Ubisoft’s Zombi for Xbox One Spotted on Australian Rating Site

The Australian Classification Board, the government body which which rates movies, certain publications, and games in the same way that the Entertainment Software Board rates games in North America, has rated an Ubisoft game for Xbox One called Zombi.

Given its title and Ubisoft being listed as the publisher, this might be a port of company’s 2012 Wii U exclusive ZombiU.

The listing on the Classification Board appears a little more than a week after Unseen64, a site that has previously revealed a canceled Ubisoft Wii U game and concept art for Driver 5, reported that a ZombiU port might be in development.

According to the Classification Board’s website, Zombi is rated MA 15+ for strong horror violence, blood, and gore, which also describes the adult content in the original ZombiU. The date of the classification listed is June 17, 2015.

In May of 2013, Ubisoft Montpellier’s the creative director Jean-Philippe Caro said that the studio was working on a ZombiU 2 prototype, but in July 2013, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told GamesIndustry International that “betting big” on the Wii U did not pay off for the company, and that there are no plans or desire for a sequel.

Destiny Players Pay Respects to Fallen Guardian

Last week, a Destiny clan named DoD Legion lost a member, Joshua R. Stokell, who passed away after a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis. A fellow clan member who goes by the handle Ln_Wanderer on Reddit put out a call on the Destiny sub-Reddit, asking dellow Destiny players to send video clips the clan can put together as a kind of memorial montage.

“As expected, you the Destiny community, came through is an amazing way,” Ln_Wanderer wrote. “More than 250 people have stopped by here and the Bungie forum to offer your condolences and to submit video clips. From the bottom of our hearts- Thank You! We are proud to honor our friend with the following video:”

The 3-minute video shows Destiny players firing their guns in unison, saluting, and waving goodbye from all around the game’s universe in honor of Stokell, or TheSquashPhD, as he was known in the game.

In other Destiny news, Bungie was at E3 2015 to announce the newest expansion for the game, The Taken King, which launches on September 15.

Watch 25 Minutes of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Gameplay

Publisher Square Enix had an impressive lineup of games to show off at E3 this year, including Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the sequel to the well-reviewed Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

We’ve seen a few trailers for the game before, but if you’re still curious about it and don’t mind seeing a spoiler scene, Square Enix released a full 25 minutes of gameplay.

Mankind Divided is set in 2029, two years after the events of Human Revolution, and the video walks us through the beginning of the game, setting up the tension between mechanically augmented humans and non-augmented humans. Later in the video, we get to see both stealth and action gameplay, Adam Jensen’s new gadgets, the new hacking system, all with developer commentary from the games executive audio director, Steve Szczepkowski.

If you want to avoid the spoiler here, you should skip the video between 18:25 and 22:20.

During its E3 press conference, Square Enix announced that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is coming out in early 2016 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Half-Life Meets Hotline Miami in This Fan Game Mashup

Another E3 ended this week without Valve making even the tiniest peep about the long-awaited Half-Life 3. Soon, however, you’ll be able to take Gordon Freeman on a new adventure of a different kind.

Dutch Developer Thomas Kole is working on a small game he calls Halfline Miami, which mashes up the legendary first-person shooter Half-Life and the ultra violent indie-hit Hotline Miami.

As you can see in the recently released trailer above, the game re-creates Gordon Freeman’s adventures in Half-Life 2, but as a Hotline Miami level, using the same top-down perspective, and fast, combo-based scoring system.

Instead of the variety of guns and melee weapons you’d find in Hotline Miami, Freeman still has his signature gravity gun, which he uses to pick up items and launch them at enemies.

Kole said that at this point he’s done working on the core gameplay and just has to finish making the maps. At the moment, he has three maps named after areas in Half-Life 2—Point Insertion, Route Kanal, Water Hazard—and another bonus level.

You can follow the game’s progress on its indieDB page here.

Half-Life Meets Hotline Miami in This Fan Game Mashup

Another E3 ended this week without Valve making even the tiniest peep about the long-awaited Half-Life 3. Soon, however, you’ll be able to take Gordon Freeman on a new adventure of a different kind.

Dutch Developer Thomas Kole is working on a small game he calls Halfline Miami, which mashes up the legendary first-person shooter Half-Life and the ultra violent indie-hit Hotline Miami.

As you can see in the recently released trailer above, the game re-creates Gordon Freeman’s adventures in Half-Life 2, but as a Hotline Miami level, using the same top-down perspective, and fast, combo-based scoring system.

Instead of the variety of guns and melee weapons you’d find in Hotline Miami, Freeman still has his signature gravity gun, which he uses to pick up items and launch them at enemies.

Kole said that at this point he’s done working on the core gameplay and just has to finish making the maps. At the moment, he has three maps named after areas in Half-Life 2—Point Insertion, Route Kanal, Water Hazard—and another bonus level.

You can follow the game’s progress on its indieDB page here.

Batman: Arkham Knight Review

“A clean shot to the head,” drones the villain known as Arkham Knight. “That’s all it will take.” At every opportunity, the Knight speaks of the horrific deeds he might perform, doing his best to drive fear into Batman’s heart throughout the open-world adventure game that features his name. Scarecrow similarly trades on Batman’s doubts, attempting to convince the troubled hero of his own impotence at every turn. “All eyes, all hopes upon a man who fails his friends,” calls out Scarecrow through Gotham’s public networks, reminding Bruce Wayne that he, too, bears responsibility for the losses his loved ones endure.

