It’s been 300 years. I started with ten territories, but I’m down to five. One of them has the Standard where my kingdom trains children. The other four have keeps for my noble houses, including the caberjacks of House Wayne, the hunters of House Gaffney, and the alchemists of House Flink. The Flinks actually have two keeps. They’re just that good. Everyone else, everyplace else, has crumbled into the sea, devoured by the Cadence.
While my land holdings might seem dire, the more accurate picture of how I’m doing is my list of available heroes. I’ve got over thirty and most of them are level eight or nine without ever having seen battle. That’s just how powerful their parents and teachers have been.
So one of the hardest things about fighting the final battle is deciding which five heroes to bring. Actually, it’s not that hard. Three of my heroes have relics as weapons. A relic is incredibly powerful once it’s leveled up, and these relics are well and truly leveled up. You can bet they’re going into battle. Etlanta Flink with a thrower called Gatekeeper, Matt Gaffney with a crossbow called Division, and Margaret Gaffney with a crossbow called Honor. That’s an alchemist and two hunter classes. I round out the team with another alchemist named Mako Flink and my best caberjack, Yuloria Wayne, for tanking.
After the jump, I’ll spoil the finale of Massive Chalice, which you should play for yourself instead.
Too few games know how to end. Which is a shame, because a last impression is going to stick with you for a while. For some people, the last impression of Massive Chalice will be a massive difficulty spike and a mission unlike any mission you’ve played up to that point. They might think of it as a sucker punch. A bum rush after 300 years.
But what they’ll hopefully realize in these cases — it’s how my first game ended and the realization I arrived at — is that they’ve been playing “wrong”. Okay, maybe not “wrong”. That can be a loaded term. How about “poorly”? They’ve been playing poorly. I was playing poorly. But what I learned about Massive Chalice when it was all over, ending in failure, is that it’s not enough to just get to the final battle. You have to get there with strong enough houses to prevail. Not just characters. Houses. Massive Chalice is about bloodlines. In the end, the bloodlines will make all the difference.
I’ll explain, which will necessarily involve spoilers about the final mission.
The final mission differs from the rest of the game is several ways. For starters, previous missions were always against a maximum of three types of enemies. Going in, you always knew exactly what you’d be facing, and it was never everything the enemy had to throw at you. It was a sampling. But now you’ll be facing almost all the enemy types at once. (There were no ruptures in my final mission. I don’t know if that means ruptures aren’t allowed to play in the finale or if there’s a die roll that randomly excludes one unit type. But because of the next point, I’m guessing ruptures are excluded because they would be counterproductive to what the Cadence are trying to do.)
Your objective in most missions is to spread out and clear the map. You don’t do that in the final battle, which is more akin to defending the regents of an attacked keep. In the final mission, the Cadence will attack the massive chalice itself, which is basically a big block of hit points. If they chisel it down to zero, you lose the game. So while some Cadence will fight your characters, some will instead make a beeline to the chalice, where they’ll stand and attack it every turn. The gameplay is therefore different in that you’re not working your way cautiously across the map. You’re strictly playing defense.
(The suicidal once-and-done ruptures would be terrible at this because they would just blow up at the bottom of the chalice, attacking it only once. They would furthermore leave a pool of acid goo that would damage anyone attacking the chalice. They would effectively do your job for you.)
The final mission is also unique for the number of enemies you’ll face. There are far more than in any previous mission. As you’d expect this far along, they’re all the advanced variants. They’re spaced out over waves that arrive at regular intervals and they close in on you immediately. It’s like a horde mode. This renders some abilities effectively useless. Your hunters and hunter subclasses won’t get much use out of stealth. But this also makes some abilities all the more useful. For instance, some tenth level characters accumulate a 5% damage bonus for every enemy they kill. During the final mission, one of my hunters was adding 50% damage to every hit by the time it was over.
Also, because enemies are rushing in at you, suddenly your alchemists’ area-of-effect attacks are ideal for all the clustered targets. Which leads me to another unique aspect of the final mission. The massive chalice lets you refill alchemists’ flasks. Previously, your alchemists were limited to a certain number of area-of-effect attacks. This was presumably a tuning issue. But in the final mission, where you’ll face so many more enemies, your alchemists can run to the base of the massive chalice and restock. Note that this also applies to the secondary abilities of alchemist subclasses, like a boomstriker’s explosive caber or a trickshot’s flask shots.
The more valuable use of the massive chalice — and here comes the spoiler and arguably the point of the entire game that you should really discover for yourself — is that it gives you extra lives. Previously, when a character died, the character was dead. There are no resurrection spells in Massive Chalice. A character with zero hit points won’t wake up after the battle. Death is death.
Or is it?
When a character dies during the final battle, felled before the massive chalice, she is immediately replaced by one of her ancestors. “Don’t worry,” says her mother, and then maybe grandfather, and eventually great grandmother, “I’ve got this.” How many generations of a given family have fought against the Cadence? That’s how many extra lives you have. Characters you’ve lost to battle or old age will be back to fill in for your losses, offsetting the increased difficulty level and making the point that in order to win, you need flourishing houses and not just high-level characters.
So how did my final mission go? Almost flawlessly. Behold the carnage.
I had one casualty and that was due to friendly fire. Mako Flink, a boomstriker chucking powerful flasks with large areas-of-effect, missed her roll and got her flask too close to Matt Gaffney, a hunter subclass in battle next to his sister, Margaret Gaffney. My hunters have been powerful, but they’ve never been well armored. In fact, I’ve opted for zero protective armor, wearing veil suits instead that let me stealth in the open. As I said, some abilities are effectively useless during the final mission.
So Matt Gaffney took the full damage from the flask and died. He was immediately replaced by his uncle Brian Gaffney, an accomplished trickshot. Alongside his niece Margaret Gaffney, the profusely apologetic Mako Flink, her sister Etlanta, and my bee-bound blastcapper Yuloria Wayne, they handily hold back the waves of Cadence attackers, hardly receiving a scratch. Yuloria does get down to about half hit points, but she quaffs her healing potion and is none the worse for wear.
And that’s how my playthrough goes, on the lowest level of difficulty, called normal. I’m not sure if the final mission is supposed to be easy, if that’s simply the way it falls out when you play well, or if normal is the new easy. But I am certain that it’s time to start a new game on the next harder difficulty level.