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Zoston

Finished a full playthrough (17 hours) my detailed thoughts and recommendations.

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So, I'm a normal tier backer who got in this week. I've finished a full playthrough now and would like to give my thoughts. I'll start with the things I liked, then I'll go into the things that I think could be better (mainly combat, pacing and relationships).

First of all, I want to give some context on how I entered into this. Because it was with a lot of trepidation. I got kinda burned by the Planetary Annihilation kickstarter. Not even that the game was bad or anything, but mostly that I let myself get sold by the really cool video, and then in the end discovered: "Hey, I actually don't really like RTS's all that much." As it stands I've played it like... five minutes? Something like that, just enough to see: "Oh yeah, it's an RTS... I don't really like these games do I?" And then quit because I wasn't about to spend time and effort learning how to play when I didn't care much for it. Chances I'll ever get my money's worth out of that game are grim.

Now I've backed a bunch of other kickstarters, but those are all RPG's, Adventures, genres I know I love from proven developers. Massive Chalice was the only one left where I wasn't sure what I was going to get. I loved Firaxis' XCOM, I love Crusader Kings 2 (as in have every DLC and 100+ hours logged). So this could be a game I like, or it could become some standard mass appeal shallow and soulless game.

But I can say, Massive Chalice really caught me, as the 17 hour playthrough attests. To me the moment that got me hooked was early on. I'd messed up with building keeps and stuff, so I wasn't breeding enough heroes. But I queued up hero recruitment to fix it... and then continued on as usual. Promoting old heroes to be standards or sagewrights. Then, 35 days before my new heroes would come in, the Cadence attacked. And I discovered I had only two heroes... a lvl 5 Hunter and a lvl 4 Caberjack. So I took a deep breath, and went into the mission with only those two.

Then, the mission was on a canyon map, and with great care I managed to methodically have my Hunter pick off all the Cadence from across cliffs, using the Caberjack as tank, etc. That Hunter gained a nickname, Yanina "Tombstone" Redlarski, and was my highest hero. Obviously retiring to be a standard later.

Those are the kind of awesome emergent moments that made XCOM and make games like this so fun. So just being able to deliver that meant I got my money's worth already.

There are lots of other, little things that Massive Chalice does that really enable these emergent situations. Allowing you to give one house multiple keeps (I ended up making three Redlarski keeps to breed Hawkeyed Tranquil Hunters). The Alchemist Pillar Thrower and assorted abilities. Basically lots of things where if it was shallow and soulless, it would all be hammered out to force you into a single clear and polished play style. But I felt Massive Chalice gave me the tools to muddle my own way through, do things my way, and that's really what I want out of this game.

The four bests moments I think have to be that first two-hero battle. My first keep assault (the regent and his wife got slaughtered instantly, but horrible as that was it was a very great moment to desperately try and get them out of that throne room, and failing miserably as Cadence swarm them from all directions). When I researched the Pillar Thrower and figured out all the awesome ways it could be used to reshape the battlefield. And my first base defence (a keep assault where my team spawned inside the throne room for once, and had to defend the open door).

Here are three screenshots of some of those moments in my game: http://imgur.com/a/QQii0

Now, there are areas which I feel could be improved though. I'll get into it more below, but the weakest part for me was the midgame, the part between levels 5-8. At that point I really felt the game needed work. As I worked my way through the endgame, things started feeling better again. Anyway, I'll go through my three issues in rising order of importance.

I ran into the character limit, so I'll be adding my thoughts as three, correct that it became four, separate posts below, to keep things organised.

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Combat

Combat is pretty good. I have two main gripes:

1) The XCOM style of game, by the way it's set-up, really needs an Overwatch feature. The design of the levels and the way the enemies appear entices slow methodical step-by-step movement. Having to choose between running, and risk setting off more enemies, or going slowly and taking a defensive position, is something I missed. And not as in "I want it", but as in "the game feels incomplete without it". Now, you don't need to add an exact copy of Overwatch, I'm saying what you need is something to do to give a reason to not spend both your action points on movement, a reason other than just "I don't want to run into the unknown". For example, it could be that a melee class on 'Overwatch' will counter-attack upon receiving a melee attack. Hunters, perhaps instead of shooting they just give 'suppression fire' that lowers the enemy's accuracy. Lots of possibilities.