Batman is a troubled hero, and past Arkham games haven’t shied away from exploring his dark side. Arkham Knight is no exception: the caped crusader growls his way through one confrontation after another in which he must question his role in Gotham’s current crisis. We’ve seen these themes before, many times over, and Batman: Arkham Knight’s villains repeat them ad nauseum, as if you weren’t already choking on heavy-handed metaphors at every turn. It’s fortunate, then, that Arkham Knight, for all its ham-fisted storytelling and frequent returns to well-trod ground, features the qualities developer Rocksteady has infused its previous games with: superb production values, hard-hitting combat, and a wonderful sense of freedom as you soar above the skies of Gotham.

Hey, it’s the Batmobile! Over and over!

Scarecrow, Arkham Knight, and the legacy of the now-dead Joker loom large over this freedom. There is another, more surprising obstacle which you must overcome if you wish to retain your ownership of Gotham’s skies, however: the Batmobile. For the first time in this series, you can leap into the iconic vehicle and zoom down the streets, drifting around tight turns and pursuing key vehicles as they speed away. The driving itself is slick and satisfying, as long as you can overlook Rocksteady’s tendency to wrest away camera control to show you some dramatic sight or another. Yet there’s no beating the incredible rush of using your line launcher to fling yourself through the sky–and it’s worth mentioning that taking to the air is usually faster than settling behind the wheel. As a result, Arkham Knight is constantly trying to justify the Batmobile’s presence, forcing it upon you at nearly every opportunity.

Particularly in the latter third of the story, you’re frequently forced to take part in vehicular battles against remotely manned drones. When you first engage in this kind of combat, which turns the Batmobile into an agile tank, it’s a delight. You strafe from side to side, sliding the vehicle into safe areas between the visible lines that indicate the path of incoming enemy rockets. All the while, you fire your cannons at the drones and use small fire to eliminate missiles fired upon you; the dark sky lights up during these battles, giving vehicular combat an initial spark, and making you the director of a spectacularly violent fireworks display.

Gameplay utilizes Batman’s excellent detective skills. His orphan skills go underutilized, however.

But in spite of the upgrades the Batmobile earns over time–EMP blasts, the ability to hack enemy drones, and so forth–the Batmobile battles never become more interesting, just more monotonous, as they seem to go on forever. The story’s final hours succumb to a series of same-ish battles that play out more or less like the last, lending an air of tedium to what should be the game’s most poignant surprises. The Batmobile is also the centerpiece of a number of mediocre boss encounters, all manner of puzzles, boring cat-and-mouse games with superpowered tanks, and even some of the Riddler’s many optional challenges scattered across the city. Don’t be surprised should you end up muttering to yourself, “Too. Much. Batmobile.”

Arkham Knight is at its best when you are given the freedom of movement you both need and deserve. What a treat it is to look down upon this beautiful and derelict city as you glide through the thick, black air. Gotham has been deserted by most citizenry due to Scarecrow’s most recent threat to release a hallucinogenic toxin into the streets, making the clouded heavens and the stoic statues all the more imposing. The bat-symbol cuts an impressive silhouette in the sky, drawing you towards your next mission objective–and the objective itself may be a structure like the grandiose Panessa Movie Studios, where climbing ivy and guardian statues warn you of potential danger.

Arkham Knight is constantly trying to justify the Batmobile’s presence, forcing it upon you at nearly every opportunity.

Batman is beautifully animated and an absolute joy to control. To soar towards Man-Bat and tackle the shrieking beast in one of the game’s many side missions, and to zip to higher vantage points only to descend onto a rioter and deliver a hard kick, are the moments that represent Arkham Knight at its very best. Every mechanical edge is oiled to maximum slickness: Batman glides through Gotham with the confidence of an experienced predator, and exhibits the exact right amount of stickiness as he approaches surfaces. There is an astounding amount of flavor voiceover; Batman comments on the task at hand should you try to leave the area you are confined to, enemies remark on the number of fallen comrades they have counted during stealth encounters, and the annoyingly chatty thugs swarming the streets have more speaking lines than any number of film scripts. Few games are this rich in audiovisual details.

Don’t forget: Batman isn’t killing anyone in his rampage against Gotham’s enemies, though he delights just enough in breaking bones that it’s hard not to nod your head along to the Arkham Knight’s insistence that Batman is just as responsible for Gotham’s dereliction as anyone else. The storytelling gymnastics the game performs to remind you that Bruce Wayne is not a murderer are ridiculous. The Batmobile is using nonlethal rounds, you are told, and when you run over criminals, a little zap lets you know that you’re not squishing them under your tires, just giving them an electrical jolt as you pass. I could dismiss this mounting nonsense easily as forgivable video game logic if the narrative didn’t devote so much time explaining (and re-explaining, and re-re-explaining) that Batman lives by a non-killing code. Rocksteady tries to have it both ways, representing this code as an emotional conflict that figures heavily into the story, then letting you plow through crowds of bad guys without consequence. Even in the oft-illogical world of video games, the dissonance is striking.

Everyone loves a good crane-moving puzzle.

Then again, this is a story about a billionaire in a bat suit, so perhaps there is only so much plausibility to be expected. It might be hard to believe Batman isn’t sending men to the morgue during Arkham Knight’s melee battles, but the series’ rhythmic hand-to-hand combat continues to set the bar high. Batman is a frightening, almost otherworldly creature as he tumbles and slides from one target to another, and his fists exhibit the raw power of any hammer or club. Stealth combat sequences, which offer astounding flexibility in how you approach enemies, are as good as ever. Slinking through vents, taking down a goon, and zipping away is as rewarding as it is to sabotage your armed foes with your disruptor rifle, causing their weapons to malfunction and leaving their owners open to attack. Smart level design and a large array of gadgets–a remote electrical charge, a machine that emulates villains’ voices, a hacking device, and so forth–keep each predator room as interesting as the last.

