Premature Evaluation: Massive Chalice

Glad they went with Massive Chalice over Big Jugs.

Each Monday, Marsh Davies splashes around in the shallow end of the Early Access gene pool and brings back whatever novel splices and/or horrific abominations he can find. This week he crunches chromosomes in fantasy lineage sim and turn-based battler Massive Chalice.

Score one for diversity in games: the realm has just been saved by a nearsighted, asthmatic, drunk lady. Marginalised wheezing pissheads rejoice! (Though do keep an inhaler and bucket close to hand.) Massive Chalice combines XCOM’s turn-based permadeath squad combat with Crusader Kings’ management of bloodlines across multiple generations, inducting heroes into a ruthless breeding program intended to foster a roster of noble characters with superior physiques. But, well, you have to work with what you’ve got and what I’ve got is a malformed, shuffling host of genetic wreckage. For the first time in games, I am among my people.

While I’m delighted by the idea of fielding a fighting force of stumbling, arthritic dunces, I’m less keen on the fact that my first shot at Massive Chalice’s campaign fails to provide me with a single archer – or Hunter, as they’re called here. Your heroes are randomly generated, you see, and those devil dice have rolled an entire outfit made up of melee units called Caberjacks, who slam things with a giant timber trunk, and grenadiers, dressed up here as Alchemists. There are only these three unit types in the game, and I don’t want to miss out on one during my first playthrough so – call me a coward – I cancel back to the main menu and start again. No Hunters. I start again. All hunters. And again…

Bunch of (caber) tossers.

Massive Chalice leans heavily on its random number generator throughout, and not always to good effect: my ensuing experience with the campaign suggests the first few hours of combat would be pretty monotonous with a homogeneous force. Later on, individuals distinguish themselves with unlockable abilities and weapons, but initially your tactical toolset is a little bare, even with all three classes in play.

Eventually I restart enough times to field a crew of neurotic lightweights who at least have a couple of Hunters among them. Each hero comes from a noble house, lists individualised stats and various (mostly unflattering) qualities. At the outset, you can toggle whether these heroes have serious or silly names, but given that the game is narrated by a wisecracking sentient chalice, it doesn’t feel like you should be especially precious about the fiction. Why is there a wisecracking sentient chalice? Other than to orient the player in his or her role as an immortal commander, it’s not clear. At any rate, the realm is under assault by the monstrous regiment of The Cadence, and only this magical chalice will save it. But it’s going to take hundreds of years before the chalice amasses the strength to force The Cadence back, during which time muggins here will have to manage successive generations of a heroic defence force.

Just lie back and think of GENERIC_FANTASY_REALM.

To whit, with the tutorial done, I’m asked to select my first breeding pair of heroes, one of whom rules a keep as regent, and the other stands as her or his partner. I admit I have a growing sense of unease about this. Interesting from a coldly mechanical perspective though it is, there’s something unsettling about the game’s blithely eugenicist principles.

Your efforts to mould a master race are, however, heavily dictated by circumstance: the selection of candidates for this position is pretty thin. I only have a couple of heroes who aren’t revolting degenerates, or simply infertile, and I’m torn between whether I level them up in the field, where they will be more effective than their peers, or preserve their attributes by making them regent. The best candidate is the brainy and hearty Pharlain HayRoss – but she’s only 15. The nearest fertile male is twice her age. That match might seem more acceptable in a game built upon the historical truth of medieval courtships, like Crusader Kings, and I know it’s just a number and not a real person, but, somehow, the prospect of forcing a child to have sex with a much older man feels a little out of keeping in a game with a giant talking chalice.

Lorra lorra laughs are decidedly absent from this marriage.

There’s another thing, too. It’s possible to choose same sex couples – though they aren’t able to breed. I’m sure it sounded like a good idea on paper, and I would normally applaud the representation of non-hetero families. But these pairings are not consensual and the heroes themselves state no sexual preference. So, it’s sort of doubly odd to force people into an arranged marriage for the sole purpose of breeding – and yet ensure that this is impossible. You can adopt a child later in the game, but it comes at a disproportionately large cost to breeding and it won’t inherit the genetic characteristics of its adoptive parents. I don’t know what the game is trying to say here, or even what it’s trying to achieve mechanically, but it feels muddled.

