and wit that developer Double Fine are known for.

Unfortunately, the gameplay itself is not handled with the same skill. The game is split up into two levels of strategy. The first layer is turn-based, where you must choose a team of five heroes to go forth and combat the Cadence who are attacking the island. The second layer is handling the passing of decades, in which you must juggle the births, deaths and research that occurs as the year’s speed by.

Of the two levels, the concept that works best is the turn-based strategy. The mechanics of this combat are unabashedly inspired by 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown, with almost the entire combat system operating as this games did. The trouble is that it attempts to do the exact same thing, but executes it not nearly as well due mostly to a comparative lack of variance in combat mechanics. Though the experience is still fun it really just feels like a light version of another experience, instead of its own unique spin.

The game’s biggest problem however, is the mechanic of controlling your kingdom between battles. During these periods, you must build and research as well as breed together heroes in order to raise and train the next generation. Once these decisions have been made, you can speed through the years it takes to achieve these goals.

In theory, this is a very cool idea. In practice, however, it’s a bit of a convoluted mess. A large part of this is bad design, with the user interface and systems involved often being a mess of information that is either time consuming or difficult to comprehend. The result is an experience that is frankly uncomfortable to play.

Massive Chalice is a game with some great ideas that never managed to fulfill their potential. In the end the experience boils down to a strategy system that is difficult to understand and combat that has been done much better before. To be honest, you’re better off playing XCOM

Review by Baz Macdonald aka @kaabazmac

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