Batman’s many talents give rise to a terrific amount of variety. He is a scientist and a detective in addition to being Gotham’s scowling savior; he has a computer that knows the answers to every imaginable question (except the ones that drive the plot, of course); and he possesses the memory of an elephant rather than a bat–a nice skill to have when solving the murder mystery that serves as one of the game’s better side plots. Arkham Knight finds great ways of incorporating these talents into gameplay. For instance, you re-create a kidnapping by activating the returning bat-vision mode and scouring the street for clues. The crime’s events are then depicted on screen, allowing you to forward and reverse through them at will in your search for answers.

Poison Ivy is dressed for success, and like almost every one of Arkham Knight’s female characters, is in need of rescue.

Puzzles like this are clever, and the related tasks, such as scanning a corpse’s tissue to find anomalies, make you feel like an active participant in a real forensic analysis. The game constantly digresses, asking you to team up with comrades like Nightwing and Robin to deliver cooperative beatdowns, and to perform all number of secondary missions, which incorporate villains like Penguin, Two-Face, and Firefly. Some set pieces, such as one in which you defuse a set of bombs as a villain stands on a rotating platform, are particularly noteworthy for smart use of camera angles, and for the way the gameplay assists in characterization, teaching you about the miscreants at hand not just through dialogue and plotting, but through the way you interact with them.

Arkham Knight is loaded with villains, actually, including the one that gives the game its name: Arkham Knight himself. His identity is meant to be the game’s greatest mystery, but conspicuous foreshadowing, and a reliance on age-old storytelling cliches, make every reveal as surprising as the time The Mighty Ducks won that big hockey game. There are some tense story beats and moving events, but your two primary goals–to stop Scarecrow’s evil toxin plot, and to confront and unmask the Arkham Knight–are too predictable to be compelling.

Pow! Crunch! Whiff! Harumph!

What Batman: Arkham Knight does well, however, it does really well. Gotham is a dazzling playground where neon lights pierce through the rain and mist; all it takes is a single glimpse to tell you that this is a city in need. Moreover, many individual elements are so carefully constructed, and presented with such flair, that appreciation is the only reasonable reaction. Yet most of these elements–excellent acting, wonderful animations, moody soundtrack–are ones that Batman: Arkham City also excelled in, making Arkham Knight’s missteps all the more noticeable. Rather than escape the pull of the games that spawned it, The Bat’s newest adventure refines the fundamentals; it is a safe but satisfying return to the world’s most tormented megalopolis.

Heroes of the Storm Review

Given the origins of the online battle arena genre, in which StarCraft and Warcraft III modifications played a major role, it was only a matter of time: Blizzard has thrown down its hand in the MOBA market. Heroes of the Storm is yet another example of the quality we expect from the developer: ideas that have been explored elsewhere are given a level of refinement and accessibility that makes the eventual result nigh impossible to dislike. Heroes of the Storm is fantastic, assembling Blizzard’s colorful characters into a highly absorbing tactical arena game.

As with games like League of Legends and Dota 2, two teams of five face off with the goal of destroying the opponent’s base. Unlike those games, however, the map upon which teams face off is not a near carbon copy of those from other genres. Heroes of the Storm features seven unique maps with various secondary objectives that can assist a team in their siege of the enemy base. Each of these secondary objectives serves to create interesting movement and points of conflict, thus preventing the game from devolving into poke wars or stalemates where teams are too afraid to engage with each other.

B.F.R.

One such map is the Garden of Terror, in which players collect seeds from monsters upon nightfall in order to summon and take control of a garden terror of their own, which has the power to turn foes into zombie plants and plant vines that temporarily disable enemy towers. The garden terror’s massive health pool forces the opposing team to take it down before it wreaks havoc upon their bases. Furthermore, controlling the garden terror can lead to an interesting minigame of keep-away in the early stages of the game, as you sprint to drop the vines in every lane you can manage before your empowered state runs out or your terror is killed.

In another map, The Haunted Mines, the secondary objective sends players underground, off the main area of the map to collect skulls that empower their team’s massive grave golem. The power of each team’s golem depends on the number of the 100 available skulls they are able to acquire. Teams must react and take position according to how well they managed to acquire skulls underground while the mines were open. A stronger enemy golem requires staunch defenses, while golems relatively even in power enable more versatile splits of defenders and attackers. Each team’s golem pushes opposite lanes, and upon collection of another 100 skulls, revives wherever it died previously, adding a sense of dread when an enemy’s golem dies close to your core. The battles with the grave golem are the main course, certainly, but the skirmishes in the mines and the tight interplay of fending off the enemy team while your team slays the mine’s boss is quite the appetizing hors d’oeuvre.

..ladies…

Blackheart’s Bay, the Tomb of the Spider Queen, and Dragon Shire are all battlegrounds supporting intense and exhilarating comebacks. The game’s inherent comeback mechanics, such as longer death timers for higher level players, and map-specific secondary objectives, offer the trailing team plenty of opportunities to close the gap. In Dragon Shire, for instance, players may channel the great power of the towering warrior known as the dragon knight, allowing one hero to temporarily transform into the knight. Each successive dragon knight summon is stronger, leading to a progressively thrilling brawl each time the dragon knight is summoned.