In the end, I decide not to cut Pharlain’s adolescence short, and find an older, but less genetically robust candidate. And so it is that Islandcutie Gronowski becomes regent of Keep Canadiana, ruling beneath the motto “The End Is Near”. The next few years are uneventful – a timeline tickers across the map screen to mark their passing. Now I feel a little better about forcing Pharlain into marriage – she’s 21 – and pack her off into a keep of her own with a middle-aged, dimwitted gentleman who is, alas, one of the only fertile men available.

OKCupid needs a screen like this.

With my best-ish genes tied up in the act of baby-making, I now have few heroes worthy of the field. I opt to recruit some more heroes – a process that, again, takes years, but furnishes me with a couple of promising talents. Chief among them is the caber-wielding Morvan Moran. She’s a quick study, wily, and likely to produce male offspring. Things still aren’t looking good for my hunters, though, despite my many restarts, and little improves with the influx of new recruits. The best is Alyx Hammerstrom: myopic, puny, prone to flinching in melee combat and so asthmatic that she can barely move after sprinting. She’s also a massive piss-artist.

But many a real hero has been fond of the bottle, right? And surely minor physical frailties can be overcome with nurture and training? I’ll soon find out, it seems, as war has finally reached my shores. It comes on two fronts, but I can only choose to defend one, a simple bit of maths that ratchets up the pressure as the years progress. If you fail to defend one region of the map three times, it succumbs to the Cadence’s corruption, taking with it any Keeps you have built there and all who live within them. For now, however, the invaded lands are empty, and the choice between them is a coin-toss. I select three veterans of the tutorial battle: Cherry Tomato, a near-decrepit Hunter; Samus HayRoss, an Alchemist with dodgy aim; and Decimus Deedoo, a dimwitted Caberjack. I fill out the roster with two fresh recruits: the girl wonder Morvan, wielding a caber, and booze-hound Alyx, who I hope won’t be too hungover to aim her bow.

No, I don't understand why the movement radius doesn't stick to the actual grid either.

The battlefield is a rocky arena, littered with boulders and geysers that occasionally fart out plumes of sallow steam. I quickly regret having two Caberjacks – it seems this level is designed to introduce exploding enemies, called Ruptures, who detonate upon death to leave a corrosive AOE sludge. A melee vanguard is therefore ill-advised, but it may be too late: the enemy can probably close the distance to Morvan in the next turn. I slink Samus forward and, in what turns out to be an exceeding rarity, she lands one of her explosive flasks on top of the enemy, taking off all but a sliver of health.

Alchemists are otherwise something of a liability, it seems. Their explosives can easily catch friendlies in their blast, and their to-hit percentages plummet at anything other than close range – which is not the ideal range to use explosives, generally speaking. They only have five flasks to throw anyway, which you rapidly exhaust. Perhaps they unlock wider functions later on, but, in the early game, they seem pretty redundant next to the Hunters.

Not that you’d know it from Cherry’s first effort in this battle, as his arrow goes wide. It’s all down to Alyx. Wiping a crust of vomit from her lips (I imagine) she blinks down the scope. And bullseye! The beast explodes into an iridescent slime that almost catches Alyx herself in its spooge.

That'd be right between the eyes, if it had eyes.

A few more detonated Ruptures later and the battlefield is slick with corrosive ooze, forcing me to double back and circle round. But I’m beginning to get a feel for how the different classes’ abilities might interlock. Hunters have the ability to cloak into cover, making them ideal scouts and Caberjacks, who can slurp up aggro and damage, make obvious tanks. They also have the ability to stun and knockback enemies, and this is a handy way to delay Ruptures’ suicidal tendencies, while giving your Hunters a chance to detonate them at a safe range.

Or in my case, it’s Hunter, singular, as Alyx’s respiratory condition means that she can’t keep up with the pace set by her fellow heroes and spends most of the engagement shuffling out of the starting area. But I’m proud to say she makes it to the final battle, staggering in at the 11th hour to land the very last shot. Who needs ubermensh, anyway? She’s earned a pint or several.