My core argument for this is the following: the way the XCOM basis works with you activating enemies as you move across the map, this encourages slow methodical and well-considered movements. The lack of an 'Overwatch' or 'Fortify' command features encourages moving quickly as that's the only way to spend all your action points. In Massive Chalice, these two design decisions are in conflict with each other, and give the mechanics a conflicted feel. I don't think you can change the XCOM style popping of enemies now, so the best solution to restore design harmony is to add some kind of way to spend a surplus action point on a defensive/preparatory measure.

2) A lot of the interesting abilities come late. The Caberjacks' fortify ability is what made me feel there was a sense to move in complex formations. The Alchemists's Pillar Thrower and Fertiliser abilities are what made me see the battlefield as something to work with, rather than just a bunch of random line-of-sight blockers. (As in, a choke becomes a place to block, a hallway with two pillars and two Caberjacks and a Fertilised patch becomes a mini-fortress.) In the beginning there was a lot of tension because you're learning, and your heroes are very weak. But in the middle, it was very stale. You don't have the interesting abilities from above, you're still strong enough to win without casualties unless you mess up (though this is also a difficulty thing). That's why I felt the game's problems the most in the mid-game. Once I got all those abilities, honestly you could keep me pleased just letting me build my mini-barricades around the map and letting Cadence run into my Hunters all day long.

Also, though this is a more ambiguous thing, I did not feel Caberjacks really justified their own presence until they got their level 10 battlerage. My team was 2-3 hunters, 2-1 Caberjacks, and 1 Alchemist. Now I've picked up some rumblings of Hunters being OP, I'm not going to go into that because I didn't care during my playthrough, I loved using two long-range snipers in XCOM, the playstyle I love is sniper-heavy, so the game not nerfing my preferred playstyle into oblivion is pretty good. But this is how I felt:

1) There are several enemies who do permanent damage just from hitting you (lapses and wrinklers).

2) In general, taking damage is bad since if you die you're perma-death.

3) Later on there are also the Twitchers which can cause one-turn kills with a strong switch. Not to mention the Cradles which keep spawning more units and can do massive damage.

4) All this encourages you to do two things: Don't get hit, as in don't get hit at all, and take the enemy down as quickly as possible.

5) Long-range high-damage snipers are ideal for this.

(Now as I said, long-range high-damage snipers is my preferred playstyle anyway, so no problem here.)

6) Now the question is, why do you bring along those other dudes? In XCOM you wanted them as spotters. This is because in XCOM snipers had huge penalties to moving and firing in the same turn (you had the option to remove those, but at the cost of your long-range ability), and were weak etc. making it dangerous to send them out ahead.

But in Massive Chalice, your Hunters are snipers and scouts in one. So why do you bring along anyone else in Massive Chalice? In those mid ranges, I could not find a reason. That's also when I experimented with 3-hunter teams. I wouldn't do a pure hunter team just because I wanted to experience all the classes, but really my Alchemist and Caberjack were mostly in the back having a picknick while my Hunters methodically picked of all the Cadence from a distance.

Alchemists found their use when they got the Pillar Thrower. Putting up defensive positions for my Hunters to hide behind, blocking off chokes so the Cadence couldn't swarm my position. This also gave the Caberjacks some purpose as joining the defensive position, around this time I also got wünderpants making them viable as tanks again. But it is only with level 10 battlerage that I suddenly went "oh, now they add something". Now, just by itself it is a brilliant mechanic, but it also makes the Caberjack that small-fry squisher to go along with your heavy artillery Hunters. Really it's only in the final two battles where I had a level 10 Caberjack that I felt everyone in my team (2Hun/2Cab/1Al) contributed to make a full whole.

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Pacing

I've named this part pacing, though that might not be very accurate. In general, the main thing is that I feel is that time moves too fast vis-a-vis the number of battles. In practice this means I think there should be more battles, but I specifically mean there should be more battles within the 300 years we currently have (extending it to 600 years for example would solve nothing).