One of Heroes of the Storm’s primary draws is its cast of characters from Blizzard’s various franchises. Warcraft‘s Uther, Malfurion, Illidan, Jaina, Thrall, and others face off against StarCraft‘s Raynor, Kerrigan, Tychus, Tassadar, and Zeratul as well as Diablo‘s Diablo, Azmodan, Tyrael, and a few representatives of the Diablo III playable characters. Despite being essentially recycled pre-existing characters, Heroes of the Storm’s character design still greatly impresses. Diablo offers his signature red lightning breath as an area-of-effect team fight ultimate, while Raynor may call in help from the Hyperion Battlecruiser to rain down fire from above. Arthas summons Sindragosa to freeze all in her path. These characters bring their own signature moves from their franchises into the arena with them, while still sliding neatly into the mold of a different genre.

While most characters fit into the standard classes of Warrior (tanks with crowd control), Assassin (sustained damage and nuking mages), and Supports (mostly healers), Heroes of the Storm features a fourth classification: Specialists. Specialists all have mechanics unique to their characters and don’t really compare to the other characters in the game. Abathur may attach a symbiote to an allied unit in order to launch his attacks from the safety of his own base. Azmodan empowers nearby minions while summoning a relative army all his own. Murky, the Baby Murloc, may lay an egg anywhere on the map in order to respawn there within a few seconds of death, rather than the long respawn timer to revive in base. The Specialist characters offer an entirely different perspective on Heroes of the Storm’s gameplay.

Ideas that have been explored elsewhere are given a level of refinement and accessibility that makes the eventual, golden result nigh impossible to dislike.

Of the many heroes I played, only one made me question its usefulness–and only one other made me feel unstoppable. Overall, excellent hero balancing means that you rarely assume that a game is over before it starts because one team has a hero that yours doesn’t–except perhaps when an opposing player has chosen Sylvanas. The slight imbalances that do exist are cleverly blanketed by the team-focused design that encourage grouping and teamwork, as well as by the game’s matchmaking, which prioritizes balanced team composition over throwing five assassin players into a team. Occasionally, some combinations of heroes are a perfect storm that causes one particular hero shine–Illidan with a healer and an Abathur on his team is one such instance–which may lead to perceived imbalances. But once you realize Illidan isn’t the only one doing work, the illusion is dispelled.

As your character levels up during a match, you choose how to customize your build using various stat-boosting talents that augment your character’s skills. Skills improve in damage on their own as you gain levels, but talents may add additional damage or effects to those skills. For example, Stitches must choose between extending the reach of his hook or enabling it to snag a second target; Valla and Falstad may choose between empowering their basic attacks or shifting more damage to their abilities. Each character has a set of unique choices to customize your style either to your own personal preference, or to suit the map. There are no items to buy in Heroes of the Storm: all of your character customization is handled solely by the talent system. One of my frustrations with the game stems from talents, as two or three of the available talents per level are gated behind a hero mastery system that requires you to play several games as the hero before you are allowed to select some of the more advanced masteries. This cripples character potential in Quick Match and encourages players to grind for experience in matches versus the less capable AI in order to level up their hero’s mastery.

Heroes of the Storm is a free-to-play game; thus, playable characters are limited to a free week rotation and characters are unlocked through Gold (earned by playing) or real money. With the existence of daily quests such as “Win three games” or “Play two games as a Diablo character,” gold comes easily, and it never feels like it will take days of playing to unlock whatever character you’re looking for. Bonus gold is also given out at various account level milestones and for reaching mastery level five of a character. Overall, the free-to-play structure doesn’t feel greedy or insurmountable, even when you only casually engage. Admittedly, it may take a long time to unlock every character in the game, but unlocking a decent variety of characters should come rather easily. I’m admittedly not the best person to trust with regards to games labeled “free-to-play” though; I’ve spent over a thousand dollars in League of Legends over the years.

Chef Stitches brings the Meat Hooks.

Match length in Heroes of the Storm is short, relative to other games in the genre. Rather than spending an hour or longer hoping for a game to finally come to an end, matches are often decisively ended within 20 minutes. There are outliers that drag on beyond 40, as evenly matched teams may have trouble managing to end the game against one another, but the game’s rapidly scaling death timers generally enable one team to end the competition before that point is reached. Usually, games are over quickly enough that you’ll convince yourself you always have time for one more game.

If you wish to shine individually, you may not enjoy Heroes of the Storm; the game is very team-centric, to the point that even experience is shared across an entire team–all players on the same team are the same level during a match. An individual’s power to affect a match is limited. Grouping up is essential to winning matches, and attempting any sort of heroic 1-vs.-5 play will likely be met with death. This serves to reduce the amount of rampant toxicity the genre is rather notorious for bringing; most game and chat experiences feature very few instances of nasty epithets, and with cross-team chat disabled outright, there is no opportunity for insulting opponents.

The environments, animations, and sounds of combat all evoke a mental investment in the action. Animations are simultaneously flashy and elegant, and ability animations feature enough clarity that it’s rare to be confused about what killed you. Tassadar’s Psionic Storm crackles and flashes for each enemy it hits. As E.T.C. The Rock God leaps into the fray from across the map, a rocking guitar riff signals his landing. The comical trio of Lost Vikings mounts up into its longboat when activating a heroic ability, and the three sing a merry tune as they rain cannon fire down on nearby foes and towers. And the sound of a dead hero (with which you will become very familiar) features a bass “shoomp” to draw just the right amount of satisfaction for each and every kill your team secures.

Heroes of the Storm is a must-play for both MOBA players and Blizzard enthusiasts. It avoids stepping into the exact footprints of the games that paved the way for the genre, and delivers a beautifully graceful, unique experience with familiar characters. And should you not fall into either category, it is still a fantastic casual-competitive game that offers untold hours of enjoyment.