I don’t know that the tactical interplay between classes is as rich and deep as it might be, and the Alchemist’s fumbling for purpose suggests there’s a lot to balance still. I’d certainly wish for more options, more quickly – more ways to distinguish units from each other – as even across the course of a single battle, I found my attention beginning to wander.

At least the alchemist's misfires still look pretty.

As for the hero-breeding meta game: there’s an interesting tension between preserving abilities for future generations and deploying them in the field. You can also retire heroes to the Sagewright’s Guild, buffing your subsequent research efforts – a huge boon, but at the cost of yet more deployable units.

Cherry Tomato doesn’t get the chance to retire, sadly, and keels over at the age of 61. Pharlain becomes an old lady. Her babies grow into strapping young things and then into rugged veterans and then into whitebearded sages. The advance of years makes you think more coldly about the long-game, but there aren’t that many levers you can pull to really change its course, and you’re only ever allowed to pull one at a time. You are the puppet of exigency, at the mercy of the random number generator.

Perhaps it’s more aesthetic than mechanic, that sense of ages passing, sweeping beloved heroes into the dusty annals. When Alyx’s beleaguered liver finally packs in, she becomes nothing but a red skull icon, flying across the timeline at the top of the screen and into the past, further and further. I dearly wish the game offered some way to salute her – a statue, or one of those blue plaques. She wasn’t the toughest or the fastest. She wasn’t a sure shot or a braveheart. But she still stepped up and did her bit: truer heroism games have rarely seen.

And, by god, could she drink. You have to raise a glass to that.

Massive Chalice is available from Steam and costs £23, which is almost worth it, given the current state of the game and an assumption of ongoing improvement between now and its spring 2015 release. I played the version available on 21/11/2014.



  1. Shardz says:

    Torchlight meets FF Tactics. That was bound to happen much sooner than later.

    • BisonHero says:

      It’s more “2012 XCOM meets the random genetic traits from Rogue Legacy”, but sure, FF Tactics is close. Not sure where you’re getting Torchlight.

    • Hdgenionk says:

      Do you know why that was bound to happen much sooner than later ? About PC Game in this forum. It seems that just link to can tell us answer.

  2. Merlin the tuna says:

    Re: Same Sex marriage. I’ve been using it a little more as I play through the game more. When the Partner to an elderly Regent dies, the Regent’s low fertility means you probably aren’t getting any more babies before he kicks the bucket. In that case, all you really care about is passing good Personalities on to the children currently growing up in the keep, which makes same-sex pairings an equally viable option. So basically, I’ve got a bunch of kings and queens waiting until their twilight years to come out of the closet. Either that or they’re calling up old college buddies to help raise their kids.

    That said, I’m scratching my head at the fact that this has received 2 writeups while still in Early Access. I like the game a lot despite it needing some polish, but this amount of coverage this early seems like an odd decision given the staff’s lukewarm responses. Especially in light of the frequent “Remember how mad we are about DF-9?” zingers.


      Ah, good to know that there is some usefulness in that; from the article it seems a weak addition, that makes no sense in the context of marrying warriors to produce valuabe heirs (as opposed to normal people wanting to bump uglies with people of the same gender because they are in love/hella horny). Your approach seems to be one that makes sense but was not explictly intended and arose for interlocking systems, which is the kind of game design I like.

    • Halk says:

      It’s not worth your head-scratching really. They obviously couldn’t miss the opportunity to put “Premature Evaluation” and “Massive Chalice” together in a title.

      Unless, of course, you were saying “scratching my head” to participate in the phallic puns.

    • KestrelPi says:

      Yeah, there are definitely situations in the game where it makes sense to have a same sex couple in a keep, but they’re pretty rare right now and adoption is pretty punishing at the moment. But they’ve had a lot of feedback about that so I think this will see some balancing after they’ve hammered out the more fundamental balance issues.

      Speaking of which, quite a significant balance patch was just released.

    • onionman says:

      It’s not Double Fine’s fault that same-sex pairings are inherently infertile. It’s just ironic that they seem to want to support it, but run headlong into the reality of the situation.