The main point is that, your heroes are the centre of the game, everything revolves around them. But in the strategic layers these heroes are nothing more than a bunch of stats. If you're playing solely the strategic layer you're feeling essentially like an accountant. Now part of this also applies to my third segment, relationships, but it is also very important here. Because the point at which your heroes go from being a set of numbers and traits, to being actual people you care about, are the battles. Like in my example above, Yanina Redlarski almost single-handedly took out the Cadence when I was sure I'd lose, that is when she stopped being a set of stats to breed with and became "The Tombstone", my first human hero.

Another example is an early game Hunter who missed a point-blank shot, leading to a team mate getting killed. Then in anger I send him out to suicide himself, but he suddenly started hitting perfectly and one-shotting the Cadence. Those moments in the battles make them people you remember. Or another way to put it is that those moments makes them characters in a story, the story you're playing and telling at the same time.

But those moments don't happen every battle, you need time to build up that kind of connection with your heroes. As is, there are just too few battles for that. For example, I never felt much pressure between keeping my top hero in my squad or making them a standard, because it was like "they'll probably be dead by the time another battle comes along anyway". And if you make a hero a standard while they're young, that means they've been in one, probably not even one, battle yet so they're just another set of stats you're using to boost your other sets of stats.

The Tombstone was an example of this. By the time of that two-man battle she was 42. So how many battles does she still have in her at that point, around 2? Maybe 3. No more than that. That is effectively meaningless. Now imagine if I had to chose between making her a standard, or keeping her for another 6 battles. Then it becomes meaningful, then you've got time to become used to a character, get attached to them, and have to make the hard choice between letting them retire or trying to squeeze those last two battles out of them.

With the way the game works now, 90% the time I did not have a Hero, I had a Hunter, who upon death was replaced by another Hunter. Even the ones who got a nickname I'd barely recall because they'd last so few battles, by the time I got used to them they'd died of old age and been replaced by another Hunter.

Which is also where another pacing problem comes up, related to this. Experience grows so fast, new trainees are usually at the same level as my battle-hardened veterans. This extremely reinforces the faceless aspect. When my level 9 Hunter dies, I replace it with a new level 8 Hunter fresh of the shelves. A single hero doesn't fight enough battles to gain more than a level or two, at most three, from them, and trainees follow so quickly I never felt like "oh no, my great hero died, what shall I do?" because there was always a mass of almost-the-same-level heroes to replace them. The only time that got close to me feeling this way was at the end when I lost my first level 10 Caberjack and really missed battlerage. But that was mostly about having so little time left to get another Caberjack to level 10, if the pace had continued I'd be having level 10 heroes coming out of training in like 4 battles.

If heroes fought more battles, they'd have time to get ahead of the pack and having to replace your level 8 Hero with some level 4 Rookie will be meaningful.

Stuff like relics and family ties might seem like they'd alleviate this somewhat, but not really. Relics are cool, but quickly become part of the grinder, and they have no identity other than being a family's stat boost. Family ties doesn't work because the heroes you care about are the ones you battle with the most, and if they're in enough battles for you to build a connection with them they'll already be too old to become a viable regent.

To me it was quite clear, I separated the heroes between those for breeding and those for fighting. This could be a tough decision, and is one thing that works well, do I send this nimble quick hawkeye Hunter into battle, or use them to tried and breed more Hunter's like that? But the breeders never gain any personality, and the fighters generally are just faceless classes that go down a few levels every once in a while.

Really, my feeling is that the current pacing is great for testing a beta, as you can quickly go through a full game in 17 hours, but for a real game it feels rushed. I should note that while I personally find 17 hours a reasonable game length, completing XCOM took me 47 hours.

To somewhat repeat and recap: In the end the problem is that the game is centred around heroes, but 80% of the time it doesn't feel like you're playing with heroes, it feels like you're an account sending spreadsheets through a grinder. Only occasionally does one of those spreadsheets become a real person, but then they'll die soon after anyway. Doubling up on the number of battle your individual heroes fight in is what's needed to make them human, and make decisions about when to retire them meaningful, as well as creating a gap between your veterans and your fresh recruits.

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Relationships

As I mentioned, I love Crusader Kings. Not only have I sunk hundreds of hours into Crusader Kings 2, I've sunk hundreds of hours into Crusader Kings 1, heck I've even played Sid Meier's Sword of the Samurai to get that ultra-old school Crusader Kings vibe. So when it comes about managing characters and relationships, I'm talking as someone who really enjoys this aspect in games and has sunk a lot of time in it.