Heroes of the Storm Review

Given the origins of the online battle arena genre, in which StarCraft and Warcraft III modifications played a major role, it was only a matter of time: Blizzard has thrown down its hand in the MOBA market. Heroes of the Storm is yet another example of the quality we expect from the developer: ideas that have been explored elsewhere are given a level of refinement and accessibility that makes the eventual result nigh impossible to dislike. Heroes of the Storm is fantastic, assembling Blizzard’s colorful characters into a highly absorbing tactical arena game.

As with games like League of Legends and Dota 2, two teams of five face off with the goal of destroying the opponent’s base. Unlike those games, however, the map upon which teams face off is not a near carbon copy of those from other genres. Heroes of the Storm features seven unique maps with various secondary objectives that can assist a team in their siege of the enemy base. Each of these secondary objectives serves to create interesting movement and points of conflict, thus preventing the game from devolving into poke wars or stalemates where teams are too afraid to engage with each other.

B.F.R.

One such map is the Garden of Terror, in which players collect seeds from monsters upon nightfall in order to summon and take control of a garden terror of their own, which has the power to turn foes into zombie plants and plant vines that temporarily disable enemy towers. The garden terror’s massive health pool forces the opposing team to take it down before it wreaks havoc upon their bases. Furthermore, controlling the garden terror can lead to an interesting minigame of keep-away in the early stages of the game, as you sprint to drop the vines in every lane you can manage before your empowered state runs out or your terror is killed.

In another map, The Haunted Mines, the secondary objective sends players underground, off the main area of the map to collect skulls that empower their team’s massive grave golem. The power of each team’s golem depends on the number of the 100 available skulls they are able to acquire. Teams must react and take position according to how well they managed to acquire skulls underground while the mines were open. A stronger enemy golem requires staunch defenses, while golems relatively even in power enable more versatile splits of defenders and attackers. Each team’s golem pushes opposite lanes, and upon collection of another 100 skulls, revives wherever it died previously, adding a sense of dread when an enemy’s golem dies close to your core. The battles with the grave golem are the main course, certainly, but the skirmishes in the mines and the tight interplay of fending off the enemy team while your team slays the mine’s boss is quite the appetizing hors d’oeuvre.

..ladies…

Blackheart’s Bay, the Tomb of the Spider Queen, and Dragon Shire are all battlegrounds supporting intense and exhilarating comebacks. The game’s inherent comeback mechanics, such as longer death timers for higher level players, and map-specific secondary objectives, offer the trailing team plenty of opportunities to close the gap. In Dragon Shire, for instance, players may channel the great power of the towering warrior known as the dragon knight, allowing one hero to temporarily transform into the knight. Each successive dragon knight summon is stronger, leading to a progressively thrilling brawl each time the dragon knight is summoned.

One of Heroes of the Storm’s primary draws is its cast of characters from Blizzard’s various franchises. Warcraft‘s Uther, Malfurion, Illidan, Jaina, Thrall, and others face off against StarCraft‘s Raynor, Kerrigan, Tychus, Tassadar, and Zeratul as well as Diablo‘s Diablo, Azmodan, Tyrael, and a few representatives of the Diablo III playable characters. Despite being essentially recycled pre-existing characters, Heroes of the Storm’s character design still greatly impresses. Diablo offers his signature red lightning breath as an area-of-effect team fight ultimate, while Raynor may call in help from the Hyperion Battlecruiser to rain down fire from above. Arthas summons Sindragosa to freeze all in her path. These characters bring their own signature moves from their franchises into the arena with them, while still sliding neatly into the mold of a different genre.

While most characters fit into the standard classes of Warrior (tanks with crowd control), Assassin (sustained damage and nuking mages), and Supports (mostly healers), Heroes of the Storm features a fourth classification: Specialists. Specialists all have mechanics unique to their characters and don’t really compare to the other characters in the game. Abathur may attach a symbiote to an allied unit in order to launch his attacks from the safety of his own base. Azmodan empowers nearby minions while summoning a relative army all his own. Murky, the Baby Murloc, may lay an egg anywhere on the map in order to respawn there within a few seconds of death, rather than the long respawn timer to revive in base. The Specialist characters offer an entirely different perspective on Heroes of the Storm’s gameplay.

Ideas that have been explored elsewhere are given a level of refinement and accessibility that makes the eventual, golden result nigh impossible to dislike.

Of the many heroes I played, only one made me question its usefulness–and only one other made me feel unstoppable. Overall, excellent hero balancing means that you rarely assume that a game is over before it starts because one team has a hero that yours doesn’t–except perhaps when an opposing player has chosen Sylvanas. The slight imbalances that do exist are cleverly blanketed by the team-focused design that encourage grouping and teamwork, as well as by the game’s matchmaking, which prioritizes balanced team composition over throwing five assassin players into a team. Occasionally, some combinations of heroes are a perfect storm that causes one particular hero shine–Illidan with a healer and an Abathur on his team is one such instance–which may lead to perceived imbalances. But once you realize Illidan isn’t the only one doing work, the illusion is dispelled.

As your character levels up during a match, you choose how to customize your build using various stat-boosting talents that augment your character’s skills. Skills improve in damage on their own as you gain levels, but talents may add additional damage or effects to those skills. For example, Stitches must choose between extending the reach of his hook or enabling it to snag a second target; Valla and Falstad may choose between empowering their basic attacks or shifting more damage to their abilities. Each character has a set of unique choices to customize your style either to your own personal preference, or to suit the map. There are no items to buy in Heroes of the Storm: all of your character customization is handled solely by the talent system. One of my frustrations with the game stems from talents, as two or three of the available talents per level are gated behind a hero mastery system that requires you to play several games as the hero before you are allowed to select some of the more advanced masteries. This cripples character potential in Quick Match and encourages players to grind for experience in matches versus the less capable AI in order to level up their hero’s mastery.

