Welcome to I’m Still Talking About… My 2015 end of the year feature where I find fifteen games that defined the indie game scene for me this year.  These aren’t the best games of 2015, they’re not the must-plays, they are the games that have refused to leave my thoughts, the games that got under my skin.  For better or worse, these are the games I’m still talking about.

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I’ve already talked plenty about Double Fine’s strange relationship with Kickstarter, so I won’t go into it any more here.  It helps set the stage for Massive Chalice when you understand the game was another dip into crowd-funding and developed within Double Fine in the midst of the Broken Age kerfuffle.  The concept of Massive Chalice was so intriguing that I made a rare move and donated to the Kickstarter, hopeful that what I would get would be the mix between Crusader Kings and X-COM that I hadn’t even realized I desperately wanted.

 

Is it really THAT good?

I’d be lying if I didn’t say Massive Chalice was a slight disappointment.  When I first got early-access to the game on Steam as a Kickstarter backer, I sunk about a dozen hours into the campaign, engaged by the desperate struggle to keep my kingdom afloat despite the nasty attacks from the Cadence.  It was frantic and fun, but not quite a polished product (hence why it was in Early Access).  So I waited for the actual release which came this summer.

Since Massive Chalice was released straight into the Xbox Gold program, I figured I would expand my horizons and give the console version a shot.  I found the game on Xbox One was a bit of a buggy mess, but that wasn’t the real problem for Massive Chalice.  The biggest problem is that the game attempts to create the same desperation as X-COM, but lacks the continuity.  Since you are an immortal leader and decades pass between each encounter with the Cadence, you only ever get to use your soldiers for a few fights.  These characters quickly come and go, which makes you far more concerned with breeding new warriors and less invested in the ones you have.  The failure to connect to these characters keeps Massive Chalice at arms length.

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So why are you talking about it?

Massive Chalice might not have delivered a game with perfect marks, but it certainly delivered one of the most ambitious indie experiences this year.  Brad Muir’s vision of a two-hundred year war which results in sacred weapons, forgotten heroes, and legendary houses flirted with greatness even if it came up short.  Establishing houses, creating training grounds for your heroes, building a Sagewrights guild for your subjects who wish to pursue higher learning, it all makes for an interesting world.

Massive Chalice is a strategy game which is unlike any other you’ve played.  It at both times forces players to focus on the greater picture, planning for the future and setting distant goals.  But at the same time the game pushes you into intimate combat scenarios where the goal is to simply survive the next attack and live to see another day.

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Okay, that sounds alright.  But what is the real reason I should play this game?

While the long-term mechanics might not live up to expectations, the moment to combat is fantastic.  Using the unfamiliar classes of caberjack, alchemist, and hunter make for surprising encounters and unique ways in which your warriors can work together.  While the heroes buck cliches, the enemies feel completely original.  You can’t count on a wealth of fantasy knowledge to predict the antics you’ll see from the Cadence, when you encounter a new enemy, you don’t really know what to expect.  This keeps you off balance and concocting new strategies on the fly.

It’s not that battles in Massive Chalice are teeth-grindingly difficult, but they’re certainly more thoughtful that other strategy games and that much more rewarding.  These encounters feel consistently fresh and unique, something that is welcomed in the strategy genre.

 

So you’d recommend it to anyone?

Massive Chalice isn’t the best game I’m talking about at the end of the year, but it’s appeal is one that doesn’t require an interest in strategy games.  Sure, it’s a fantasy strategy game, but it doesn’t boast the mind-numbing eccentricities one often sees in the genre.  Unlike Crusader Kings, it doesn’t feel necessary to spend hours upon hours watching Let’s Plays and reading guides to figure out Massive Chalice.  The game is easy to pick up and play, doing a great job to teaching it’s mechanics to you on the fly.  Again, it’s something unique to the strategy genre and makes it one of the rare games that I think anyone could enjoy.

About The Author

The Glorious Predecessor

As I write this, I am listening to Striking Matches and eating a blueberry muffin. The music is good, the muffin is even better. I dance when I drink and have been known to occasionally free-style rap, none of which benefits society.

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