      • Mutak says:

        In fact, it is their fault. They could include an auto-adopt form of “procreation” for same-sex couples without even straining disbelief.

        Never confuse rigid adherence to “realism” for a lack of choice, especially in sci-fi and fantasy.

  3. BisonHero says:

    I also thought the Alchemists’ limited ammo was an issue when I started playing. So while you can’t spam their ranged attack like you can with the Hunter, the difference is that the Alchemist can use their Free Throw ability (learned at level 2) to throw two flasks in one turn if you really need a lot of damage at a key moment. I completely changed my mind from them being not that great to being The One Key Class that can save your ass when you’re in a life or death situation and need to take out as many enemies as possible.

    Granted, a level 1 Alchemist who hasn’t unlocked free throw yet (and has pitiful Intelligence) is not very useful, but once your Alchemist bloodline(s) get going, your Alchemist will start at level 2, 3, 4, etc. If you research the accessory that boosts accuracy, putting that on Alchemists makes them much more effective. At level 4 you can choose between an innate accuracy boost, or their flasks and melee attacks gain poison damage over time.

    Did I mention the other key to using Alchemists is that you should be using their melee much of the time to finish off lesser enemies that are almost dead, and save the flasks for when you REALLY need them? That’s also really important.

    • Starayo says:

      With some older, experienced alchemists, it’s insane just how much damage they can put out in a single turn compared to my other heroes. Definitely useful, and I’ve usually upgraded their armor fairly early in the game to make them a bit more survivable.

      • Water says:

        Another useful trick I’ve discovered with alchemists is the ability to hit things they don’t have line of sight on. I had a hunter sneak around some rocks and spot an enemy, and my alchemist sitting on the other side of the rocks was able to lob flasks over the barrier.

  4. BisonHero says:

    By the way, Marsh Davies, how many years in did you get?

    I found that after roughly the 150 years mark, advancing the timeline actually chugs quite a bit for me. By that point I had built on every possible bit of land, so I think I had 5 keeps, 3 crucibles, and 2 sagewright guilds, and I guess keeping track of all those different characters ages, and tallying the experiences produced by each keep and crucible, was hitting my processor kinda hard? Granted, my PC is getting old, and only has a Core i5-2400 in it.

    Also, what did you think of the research element? You didn’t touch on that much. I find there are too many accessories, when I mostly just use the first two, being “health potion” and “passive accuracy buff” items. The armour is worth researching. The weapons give some interesting abilities, but the bloodline relics become such powerful damage dealers (with critical hits) that I haven’t been using the researched weapons much. I’m not clear on whether researched weapons can be become bloodline relics, or if bloodline relics are always the default weapon for that class with no special abilities.

    • Marsh Davies says:

      Huh! You had a lot more stuff than I did at 150 years in. I think, perhaps because of the RNG giving me a whole load of really duff or infertile heroes, I’ve spent a lot more of my research time recruiting heroes than I might otherwise have done. There never seems to be a good time to research new weapons, although I’ve researched a lot of armour. On the whole I’ve felt my choices of what to research, and even who to marry, have been governed by the circumstances the game offered me, rather than being part of my strategy.

      My processor (AMD FX 6100) seems to be weathering the game okay, even though it is getting on a bit and prone to overheat.

      Thanks for the alchemist tips. I’d unlocked free throws at the time of writing the above, but it wasn’t doing me a whole lot of good since they weren’t hitting anything! Again, maybe I’ve been scuppered by the RNG dishing out dud heroes. The melee damage my alchemists do seems pitiful, too – but maybe I’ve made that judgement based on unlucky glancing blows, and just minimised their melee contact since.

      • BisonHero says:

        For what it’s worth, I only filled up all the slots a little ways after year 150 I think. Once I kinda stabilized my population enough that I more or less always have a comfortable amount of people, most of the research projects are quite long (12-16 years) for equipment, but building a keep or crucible or guild is only on the order of 4-8 years, so I quickly filled out the remaining land. Not sure I’ll be able to defend all of it, but we’ll see. And like you, I also had about 2 false starts where I felt like things were going terribly, and I’d just have missions where Bulwarks would wipe out my whole team (not unlike in new XCOM where sometimes your team just isn’t that great and the first all-Muton missions just destroys your team that is ostensibly your best guys). So like you, I just completely restarted until I got some good starting troops, and also after a few attempts I think I better understood the flow of the early game, and how hard it is to keep a good population.