Heroes of the Storm is a free-to-play game; thus, playable characters are limited to a free week rotation and characters are unlocked through Gold (earned by playing) or real money. With the existence of daily quests such as “Win three games” or “Play two games as a Diablo character,” gold comes easily, and it never feels like it will take days of playing to unlock whatever character you’re looking for. Bonus gold is also given out at various account level milestones and for reaching mastery level five of a character. Overall, the free-to-play structure doesn’t feel greedy or insurmountable, even when you only casually engage. Admittedly, it may take a long time to unlock every character in the game, but unlocking a decent variety of characters should come rather easily. I’m admittedly not the best person to trust with regards to games labeled “free-to-play” though; I’ve spent over a thousand dollars in League of Legends over the years.

Chef Stitches brings the Meat Hooks.

Match length in Heroes of the Storm is short, relative to other games in the genre. Rather than spending an hour or longer hoping for a game to finally come to an end, matches are often decisively ended within 20 minutes. There are outliers that drag on beyond 40, as evenly matched teams may have trouble managing to end the game against one another, but the game’s rapidly scaling death timers generally enable one team to end the competition before that point is reached. Usually, games are over quickly enough that you’ll convince yourself you always have time for one more game.

If you wish to shine individually, you may not enjoy Heroes of the Storm; the game is very team-centric, to the point that even experience is shared across an entire team–all players on the same team are the same level during a match. An individual’s power to affect a match is limited. Grouping up is essential to winning matches, and attempting any sort of heroic 1-vs.-5 play will likely be met with death. This serves to reduce the amount of rampant toxicity the genre is rather notorious for bringing; most game and chat experiences feature very few instances of nasty epithets, and with cross-team chat disabled outright, there is no opportunity for insulting opponents.

The environments, animations, and sounds of combat all evoke a mental investment in the action. Animations are simultaneously flashy and elegant, and ability animations feature enough clarity that it’s rare to be confused about what killed you. Tassadar’s Psionic Storm crackles and flashes for each enemy it hits. As E.T.C. The Rock God leaps into the fray from across the map, a rocking guitar riff signals his landing. The comical trio of Lost Vikings mounts up into its longboat when activating a heroic ability, and the three sing a merry tune as they rain cannon fire down on nearby foes and towers. And the sound of a dead hero (with which you will become very familiar) features a bass “shoomp” to draw just the right amount of satisfaction for each and every kill your team secures.

Heroes of the Storm is a must-play for both MOBA players and Blizzard enthusiasts. It avoids stepping into the exact footprints of the games that paved the way for the genre, and delivers a beautifully graceful, unique experience with familiar characters. And should you not fall into either category, it is still a fantastic casual-competitive game that offers untold hours of enjoyment.

Massive Chalice Review

Decades of what we’ll call… light incest finally blew up in my face. I’d crushed the Cadence at every turn for 150 years. They could not stand up to the unified might of the houses that protected the realm, the houses that had fought the demonic incursion for generations. Their ancestors had lived and died–some on the battlefield, more at home in their beds; they had married and borne children and ruled the lands. But they were mortal, and I was not, and I didn’t merely witness the rise and fall of dynasties: I guided them. I forged marriages and alliances and ensured a stream of children for the war effort. But… best laid plans and whatnot… I learned that I was not cut out to meddle in eugenics.

I’d spent so long focusing on maximizing the fertility of the land that I’d lost sight of a more important concern: can any of these love-crazed rabbits actually fight? And while my soldiers were many, they were weak; my hunters (read: archers) had the vision of Mr. Magoo and the mobility of Chris Redfield in the 1996 Resident Evil. My men had grown stagnant, but the Cadence had grown strong. Decisive victories were turning into near scrapes with destruction, and I knew when my last hunter died that my land was not long for this world.

With five kids, I assume the way they’re finding is their bedroom.

Massive Chalice allows experiences like that one to flourish. Using a centuries-spanning war to weave its experiments, Massive Chalice is a game where accidents of birth, marriage, and being aged to death by eldritch abominations spreads ripples of repercussions across the decades and centuries. Here is a world brought to life through decisions that are wisely given time to breathe before they bear fruit. And it’s a shame that experiencing those tales can be so intermittently tedious.

In Massive Chalice, you control an immortal ruler tasked with defending his nation against the omnipresent demonic scourge, the Cadence. In 300 years, a magical chalice will awaken and destroy the Cadence once and for all. But you must keep the kingdom alive until that happens.

And thus forms the basis of Massive Chalice’s two major gameplay elements: grand marital strategy and turn-based tactical combat. In one half of the game, you must improve your land (through building population-supporting keeps, research-focused guilds, and military buildings), arrange marriages between the heroic bloodlines that keep the realm safe and thus ensure continuing generations of heroes, and guide the research efforts of the war. In the other half of the game, you lead squads of five soldiers (whose birth you might have arranged decades ago) into battle against the hordes of the Cadence.

The grand strategy portions of Massive Chalice provide its most organic memories, although, beyond the marital/breeding hijinks, the moment-to-moment interactions never equal the realization that decades of genetic planning (inadvertent or otherwise) brought you to victory or ruin. Heroes are divided by class, genetic traits, and personality types. If you marry heroes of the same class, they have children of that class. But if you marry heroes of different class, they have children of hybrid classes. And since the only heroes capable of reproducing are chosen by you, you can amass carefully constructed armies of diverse fighting forces that grow ever stronger or you can breed your ranged class to extinction because you forgot to marry any of them off.

