Massive Chalice started out as a kickstarter project in 2015 from Double Fine Productions. You might recognize them as the developer of Psychonauts among other well liked games.
You are the immortal leader of a medieval fantasy nation besieged by a supernatural invading force called the Cadence. Early on they have small melee enemies, suicide bomber enemies, and even ones who can cause your soldiers to lose experience. You’re council is made up of two spirits inside the massive chalice who give you advice and warp your soldiers into battle.
You must lead your 5 person squad to fight these threats on some fairly large maps. You start out with 3 main classes, Alchemists who throw exploding flasks, Caberjacks who hit things with a battering ram, and Hunters who use crossbows. Each of these classes can be hybridized as well through the heredity system.
As you expand out your nation you can choose to retire a couple of your heros to have them become the lords of a keep. At that point they will start having children who will eventually join the ranks of your army. In addition to their class being handed down, you’ll also have to keep an eye on each lords personality and character traits. Set an asthmatic hero up as a lord and you’ll have an entire line of descendants who can’t sprint as far. It’s a very interesting system as every lord you appoint means two less heros you can bring into a fight. Do you give up your strongest fighters to get strong heirs, or chose average lords to keep your best and brightest in the fight?
The gameplay itself plays out in two forms. First as a kingdom management game, where you’ll decide where to build forts and research and secondly as a tactical game. In battle each hero can only move a set distance and has a set number of potential actions that can expand as they gain experience and level up. If you’ve played X-Com you’ll be right at home.
The fights themselves are fairly easy to start, but much of the challenge comes from the unending forward progress of time. Remember how I mentioned that you as the lord are immortal? Well, the rest of the world isn’t so lucky. Years will pass by in just a few minutes. Your best battle hardened soldiers will die from old age, and there just never is enough time to do everything. Every few years the Cadence will stage an attack on two of your territories, but you can only defend one at a time. If a territory is left undefended 3 times, you’ll lose it forever.
The controls can be fidgety and there isn’t much to get you attached to your fighters. Overall the game feels like it is missing that final layer of polish that really makes games great.
Other than that, everything in this game comes together really well over the first hour and I’d happily keep playing for a while more.