        On the current playthrough I’m on, I was lucky enough to weather the early game enough to build three keeps early on. It seems that whoever you assign as the first regent locks in what class that keep will output (regardless of who the regent’s partner is). So my three keeps were for one of each class, and it definitely helps a lot once your alchemists are level 2 or 3 right out of the gate (as a result of being the offspring of a keep). What I found I had to do was first research a group of new heroes (a random assortment of different families) then immediately build a new keep, picking the best person from that recruitment drive to found the house. Otherwise you run the risk of only having people from your existing keeps, and having two keeps owned by the same family is bad because they can never marry between each other. Sometimes, if the regent of the new keep was a person in their 30-50s and not so fertile, I would then research “adopt a baby” for that new keep, just so they’ll definitely have some young kids available to continue the bloodline when the first regent passes away.

        It definitely took me some time to wrap my head around “people” being an important non-combat resource, in that you really need 3-4 keeps online and bearing offspring ASAP, that way you can spare people to retire to the Sagewright’s Guild/Crucible, and you can afford to marry people off without using up valuable combat troops. I found it very difficult to spare more than 1-2 people to the Sagewright’s Guild early on, because I needed almost every available person to fight, and it felt like my regents were dying every 5 seconds. At this point, my houses are inbred as hell, but that’s fine since all that matters is that the partner of a regent can’t be of the same house. But technically I just have 5 families constant intermarrying and it’s kinda gross if you think about it too much.

        My biggest issue is that early on, the Chalice kinds hints after the tutorial that “maybe you could build another keep or two, but maybe if research is an issue you could construct a sagewright’s guild”, but OH MAN it’s nearly impossible to staff a sagewright’s guild in the early game. The entire early game you pretty much have to alternate between building keeps and hiring groups of heroes (and maybe research a few quick accessories), because your available population is so low. Once you have 3-4 keeps going, they can sustain themselves reasonably well, and whenever a regent dies you usually have a 15-20 year-old to take their place and keep the bloodline going strong.

  5. eggy toast says:

    CKII + XCOM sounds amazing, and the idea for this game is a dream come true for me. But the implementation seems to stem from fundamentally misunderstanding what those games did right, and winnowing lots of it away.

    Also, visually, wow it’s not pretty.

    • Yachmenev says:

      You don’t like DF and their games, we get it now.

    • Pazguato says:

      A Double Fine game not pretty? Now I’ve seen it all.

    • malkav11 says:

      I can’t really comment about the gameplay, but visuals-wise I think you may need your eyes checked, because every screenshot I’ve seen has been very stylish and attractive.

      • Pazguato says:

        I can’t say the same from the screenshots of above. Sorry, but he’s got a point. It’s early, though.


      I hope this doesn’t end up being one of those “great concepts, passable execution” DF games. Since it’s still on Early Access it has time to evolve… but we know how that ended up last time.

      (Though I knew Spacebase DF-9 wouldn’t live up to the concept the moment I laid eyes on the prototype. My decades of gaming must have finally given me a preternatural ability to judge games before they’re out, like everyone on the internet pretends to have.)

  6. heyhellowhatsnew says:

    I knew you weren’t going to mention the Double Fine debacle as a warning as I keep saying, ever since the “supporter” program started, you’ve gone mainstream pretty much. You don’t call out racism, sexism, homophobia. You don’t call out shady companies.

    And on top of that, the Supporter Program articles are terribly written. As an editor I cringed when I read a few and now I skip those like they have ebola.

    You lost your way. Someone please tell me a site about video games that used to be what Rock, Paper, Shotgun was.

    Evaluate yourselves. Take a moment to read what you used to write from years ago… where you fought for social justice instead of just being shills now. It’s sickening to see how this site has transformed into another IGN, but the BBC version of it…

    • JohnnyPanzer says:

      What on earth are you on about? They still fight the good fight, and they still entertain. They just don’t seem to have a need to do both at all times, no matter the subject. But that’s the way it’s always been if you ask me.