Heroes have genetic and personality traits. They might be slow, or predisposed to having daughters, or small, or infertile. And (other than infertility), they can pass these traits on to their children. Suddenly, you find that you’re producing an absurd number of men in your kingdom compared to women, and you remember marrying too many men with the “Produces More Sons” trait. Or you find yourself with those archers that can’t shoot that I mentioned, because the house that was your archer factory features two spouses making kids genetically predisposed to being “nervous” (which lowers accuracy). Or by some miracle (because you know you didn’t think about it enough), your melee families all have strong bodies and rarely miss. Watching your realm swing from crushing the Cadence to barely surviving because of bad genetic planning should be frustrating, but in Massive Chalice, it is more often amusing because you remember how you could have avoided the disaster.

But Massive Chalice extends you the invitation and then offers you a half-empty world in return.

There are also moments where the game presents you with choices and moral conundrums. Peasants riot in the West due to shortages caused by the war. One of your heroes kills a peasant trying to keep the peace. Do you sacrifice this potential hero? Or do you crush the peasantry? Multiple playthroughs reveal that the consequences of even these choices have an element of randomness, so you’re always kept on your toes about how your decisions will play out. These decisions can have consequences that are more frustrating than fair, though. The last remaining member of a family can die in childbirth. Rational decisions can have catastrophic consequences, removing members of your Vanguard (your squad) for a decade–if not more–and then returning them with negative personality traits. There’s a fine line between “keeps you on your toes” and “cruel,” and Massive Chalice plays hopscotch with that line.

Some choices are more silly and endearing. Do you feed a wild ostrich? Do you go on a deranged hot air balloon ride? They add levity and personality to a game where genuine personality is abstracted at most turns. You have the option to put the Double Fine spin on the biblical Judgment of Solomon (though this time it involves placing a baby in your magical chalice instead of cutting it in half). You can force two feuding heroes to go on a walkabout around your war-torn land thinking it will cure their anger, only for them to return angry at you instead of each other. These choices maintain the random absurdity of the more serious choices, but they are less frustrating because they at least illicit a chuckle instead of bitter curses.

Way to pick the landing zone.

Where the grand strategy campaign falters is, sadly, everywhere else. The sheer randomness of the gene pool you’re presented with at the beginning of the game means it’s easy for one of the three core classes to be extinct by the time you build your second keep, just because the few heroes born into that class were cursed with the “short lifespan” trait. Or all of your alchemists have the reveler trait from the start and so you’re stuck with a line of drunks for the next three hundred years and you never quite know when a member of your vanguard is going to wake up with a hangover and ruin your mission. It doesn’t help that the game’s ability to present information to the player is obtuse at best. I ran multiple saves of Massive Chalice before I felt I had a proper handle on its mechanical quirks (and then I ran several more as I began to grasp the complexity of the genetic interplay).

It’s also impossible to discuss Massive Chalice’s strategic elements without bringing up XCOM: Enemy Unknown, because its design is borrowed quite liberally from that game. You make research, marital, and building decisions and then fast forward through the years until something happens that requires you to respond. Regions of the map are attacked by the Cadence at the same time, and you have to choose which land to help, which sows “corruption” in the region you didn’t help, which can then lead to the permanent loss of regions if you continually ignore their needs. Bits of fallen enemies can be used to research better weapons and armor. Remove the marriage and breeding elements of the game, and Massive Chalice would veer close to being Fantasy XCOM in a way that feels less like homage and more like an unashamed clone. The research, production, and macro-military elements are about as thin as a heroin chic model, and if you can keep your heroes alive, the strategy offers so few meaningful choices that it becomes impossible to screw things up beyond poor genetic planning. By the 100-year mark, research and building decisions begin to feel like busywork to keep you occupied between battles rather than important moments in the battle for survival of your kingdom.

When the game puts so much effort into creating a genetically diverse breeding pool of clashing and conflicting personalities, it’s disheartening that none of it can be seen on the field.

On the battlefield, things only fare slightly better. Although there are a host of classes in the game, they’re broken into three core ideas: melee, ranged, and control. You’re free to mix and match your squad of five heroes however you see fit (I tended to stick to two ranged, two control, and one melee). And then you’re loosed in turn-based tactical combat within the game’s sprawling environments. But that’s partially where the game’s combat falls apart.

Massive Chalice’s maps are huge. If you’re moving cautiously around the map, you can waste minutes inching around the levels hoping to bump into the enemy. And whatever algorithm/design principle Massive Chalice is using to generate enemy layouts on these maps is comically out of balance. Combat missions range from easy walks in the park with monsters healthily spaced out to cramped spaces with monsters packed into a singular corner of the map. This would be less problematic if Massive Chalice’s combat weren’t designed around fighting enemies in manageable packs. Fighting large swarms at once is a recipe for instant death.

It’s even more frustrating because the core loop of Massive Chalice’s combat can be good. Executing feints and lures to manage enemy unit size and inventing fresh ways to counter the Cadence’s deliciously evil ways to hurt you (including attacks that age you and kamikaze poison plant monstrosities) is endlessly satisfactory. Combat is simple: you’re limited to a small suite of abilities and items, but there’s a synergy to the way the classes play off each other. And you’re given enough agency to execute plans and watch them fall together (or go hilariously, miserably wrong). Some enemy combat abilities are outright broken. One enemy can teleport you across the field. If you can’t kill it before it attacks, it can wreck all of your careful tactical planning. The aging effect of another enemy is merciless in a game where aging and mortality are constant specters. The length of Massive Chalice’s battles is an exercise in pop relativity; if you settle into the groove and the Cadence isn’t spaced preposterously apart, it can fly by. But if you’re stuck wandering around in an aimless haze, you’ll feel every agonizing second of fights that regularly push past the twenty-minute mark.

