On year 271, less than 30 years before the final battle, a random event arises. Someone calling herself the Commoner Queen has been riling up the people. I can meet with her, refuse to meet with her, or send one of my heroes to disappear her.
Although the results can vary for each choice, I feel like I’m hip to this trick by now. The good choice, the bad choice, and the choice that risks a hero. But Doublefine gets really, uh, playful with these random events. You should see what they do when you start throwing things into the chalice! They’re more than happy to allow bad results for good choices and good results for bad choices, so I’m going to risk a hero. Hopefully, this will avoid one of my territories being put one point of corruption closer to slipping into the sea. Besides, I have heroes to spare. I’m awash in Gaffney girls! So I chose the third option and send a Gaffney girl to deal with this Commoner Queen.
After the jump, yet another Sagewrights Guild sinks into the sea.
Pretty tricky, Doublefine. Sure enough, the Commoner Queen retreats into the Salt Stacks, where she says bad things about me and the people lose faith. I gain a point of corruption in the Salt Stacks, home to my Sagewrights Guild and two points of corruption. The third point of corruption sinks the Salt Stacks into the sea, dragging with it my three sagewrights and any bonus I hoped to apply to research for the remaining 29 years of my game.
But worst of all, my kingdom now looks kind of like Cuba.
Fortunately, it’s late enough in the game that I’ve done most of the research I need. I’ve unlocked advanced training and elite training for each of the three classes. These training researches are a straight-up addition to the class’s base stat, which means they do more damage.
You can also research two special weapons for each class. For instance, you can research ramcap cabers and timefists for caberjacks, and then you can equip these instead of the default caber. These special weapons aren’t necessarily better than default cabers, but they’re certainly different. Ramcap cabers have explosive tips that knock enemies out of position. Timefists knock enemies through time. I don’t want to spoil for you what that means. Two of my favorite delights in Massive Chalice have been a) discovering how timefists work and b) discovering when they work. Let that be an incentive for you to reseach timefists in your own game.
One of the intentional design elements of Massive Chalice is that you won’t get to play with all the toys in one playthrough. This is my second playthrough, on normal difficulty, and I don’t mind telling you that I’m kicking its ass (fingers crossed for the final battle!). However, I’ve still had to be selective with my research projects. I can’t imagine a game in which you can research everything. The only special weapon I’ve researched is the boom slinger, an alchemist weapon that sacrifices accuracy and range for a larger area of effect and more damage.
The boom slinger is the appropriate piece of equipment when you just want to hurt a bunch of stuff in the immediate vicinity and you’re not planning on finessing a bunch of danger close artillery strikes. Just stand far back and you should be okay.
You can also research two levels of armor upgrades for each class. The first upgrade is called refined armor, and the second upgrade is called advanced armor. In addition, you can research a unique armor type for each class. I’ve got refined armor for my caberjacks and alchemists, but my hunters are using their class’s special armor, which is called veil armor. Veil armor gives hunters a decent evasion bonus, but no armor protection. More importantly, they let hunters use stealth even out in the open. They’re basically cloaking suits until the hunter attacks.
But then there’s a long list of toys you can equip in a character’s inventory slot. I’ve previously talked about swapping stones, which my caberjacks have been using to pull my scouts back from the front. I just discovered that I can even use swapping stones to change places with monsters, which opens up some interesting possibilities.
Early on, I researched something called perilous cores, which you learn from ruptures, the creatures who run up and detonate when they’re adjacent to your heroes, damaging them in a shower of acid and leaving a pool of corrosive stuff all over the floor. I figured a perilous core would be like a grenade I could throw. Which is what alchemists can already do as their basic attack, but surely it would be useful if everyone had a grenade in his pocket. I’ve played XCOM.
But I was wrong. Perilous cores just let the equipped character self-destruct, inflicting a massive amount of damage on creatures within a couple of tiles.
Uh, no, Siegfried Flink, but the pin back into the perilous core, please.
So it’s not as useful as I’d hoped. Certainly useful in limited situations, but it seems defeatist to plan ahead and carry one into a mission. I suppose a really elderly hero might consider flinging himself into a crowd of monsters to go out in a blaze of glory rather than surviving the battle to die in his sleep a few years later. But wouldn’t it almost always be better to bring along a healing potion, or a skipping stone, or dodge stockings to increase your evasion chance? Kamikazing senior citizens doesn’t really seem like the best use of my resources.
But here’s another situation where Massive Chalice works as a game that really comes alive when you start combining its different pieces. At even numbered levels, each class unlocks a new ability. When an alchemist reaches sixth level, she can choose either acid flasks that inflict damage over time or the ability to throw items. Throwing items is hugely useful with healing potions, because it applies the healing effect to an area. Otherwise, healing potions are only useful to one character at a time. Any character can swig a potion to heal himself, or even use the potion on an adjacent hero. But if you take the time to group your characters carefully, an alchemist can apply the full healing power of a single potion to all your characters.
But guess what else a sixth level alchemist can throw? You probably said “a perilous core”. You were right. A perilous core, which does 100 points of damage, is basically a nuke. Furthermore, alchemists at level two can choose bigger pockets to carry two items. That means an alchemist with two nukes in her pocket. I had no idea that was an option on my first playthrough.
But wait, there’s more! What if you’d like to fire those nukes over a longer range? Let me introduce you to the trickshot, the subclass from a hunter regent and an alchemist spouse. Trickshots can choose to carry an extra item at fourth level and they can choose to shoot items at sixth level. My standard Gaffney girl configuration is to wear veil armor, carry two perilous cores, and carefully scout out clusters of monsters just waiting to have a perilous core shot into their midst. They don’t even have to get that close.
Here’s Sarah Gaffney, in the upper right corner, hiding in veil armor, discovering a pack of three bulwarks in the lower left foreground.
A bulwark is a tough ranged attacker whose armor seals shut for the turn immediately after he takes any damage. You basically have to kill it in one hit or not at all. One hunter against three bulwarks can be a risky proposition. But one properly leveled up trickshot with a perilous core against three bulwarks? In this case, a 93% chance to flat-out kill all three of them.
With tricks — and trickshots! — like these up my sleeve, the final fifty years aren’t too difficult. In fact, my only casualty is to my own bees. It turns out that bees sting indiscriminately. I guess I thought these might be special bees with friend-or-fee detection systems. Live and learn. Well, in this case, die and learn. But still, learn.
So I’ve got my heroes nicely trained, with four houses regularly providing eighth level fifteen-year-olds. I’ve got all the weapons, armor, and sneaky doo-dads I need. So when my Sagewrights Guild slides into the sea, I’m not too concerned. Farewell, scholars. It was either you or House Flink. I’m sure you understand.
After a couple more battles, it’s time. Year 300. A cutscene explains the story basis for the final battle and now it’s time to choose my ultimate set of five heroes…
Up next: the finale battle, which is a spoiler, so maybe you shouldn’t read it
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