Which is why I think this is the one aspect that of Massive Chalice that both needs and stands to benefit massively (pun intended) from improvement. I've gone on above about the lack of connection or personality to your heroes. This is really key here as well, because while combat is one way to create those, relationships are the other.

Now, right now heroes do have personality traits, but those are just spreadsheet stats.

To illustrate. There's a trait 'pessimism', it makes your hero give a lower hit chance than the actual hit chance. Now, you could take the same stat, and rename it 'insecure', and there would be no difference. I'm assuming everyone will agree, there's a huge difference in personality between a pessimist and someone who is insecure, but the game doesn't simulate that so you can easily exchange the labels and nothing changes. This goes for all the personality traits, you can switch the name for something equally appropriate to no meaningful effect. There is no marriage of theme and mechanic here. Now this not to dig against personality traits, there's a place for fluff and personality traits are a good place to add that fluff. I'm just trying to explain why giving someone a stat boost and calling it a personality doesn't make them characters.

Relationships are a very easy way to fix this. Why does it matter that my King in CK is an arbitrary drunkard? Because he has relations with all the other characters, who'll hate (or love) him for it. There are various kinds of personality traits in CK. You do have the pure stat boosters, these are their education traits. No one cares about the personality difference between a 'Master Theologian' and a 'Misguided Cleric', one has a great scholarship stat and the other a horrible one, that's it. Then there are the practical ones: lustful and chaste affect your chance at children, being excommunicated opens you up for all kinds of rebellions and invasions, being incapacitated makes your ruler incapable of ruling and require a regent. But the rest are the personality traits, and while some give a stat boost, they gain their meaning because they affect the relationships with other characters.

Why should I care whether my King is cynical or a zealot? Well, stat wise there's a difference, but the main point is that zealous people hate cynical people, so if you're cynical and you've got zealous vassals, you're in for a rocky relationship. Ambitious people get great stat boosts, but if they're your vassal better watch your back, you'd rather have a content vassal than an ambitious one. At the core of course everything is stats, that's true for all games, but there's a marriage between theme and mechanic here. It makes sense that cynical and zealous people don't get along, but a cynical and a chaste person don't really care either way. There's a correlating effect on other things, like a sinful ruler has a worse relationship with the church in general, a zealous ruler can't convert to other religions, but the relationships are the key here.

But, I know what you're thinking, that sounds like a ridiculously complex system. That's true, the CK2 system is huge, but as I mentioned I've played CK1 as well (and EU, Rome, all the Paradox games really), so I've seen a lot of different and more primitive versions of the system, and have seen Paradox change and refine it over time, which is why I feel confident in saying that in this case, a little bit of mechanics goes a looong way.

My advice is, don't try and do the CK2 thing with giving all characters a relationship modifier with all other characters. Instead, have a look at this screenshot from Crusader Kings 1, the Deus Vult expansion: 9B6zBDV.jpg?1

The Deus Vult expansion added the Friends and Rivals, and I very much remember what a huge difference it made. If you look at the screenshot, for Massive Chalice you can remove the top line (no need for Liege/Vassal/Allies). Parents/Spouse/Siblings/Children, these are already in the game. Successors are also unnecessary of course, my suggestion is to exchange this with a CK2 innovation: Lovers. That's all you need imo, add Friends/Rivals/Lovers.

Now how would this work in the game? Very simple. You have events that make heroes friends, rivals, or lovers. These events can happen in strategic mode, but very rarely, and are most likely to happen after two heroes have been on a mission together (this slots in with what I wrote above how the battles are where the heroes become characters).

Heroes with opposing traits can trigger an event where they get into a fight, becoming rivals.

Heroes with identical traits can trigger events where they become friends.

Heroes who are friends can trigger events where they become lovers. There is also a smaller chance for Heroes to fall in love 'at first sight', this event ignores their traits and has a higher chance of firing for younger heroes.