      Even in this very article the subjects of child abuse, forced marriages and eugenics are brought up. It’s not the main focus of the article, but it seems to have gotten all the attention it deserves considering we’re talking game mechanics that are not -meant- to degrade and abuse, and fit in rather nicely when you take the setting into consideration. Isn’t that always what RPS have been about? Not beating the message in, but lifting possible concerns to the surface so people can decide for themselves how they feel about it.

      The only times RPS have acted the way you describe (focusing on -nothing- but the social justice aspect of games) are when the subjects have demanded it. But I find your attitude of “every word written that does not revolve around social injustice is a word wasted” to be just as daft as the old “you’re a gaming site, write about games and nothing else” mantra that the GamerGate crowd is so fond of.

    • J. Cosmo Cohen says:

      If you go on the Steam forums for Massive Chalice, Brad Muir directly addresses the funding for this game. It’s completely funded until next year sometime, can’t remember the exact date, and that date is when they’re hitting 1.0.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malarious says:

      The simple fact that you’re unironically suggesting a PC gaming site should fight for the ever-nebulous “social justice” is actually insane. I’ve only been reading RPS for a few years, and the (admittedly infrequent) ridiculous faux-outrage regarding some supposedly sexist or politically incorrect element of a game or its marketing has always been the only thing keeping me from recommending the site to more friends.

      I read RPS for the wit and the humor, and this article was very amusing. If anything, articles like these are a throwback to what RPS used to be. I’ve always compared the site to Old Man Murray. RPS differentiates itself from other gaming websites by actually being genuinely funny, in a wry, clever, and very self-aware manner.

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      ‘kay, bye!

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      I’m not sure what RPS you’re reading but it must be from some parallel universe where your comments make sense. Do by all means let the door hit you on the way out.

  7. teije says:

    I read this article and have no effing clue what the point of this game is. Besides trying to pair up matching boy and girl pixels with ridiculous names to breed more pixels.

    Is there any actual game or point to this all, or just an endless round of pixellated breeding?

    • BisonHero says:

      Yeah, this writeup glosses over a lot of that, in pursuit of personifying all of the weird units you end up with. The hero breeding metagame is a BIG part of the game, in that if you don’t get the ball rolling well then you’re constantly short of soldiers, but this writeup did kinda focus on that a lot and doesn’t mention the combat gameplay all that much.

      It has XCOM combat (new XCOM). There are 3 classes: melee (caberjack), ranged (hunter), and a mid-range grenade tossing class with limited ammo, that also has a weak melee attack (alchemist). The maps have “cover”, but it doesn’t make you harder to hit if you stand near it. Instead, “full cover”/”high cover” must be walked around and breaks line of sight entirely (think trees and large rocks), whereas “low cover” must be walked around but does not break line of sight (think small rocks, waist-high walls, short shrubs).

      Enemies all have strange traits to them, instead of just being varying amounts of HP and damage like in XCOM. A “Lapse” enemy (ranged), if it hits you, makes you forget (you lose 150 XP), so it’s best to kill them before they ever have a chance to fire upon you. A “Rupture” enemy suicide bombs into you, and whoever this explosion hits takes an armour penalty for the rest of that mission, and the explosion leaves a pool of low damage acid on the ground for the rest of the mission. The “Bulwark” enemy (ranged) has a piercing attack that can hit your soldiers if they’re lined up, and has a passive defense ability where only the first attack on them each round does full damage; any attacks after the first only do 1 damage because the Bulwark has turned on its hardened shell. The game has more melee units than base XCOM did (only Chrysalids and Muton Berserkers were melee, whereas I think I’ve encounter 4 melee unit types in Massive Chalice).

      There is also a knockback mechanic that mostly applies to Caberjack abilities, where if you knock an enemy back and it collides with a nearby a wall or another unit, everyone involved in the collision is stunned and skips their next turn (the Caberjack who started the knockback is not stunned). This is useful to disable enemies whose attacks have harsh debuffs associated with them.

      There’s a lot going on with the combat, and you could probably write another article on it just as long as this one was by Davies.

