Mas­sive Chal­ice

PC, Xbox One

EDGE - - GAMES -

Orange is the new black, at least when it comes to videogame cor­rup­tion. First Xbox One brought us Sun­set Over­drive’s tar­trazine mon­strosi­ties, and now Dou­ble Fine’s strat­egy-game-cum-ge­neal­ogy-ma­nip­u­la­tor is driven by a threat called the Ca­dence that nib­bles away at its be­lea­guered fan­tasy king­dom with vivid tan­ger­ine ooze. As usual, you are called upon to save the realm, which here means de­fend­ing it on the field of turn-based bat­tle un­til the colos­sal sen­tient cup has charged its world-sav­ing power. Un­like usual, how­ever, your party won’t be pol­ish­ing this quest off in a few days and then prop­ping up their +5 boots of foot odour at the lo­cal brew­house – it’s go­ing to take gen­er­a­tions to get the job done.

At least th­ese aeons won’t be dull. As you’d ex­pect from a game that swaps the usual evil-forces pal­ette (lich pur­ple, nonemore-black, de­monic red) for chun­der orange, Mas­sive Chal­ice is colour­ful in all senses of the word. One of the ear­li­est choices is be­tween joke names and se­ri­ous ones for the heroic blood­lines un­der your com­mand, and ev­ery character is ren­dered in a charm­ingly chunky faux-low-poly style that car­ries over to the of­ten brightly hued maps. The fight­ing that takes place upon them bor­rows its ba­sic me­chan­ics from Fi­raxis’s XCOM, though sim­pli­fied to the base con­stituents of a twopart catch­ment area for move­ment – keep within the orange zone to follow up your move with an ac­tion, while push­ing into the larger white area con­sumes that unit’s turn – and grow­ing bars of unit abil­i­ties, with cover and tiered struc­tures ab­sent. Also gone, sadly, is the vague in­di­ca­tion of where en­e­mies are when you’re lost, which can gum up the pace.

Tac­ti­cal com­plex­ity here in­stead re­lies on the in­ter­play be­tween en­e­mies and the hero classes, lent fur­ther nu­ance by the genes of the in­di­vid­u­als at hand. Broadly, Caber­jacks are your tanks and heavy hit­ters, spe­cial­is­ing in swing­ing a thwack­ing great log at any­thing fool­ish enough to get close. Hunters carry shoul­der-mounted bows as tall as a hu­man and dou­ble as scouts via a cam­ou­flag­ing

Be­ing a Kick­starter­funded project,

Mas­sive Chal­ice has been sub­ject to in­put from its back­ers. And while the gaming com­mu­nity is of­ten not given much credit for its in­clu­sive­ness, it was a fo­rum thread that brought up the lack of gay mar­riage in the game back in mid-2013. Project lead Brad Muir and the team have re­sponded in the very best way pos­si­ble: by not only adding the op­tion to part­ner up same-sex cou­ples, but think­ing about ways to make them work in a de­sign that re­volves around child­birth. They can now care for chil­dren that need adopt­ing, or you can sim­ply re­tire two guys or girls in the same struc­ture and ship them to­gether your­self. It’s not in your face, and no one has to en­gage with it, but its pres­ence here is a sign some play­ers do want to progress beyond blan­ket het­eronor­ma­tiv­ity.

Ca­dence in­va­sions tend to come in mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions at once, so which­ever you re­act to leaves another spot in wors­en­ing con­di­tion. Each re­gion can take three unchecked at­tacks, leav­ing you to bal­ance peril lev­els with the mis­sion re­wards

FROM TOP Seeds are the Ca­dence’s ba­sic foot sol­dier, weak on their lone­some, but able to slaugh­ter a hero in large num­bers; Rup­tures, mean­while, rush to your troops and then ex­plode, spread­ing cor­ro­sive gloop

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