Now as I said, the real reason you're adding it is to give your heroes character, to make them human, but it is very easy to slot in some stats to give it a mechanical edge. Friends gain a buff when on missions together, but when a friend dies the effects (negative or in the case of avengers positive) are doubled. Rivals gain a debuff when in missions together. But outside of missions, if a hero has a rival that has a higher level, that hero gains training XP till they reach the same level.

This will create interesting stories. If your two highest level heroes hate each other, do you still put them on missions together, or do you switch one out? If your team has two close friends, and one dies, you'd barely even need mechanics, the story writes itself.

When such a hero dies, you should get a message saying: "X has died, their friend Y mourns their passing. Z suddenly feels lost without their rival." It's not much, but it reinforces that your heroes are (within your suspended disbelief) actual people with actual lives.

Now, there's one part of the game that already has 'relationships', namely marriages. Those also need spicing up, but since I'm reaching the limit again I'll talk about my suggestions there in my next post.

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Relationships continued - Marriage

Now, when I wrote down my first notes while playing, I had yet to see any of the unhappy marriage events, but to be honest, having seen them they didn't change my original feelings other than recognise Massive Chalice does try. The problem is, I have these breeders who are nothing but stat spreadsheets, then randomly I get an event that apparently some of them aren't getting along (who? I don't know, I'm not going to remember the names of my spreadsheets...) so I chose the option to talk it out (I paired those spreadsheets for a reason!) and somehow that adds a patriotic trait to their table, hurray!

The only way for this to work is to tie it into two things: First, the above relationship system. Two, marrying and dying.

In general, there's a danger with random events that the player just clicks it away. I do that a lot. I regularly catch myself ignore half pages of text and looking just at the stats associated with the options and choosing based on that. I feel bad, I should be into it, but if you're waiting for that one building to finish or that one truce to expire, you're not caring that much for random event #131.

But Massive Chalice already has a stop and think moment when a regent or their spouse dies. Inserting some relationship fluff+mechanics here is perfect and required.

My suggestion is a bit more complicated in execution, but very simple in its presentation to the player:

When you marry two heroes, instead of the game just saying "Done, they're married now", you should get a small text describing the wedding. This text also tells you on what foot the marriage starts, which would be based on the same principles as friends/rivals/lovers.

If you marry people who are friends, or have matching personality traits, you have a chance to get this description:

The bells are ringing in [Keep Name], and the hall is packed with friends and family. You stand in front of the altar as the spouses-to-be make their way up the aisle. They hold hands and smile as they say their vows. You bless their marriage, hoping it will be long and bountiful, and the couple kiss. Everyone cheers and then make their way to the banquet.

If you marry people who have no matching or opposing traits:

The bells are ringing in [Keep Name], and the hall is filled with family. You stand in front of the altar as the spouses-to-be make their way up the aisle. They give each other a courteous nod and say their vows. You bless their marriage, hoping it will be long and bountiful, the couple kiss briefly, and the crowd heads for the banquet.

If you marry people who are rivals or have opposing traits:

The bells are ringing in [Keep Name], but except for close family the hall is empty. You stand in front of the altar as the spouses-to-be make their way up the aisle. They look straight at you as they say their vows. You bless their marriage, hoping it will be long and bountiful, the couple skip the kiss, and the crowd quickly make their way to the banquet where the bride and groom are seated at separate tables.

And finally, marry people in love and:

The bells are ringing in [Keep Name], and the hall is packed to bursting, literally everyone is invited. You stand in front of the altar as the spouses-to-be make their way up the aisle. As they say their vows they keep sneaking peeks at each other. You bless their marriage, hoping it will be long and bountiful, and the couple kiss till you feel forced to clear your throat. The crowds cheer through the whole thing, and then make their way to the banquet, where the newly-weds have gone mysteriously missing.

Then around ten years later there should be a follow-up event on how the marriage develops. A good marriage might've gotten worse, or a bad marriage might've improved. This is also where you can get the currently in-game events about a spousal conflict, and now it would make sense because you can remember "oh yeah, those two hated each other when I married them". Rather than thinking "uh, who are these again? ehhh doesn't matter any way".

On death, there should be a message on how the widowed spouse reacts. Something like "X mourns the end of a long and loving marriage." or "X is jumping with joy to finally be free again."