      • jonahcutter says:

        XCOM enemies have many supplemental abilities to go along with their ranged weaponry.

        Floaters fly and can launch into your backfield. Heavy floaters also have grenades. Sectoid Commanders have different psi attacks. Cyberdiscs fly. Drones fly. Mutons can intimidate and have grenades. Berzerkers also can intimidate, and have bullrush that can destroy your hardcover. Seekers fly and can stealth for a sneak attack. Thin Men have a poison cloud attack. Chryssalid victims turn into zombies. Ethereals have different psi attacks. Several different units will also use suppression and overwatch, as well as being able to hunker down themselves.

        And in the Long War mod, they can have the same perks as your own troops. Learn to fear overwatching Outsiders with covering fire (triggers overwatch on attacks not just movement).

        • BisonHero says:

          Wasn’t trying to downplay what the enemies in XCOM are capable of, just pointing out that some of the enemies in Massive Chalice inflict permanent debuffs that translate back into the meta-layer of the game.
          One enemy type reduces the XP on a character every time they land a hit, while another enemy type permanently ages a character by 5 years every time they land a hit. On the less permanent side of things, one enemy type’s suicide blast is basically like a Shredder Rocket against your own unit, meaning your guy will have less armour and take amplified damage for the remainder of the mission.

          My point is, that’s a pretty fucked up thing for enemies to be capable of in this sort of game, compared to many of XCOM’s enemies who have no way to permanently impair a unit other than killing them. XCOM’s enemies are more about mobility, damage, and some splash damage. The only thing in XCOM that is like a permanent debuff that I can think of are permanent will penalties, which I think only happen if a soldier is gravely wounded?

          Overall, Massive Chalice’s enemies don’t really have as many active unique abilities as the enemies in XCOM, but they do have a wide range of debuffs that are unlike what you’d encounter in XCOM.

          • jonahcutter says:

            Yeah, will loss for gravely wounded is the only permanent debuff in XCOM besides… well… dying.

  8. Starayo says:

    On the lack of class diversity – there will be “hybrid classes” coming in eventually, which adds another layer to the regent and partner choosing, since they’re dependent of the father and mother of the child.

    On the whole I have quite enjoyed my time in massive chalice. It’s not as tactical as XCOM, but it’s still quite fun. With more to come in development, I am very pleased with my choice to kickstart this game – I’ve already played it enough to get my money’s worth.


    Don’t you need a person of a certain class to get children of that class? Doesn’t that mean that if the RNG screws you and you don’t start with any Hunters you won’t have Hunters ever?

    • BisonHero says:

      One of the things you can “research” (there is no production, so “research” covers both new technologies, and more physical processes like building a keep) is finding a new group of heroes. So if your starting group has no hunters, your first couple keeps could be founded by a caberjack and an alchemist, and once those are sorted out you could hire a new group of heroes (it’s actually one of the quickest things to “research”, though it takes longer the more times you do it) and once you get a hunter from that method you could have them found a keep and from then on you would have hunters.

      For what it’s worth, when starting a new game I never had issues where one class was totally missing from my lineup. I restarted a few times because at first I didn’t full get how hard it is to keep a stable population, and 50 years in I would find that I had nearly run out of people and I was just losing my entire squad on missions over and over because I wasn’t really fostering bloodlines effectively.

  10. Kala says:

    “I select three veterans of the tutorial battle: Cherry Tomato, a near-decrepit Hunter; Samus HayRoss, an Alchemist with dodgy aim; and Decimus Deedoo, a dimwitted Caberjack. I fill out the roster with two fresh recruits: the girl wonder Morvan, wielding a caber, and booze-hound Alyx, who I hope won’t be too hungover to aim her bow.”

    Huh, that actually sounds like my (old) X-com playthroughs…

    (this sounds especially familiar “I slink Samus forward and, in what turns out to be an exceeding rarity, she lands one of her explosive flasks on top of the enemy, taking off all but a sliver of health.”)

  11. melnificent says:

    Sounds really good. But I’ll wait for version 2.0 as DF 1.0 releases seem to be everyone elses Alphas

    • Yachmenev says:

      Are you just talking about Spacebase now, or do you also mean any other of their games?

