pax 2014

Double Fine's Massive Chalice Pits You Against Genetics And Time

by Mike Futter on Aug 29, 2014 at 11:39 AM

PAX is in full swing here in Seattle, and my first stop was to check in with Double Fine. After its first successful Kickstarter, Broken Age, the team returned to backers to request support once more. The result? Massive Chalice.

The easiest way to frame Massive Chalice is to link it to one of the best received strategy titles of the past few years. Project lead Brad Muir isn't afraid to reference Firaxis' XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and the two games share some sensible elements, like two-action turns. However, Double Fine's game deviates in significant ways.

The setup places the player in the role of a benevolent overseer, managing a kingdom that is under invasion by a miasmic darkness known as the Cadence. As the game progresses, the Cadence will attack parts of the land, and your heroes will need to choose where to concentrate their defenses (similar to mission choice in XCOM).

Unlike that familiar title though, your heroes have a more potent enemy than the Cadence troops. Time wears down even the boldest hero, and you'll constantly need a new crop to send into the fight.

One of the Cadence enemies, the Wrinkler, uses time as a weapon and ages your heroes by five years with every connected hit. Other foes develop a hardened carapace after the first hit in a turn, swap places with your team, and even de-level them.

Watch the video interview with project lead Brad Muir below to learn more about Massive Chalice. 

Replacing your forces is handled by marrying your champions to one another in hopes that the union produces offspring. The progeny have a chance to receive traits from both parents, both bad and good. The higher level they are when wed and retired, the more experience they'll bestow to the children growing up.

For instance, I married one of my brainy, bear strength-endowed, lone wolf hunters (a stealthy ranged fighter) to a male Caberjack (a melee fighter with a heavy battering ram) who had strength buffs. The result? "One of the worst characters I've ever seen," according to Muir.

This poor brat was sickly, nearsighted, and puny. On top of it, he was cocky. In the final release, I'd be able to name him Joffrey and be done with it. I couldn't even send him off to be a sage (thus cutting ties with his family and aiding in research). The poor child was also dim, with a Wisdom rating of only 1.

Sending him into battle might not end well, but if his parents don't have more children, then the bloodline ends with him. I could try to train him up and marry him to someone with better genes, or I could send him into battle to die and start all over again.

Massive Chalice plucks the strings that made XCOM sound so darn good, but differentiates itself with the complex aging and bloodline mechanics. It offers tactical and strategic options that create a familiar, but still enjoyable loop. The title will be out this fall for PC.