Honestly, I'm willing to write out the whole tree of possible events for different kinds of marriages (like adding separate descriptions for huge age differences, level differences, etc. etc.) if you guys want to add it verbatum, but you can of course make your own version, it's mostly writing.

Now mechanic wise, just give fertility buffs and debuffs depending on the happiness of the marriage. Not too much, you don't want to feel like you can't marry people with great traits just because they hate each other, but enough so it makes sense to keep it in mind.

Conclusion and Miscellaneous

I think in general I've made my point. If you guys decide to copy paste my suggestions into the game that would be awesome of course, but in a more realistic expectation I hope it gives some ideas, and helps pinpoint the weaknesses of Massive Chalice right now. I think, for a single 17 hour playthrough it's pretty good right now. I hope my introduction made abundantly clear that I had a lot of fun, and I definitely feel my one playthrough has gotten me my backer's money worth. But Massive Chalice has the potential to become more, to become a great almost infinitely replayable game (like CK2), if it dares to dream more ambitious about being a game about people, and not just pawns you move around a virtual chessboard.

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Wow, some really excellent and reasonable feedback here that I totally agree with almost point for point. I seem to remember really early on about discussons about a relationship mechanic but it ended up getting scrapped as out of scope. However, I think the ideas being bandied about at that time were significantly more complex than what you have here. I think the random chance to develop friends/rivals/lovers with some simple straight forward buffs is a relatively simple and powerful mechanic. Tying it into the bloodlines wouldn't even necessarily need to be as complex as you've detailed, it could be as simple as friends/lovers being more likely to have children and any existing children would end up with slightly higher stats. This could lead to some really interesting gameplay decisions where you end up choosing to pair a regent with her lover rather than the badass level 8 caberjack with crazy good traits you've been grooming for her.

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That's some really comprehensive, cogent feedback. :o A+, would read again.

RE: Caberjacks. I'm nitpicking, but I felt like they came into their own at level 6 and grabbed Charge. That addresses some of their core mobility issues while also giving them a second stun. I'm also a diehard Haste Hooch fan and would encourage you to try using it instead of the Wunderpants if you give the game another playthrough. It doesn't cost an action point to use, which lets you make really aggressive moves. Is that better than having another Hunter? Maybe not. But it makes the Caberjack feel more like a realized concept.

On the Pacing front, I think you'll find a lot of agreement that attachment to heroes isn't where it needs to be yet, and a more evenly-applied Relationship system is something I can get behind. I'm not sure that there are great systems for that to interact with right now (is it just a tweak to combat stats and fertility?) but it definitely creates more room for that feeling of working with real, organic people.

Conversely, how much do you feel would be fixed just by lowering the birth rate? A common sticking point so far is that you tend to run down to nearly no heroes around year 50 (around the Tombstone point) but run into a population explosion afterwards. If the early game gets smoothed out but the overall birth rate drops, does some of this go away? I agree that swapping a level 9 Hunter for a newly-graduated Level 8 Hunter feels trivial now, but to what extent is that solved by NOT having 8 more level 8 Trainees waiting in the wings?

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I agree a lot with what you are saying. It seems like most people on the forum agree that the timeline is moving way too fast.

Your idea for friends and rivals would add a ton to the game and if they don't do it in this one I think it will be a must add in a potential sequel.

Personally I think you should be able to "research" quests that you can send specific characters of your choice on. This will give you a bit more options in the strategic layer and help add more traits to that character that wanders off.

I do dislike the fact that the children come up at the same level as all your older characters. I think it might work better if the children always come out as level 1 or 2 but the parents and standards give them increased experience gain? That way they eventually surpass the ancestors but start out weaker.

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Thanks for the kind words!

Conversely, how much do you feel would be fixed just by lowering the birth rate? A common sticking point so far is that you tend to run down to nearly no heroes around year 50 (around the Tombstone point) but run into a population explosion afterwards. If the early game gets smoothed out but the overall birth rate drops, does some of this go away? I agree that swapping a level 9 Hunter for a newly-graduated Level 8 Hunter feels trivial now, but to what extent is that solved by NOT having 8 more level 8 Trainees waiting in the wings?