  12. sophof says:

    To see the problem with giving to ‘public outcry’, look no further then the same-sex marriage mechanic in this game. The reason why it doesn’t seem to make sense is because it wan’t in the game but was basically forced in there because of sensitivities.

    This is the negative effect of the RPS mentality of seeing sexism, racism and prejudice behind every boob, white man and heterosexual relationship. You should be celebrating, not complaining. The developer even felt like an asshole for not thinking about it initially, it’s a complete victory! You get the hamfisted game mechanic you deserve…

    • Xocrates says:

      Wasn’t in the game? Same sex marriage was a given from pretty much the start, by the devs own initiative. There was no outcry for it.

      • KestrelPi says:

        I can speak to this better than most, as I was actually the initiator of the supposed “outcry.” I only have a few things to say about it:

        * No, it wasn’t an outcry. I started a thread questioning whether there might be a place for same sex couples in the game. Developers were receptive to the idea, and ensuing was a discussion about what that might actually mean. All sorts of models for how it would work were proposed, and they were marked in how we were trying to think about how it might make the game better or more interesting rather than simply shoehorning something in for the sake of it.

        * Also out of that same discussion came the kernel of the idea for the Sagewright’s guild. That guild has nothing to do with marriage now, but it’s a good indication of how an idea can offshoot into other ideas (basically I wondered whether keeps always had to be about children – what if they could also be about research, and that’s what basically became Sagewrights.)

        * It’s not balanced right now, and the developers are aware of that. There are definitely situations at the moment where it can be a good idea to put too male or female heroes together – but they’re pretty rare. They don’t need to be common, of course, for it to work, but at the moment adoption takes too much time to really be a viable way of maintaining a bloodline except in emergencies. The side-strategic advantage of same-sex (or infertile couple) marriage in the game is being able to keep personality traits while mixing in fresh, new physical traits. This could become a totally viable side-strategy, with a bit of balancing.

        • onionman says:

          Art imitating life: bureaucrats have to jig the system so that a natural biological union of man and woman isn’t advantageous over a same sex pairing, despite the fact that… uhh… it is, given the way human reproduction works.

          • KestrelPi says:

            Not sure exactly what your point is?

            Re: the game: Adoption is a good mechanic in the game, it just needs balancing, like I said.

            Re: life: I’ve literally no idea why you came in here to tell me that my relationship is worth less than straight people’s . At least that’s the only sane way of reading what you wrote.

        • Hex says:

          I realize I’m a bit late this party, but…

          …are there no plans for providing a motivation for same-sex (or even hetero) marriages? It seems like part of the game should be juggling trying to make the best matches for your heroes, while also seeing who they want or don’t want to marry.

          Jack and Jill may be destined to crank out great babies, but Jack loves dick. And Dick loves Jack. It would be kind of neat to get a good 20 years or so of baby-makin’ out of your stud heroes, and then reward them for their contributions by letting them retire with their true love to live out their twilight years.

          It would also be interesting to have a Consort/Companion mechanic, whereby you could marry two people together for their genes, but allow them to keep a mistress/whatever a male mistress is called. Potentially happyiness-boost for the regent, and possibly some skills/stats/traits impact for the children…all at the risk of sustaining the ire of the Partner.

          Yeah. I would have liked seeing this game go a totally different direction — especially considering how basic and uninspired the combat and management currently feels. Having the existing game serve as a platform for manipulating the relationships of your heroes might be fun. As it is, it’s just a sequence of half-formed, adequate ideas, with nothing compelling to tie it all together.

          Also is there a way to get those stupid narrators to shut up?

    • aepervius says:

      AS an alternative explanation I simply assumed this was regencies, and not homosexuality. My younger not-yet-fit-to-reign king being regented by the older previous king/queen.

  13. Wulfram says:

    I think the whole breeding mechanic would feel better if you were dealing with dragons or something

  14. jenkins says:

    “Massive Chalice combines XCOM’s turn-based permadeath squad combat with Crusader Kings’ management of bloodlines across multiple generations…

    You have my complete and undivided attention, sir.