I don't think this will solve the problem. The core of Massive Chalice's strategy section is that heroes are your resource, this means that for there to be meaningful strategic choices you always need sufficient heroes to make meaningful choices from. The problem is that in the case of this game, said resource should also be more than just a resource, but it's not.

Now, just making it scarcer across the board won't change anything at all. Basically, when it comes to choices, counting numbers goes like this: 1, 2, 3, 'a lot'. Right now, the amount of heroes available for a specific allocation is generally 'a lot'. But does bringing that down to 3 or 2 (at 1 there's no choice left ofc), really make that choice more meaningful? What you need is to create a stronger differentiation between the choices. It's not that I have too many level 8 trainees, it's that I have level 8 trainees at all. If my veteran who's been in battles since they were 16 dies, I should feel that loss next battle as some no-skill rookie has to replace them. I shouldn't feel like my character just got level drained by a Lich.

Also, breeding is one of the fun parts of the game. And to breed you need breeding stock. I've thought about possible mechanics that could give you a clearer delineation between the characters you're investing in and the ones that are the breeding stock. Like say, adding a feature where your team members are your five 'knights', and you can appoint each to have a 'squire', so you basically have a permanent set of 10 heroes that form your 'team' that you can get to know closer.

But my conclusion kinda was that as much as you were adding some choices, you were also taking away the choices of waiting till the battle starts and then picking which heroes you want to use out of your whole roster. And when you flesh it out more with knightly quests etc, it in the end becomes more like adding a different rpg-like game on top of the current game. And that isn't necessary. What you need is for the heroes you use to stick out like a sore thumb, for you to have more time to get to know them, and for them to have personality that differentiates them from each other and the breeding stock below. If you have that, it naturally becomes an interesting choice when you promote or demote a hero from breeding stock status, without the game ever formalising this into a specific mechanic.

Personally I think you should be able to "research" quests that you can send specific characters of your choice on. This will give you a bit more options in the strategic layer and help add more traits to that character that wanders off.

One thing I didn't manage to fit in anywhere. Events have to be changed so you choose which hero you send on missions etc. Right now, 90% of the events happened to breeding stock heroes I really didn't care about. (Want to go do something incredibly dangerous? Sure, I don't care. Came back better? Great! Still not going to use you for anything cuss I already made that choice for good reasons.) Most impactful thing was when that event about peering into the Cadence fired, and the random breeding stock hero came back with an intuition boost, so I shipped him to the Sagewright guild at the earliest opportunity. After which I never heard from him again of course, so whatever personality he got there ended there as well.

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One thing I didn't manage to fit in anywhere. Events have to be changed so you choose which hero you send on missions etc. Right now, 90% of the events happened to breeding stock heroes I really didn't care about. (Want to go do something incredibly dangerous? Sure, I don't care. Came back better? Great! Still not going to use you for anything cuss I already made that choice for good reasons.) Most impactful thing was when that event about peering into the Cadence fired, and the random breeding stock hero came back with an intuition boost, so I shipped him to the Sagewright guild at the earliest opportunity. After which I never heard from him again of course, so whatever personality he got there ended there as well.

Hm, XCom Enemy Within had those covert missions that allowed you to choose an operative. Most of time, I ended up picking a second tier soldier to go on those missions. But the selection was sort of interesting.

I think I'd rather have a mix of both. Some random selection, some where I choose.

Smiles

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A lot of these ideas, especially the relationship ones, feel more like ideas for an expansion than the 1.0 build. You're not just talking about improved systems, you would like to evolve them as well.

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I agree that a lot of these ideas feel like iteas which would be great in a future expansion of the game - this game is ripe for expanding upon, and I think we're definitely gonna have to accept that not everything that might be cool is gonna make it into the first version :)

But some cool thoughts, here, certainly.

Just one think that I must strongly disagree on which is:

1) The XCOM style of game, by the way it’s set-up, really needs an Overwatch feature. The design of the levels and the way the enemies appear entices slow methodical step-by-step movement. Having to choose between running, and risk setting off more enemies, or going slowly and taking a defensive position, is something I missed. And not as in “I want it”, but as in “the game feels incomplete without it”. Now, you don’t need to add an exact copy of Overwatch, I’m saying what you need is something to do to give a reason to not spend both your action points on movement, a reason other than just “I don’t want to run into the unknown”. For example, it could be that a melee class on ‘Overwatch’ will counter-attack upon receiving a melee attack. Hunters, perhaps instead of shooting they just give ‘suppression fire’ that lowers the enemy’s accuracy. Lots of possibilities.

I disagree with this for a couple of reasons.

Foremost, I think that "I don't want to run into the unknown" is a perfectly good reason not to spend both your action points. In fact, in XCOM that was the main reason I didn't spend both my action points. Overwatch was a bonus, but even without it I would have been encouraged towards more cautious movement, the only difference was that with overwatch I felt -obliged- to move slowly, so as much as I like overwatch it ended up being sort of a millstone around my neck. In MASSIVE CHALICE I usually move quite cautiously, but I also feel pretty free to send my hunters out on a limb or let a caberjack try something weird because I know I'm not going to miss out on a counterattack.

The other reason is that I think Overwatch only worked really well in XCOM because the aliens got that little free movement round when you discover them, where they scamper off into cover. In MASSIVE CHALICE, it feels much more about discovering groups of enemies at a distance and figuring out the best approach to take down that group, advancing up into it, rather than the sort of 'stand-off' shootouts that characterised XCOM. Overwatch more sense in a shoot-out situation, but this doesn't feel like it's quite designed for it.

Finally, I think hunters don't need yet another way to be way more useful than the other two classes. I think they're becoming more balanced, but Hunters would have another extreme advantage in being able to overwatch enemies from a distance, not just at melee range.

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That's some really comprehensive, cogent feedback. :o A+, would read again.

RE: Caberjacks. I'm nitpicking, but I felt like they came into their own at level 6 and grabbed Charge. That addresses some of their core mobility issues while also giving them a second stun. I'm also a diehard Haste Hooch fan and would encourage you to try using it instead of the Wunderpants if you give the game another playthrough. It doesn't cost an action point to use, which lets you make really aggressive moves. Is that better than having another Hunter? Maybe not. But it makes the Caberjack feel more like a realized concept.

On the Pacing front, I think you'll find a lot of agreement that attachment to heroes isn't where it needs to be yet, and a more evenly-applied Relationship system is something I can get behind. I'm not sure that there are great systems for that to interact with right now (is it just a tweak to combat stats and fertility?) but it definitely creates more room for that feeling of working with real, organic people.

Conversely, how much do you feel would be fixed just by lowering the birth rate? A common sticking point so far is that you tend to run down to nearly no heroes around year 50 (around the Tombstone point) but run into a population explosion afterwards. If the early game gets smoothed out but the overall birth rate drops, does some of this go away? I agree that swapping a level 9 Hunter for a newly-graduated Level 8 Hunter feels trivial now, but to what extent is that solved by NOT having 8 more level 8 Trainees waiting in the wings?

I think Caberjacks come into their own once you get them a special weapon. The explosive caber in particular is pretty damn powerful. A knockback every turn means each Caberjack can lockdown 1-2 enemies, plus deal full damage every turn.

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I actually think Caberjacks are overpowered. I lost my hunter family and had only Caberjacks left somehow. Anyways I beat the game with 5 Caberjacks. I was using all relics and each one was doing around 40-50 damage and then 80 on a crit. With the level 10 ability this allowed me to clear out whole sections in one turn. I think the way the abilities are now aren't really balanced. The getting hit and doing more damage ability isn't very good because a lot of the time getting hit means either losing experience, aging or taking massive damage.

I think the optimal build is Taunt -> The reactive melee knokcback, charge, knockback immunity. This way with level 10 you can blow up as many lapses as are in reach and never stop. I used the vitaliband item that gave 30% more healthy and I was around 60-80 HP on my Heroes. This is far better than the heal and I think that the life steal item is not viable late game because it leaves you with around 30-40 HP which can be 3 lapse hits in one turn which is not unreasonable.

The only problem I encountered with all Cabers is that the ruptures were difficult to manage but I thought it actually introduced a lot of strategy, I had to decide which Carber would blow them up and take around 10 damage. The game was actually pretty tactical with all Cabers because I felt like I could really manage the battlefield with their knockbacks and managing the killing blow adding a turn.

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