For a game that places such granular mechanical focus on the personalities and genetic makeup of the heroes you produce, the writing and aesthetics of Massive Chalice never translate this in a meaningful way. If much of Massive Chalice is a less complex XCOM, your heroes’ traits become a less charming Valkyria Chronicles. For instance, I didn’t realize that one of my “reveler” heroes was hungover until he suddenly couldn’t move as many spaces. Characters that are “strong-willed” (which means they’re unlikely to get the traits of their parents) don’t project any force of personality on the field. When the game puts so much effort into creating a genetically diverse breeding pool of clashing and conflicting personalities, it’s disheartening that little of it can be seen in battle.

Ah. Nothing like deluded meta-physicists during wartime.

The heroes of Massive Chalice felt more real to me as mythic heroes of bloodlines–their indelible effect on generations of warriors not fully understood–than they did as the figures they cut in battle. In the grand strategy portions, they were part of families with house sigils and house words and adopted children. On the field, they were hit point boxes killing other hit point boxes and I couldn’t care less about them as individuals beyond being tools for securing ultimate victory. The game’s lifeless artwork did little to alleviate this problem. Although watching the members of your Vanguards or Regencies age and wither away until death was fascinating, the look of the heroes was devoid of detail, and left me with an endless trail of blonde/brunette/ginger men and women with caberjack/crossbow/alchemist claws.

That’s ultimately Massive Chalice’s most unfortunate shortcoming. It’s a game with enough ambition and execution to spark the imagination, and enough organic entropy to let you suspend your disbelief about the families you help sire. But Massive Chalice extends you the invitation and then offers you a half-empty world in return. Massive Chalice’s entropy speaks to me. The random chaos that one marriage can wreak over the decades is a mysterious well of excitement. But the flatness of its world and the tedium of several core elements of the Massive Chalice experience is a high price to pay.

Massive Chalice Review

Decades of what we’ll call… light incest finally blew up in my face. I’d crushed the Cadence at every turn for 150 years. They could not stand up to the unified might of the houses that protected the realm, the houses that had fought the demonic incursion for generations. Their ancestors had lived and died–some on the battlefield, more at home in their beds; they had married and borne children and ruled the lands. But they were mortal, and I was not, and I didn’t merely witness the rise and fall of dynasties: I guided them. I forged marriages and alliances and ensured a stream of children for the war effort. But… best laid plans and whatnot… I learned that I was not cut out to meddle in eugenics.

I’d spent so long focusing on maximizing the fertility of the land that I’d lost sight of a more important concern: can any of these love-crazed rabbits actually fight? And while my soldiers were many, they were weak; my hunters (read: archers) had the vision of Mr. Magoo and the mobility of Chris Redfield in the 1996 Resident Evil. My men had grown stagnant, but the Cadence had grown strong. Decisive victories were turning into near scrapes with destruction, and I knew when my last hunter died that my land was not long for this world.

With five kids, I assume the way they’re finding is their bedroom.

Massive Chalice allows experiences like that one to flourish. Using a centuries-spanning war to weave its experiments, Massive Chalice is a game where accidents of birth, marriage, and being aged to death by eldritch abominations spreads ripples of repercussions across the decades and centuries. Here is a world brought to life through decisions that are wisely given time to breathe before they bear fruit. And it’s a shame that experiencing those tales can be so intermittently tedious.

In Massive Chalice, you control an immortal ruler tasked with defending his nation against the omnipresent demonic scourge, the Cadence. In 300 years, a magical chalice will awaken and destroy the Cadence once and for all. But you must keep the kingdom alive until that happens.

And thus forms the basis of Massive Chalice’s two major gameplay elements: grand marital strategy and turn-based tactical combat. In one half of the game, you must improve your land (through building population-supporting keeps, research-focused guilds, and military buildings), arrange marriages between the heroic bloodlines that keep the realm safe and thus ensure continuing generations of heroes, and guide the research efforts of the war. In the other half of the game, you lead squads of five soldiers (whose birth you might have arranged decades ago) into battle against the hordes of the Cadence.

The grand strategy portions of Massive Chalice provide its most organic memories, although, beyond the marital/breeding hijinks, the moment-to-moment interactions never equal the realization that decades of genetic planning (inadvertent or otherwise) brought you to victory or ruin. Heroes are divided by class, genetic traits, and personality types. If you marry heroes of the same class, they have children of that class. But if you marry heroes of different class, they have children of hybrid classes. And since the only heroes capable of reproducing are chosen by you, you can amass carefully constructed armies of diverse fighting forces that grow ever stronger or you can breed your ranged class to extinction because you forgot to marry any of them off.

Heroes have genetic and personality traits. They might be slow, or predisposed to having daughters, or small, or infertile. And (other than infertility), they can pass these traits on to their children. Suddenly, you find that you’re producing an absurd number of men in your kingdom compared to women, and you remember marrying too many men with the “Produces More Sons” trait. Or you find yourself with those archers that can’t shoot that I mentioned, because the house that was your archer factory features two spouses making kids genetically predisposed to being “nervous” (which lowers accuracy). Or by some miracle (because you know you didn’t think about it enough), your melee families all have strong bodies and rarely miss. Watching your realm swing from crushing the Cadence to barely surviving because of bad genetic planning should be frustrating, but in Massive Chalice, it is more often amusing because you remember how you could have avoided the disaster.

But Massive Chalice extends you the invitation and then offers you a half-empty world in return.

There are also moments where the game presents you with choices and moral conundrums. Peasants riot in the West due to shortages caused by the war. One of your heroes kills a peasant trying to keep the peace. Do you sacrifice this potential hero? Or do you crush the peasantry? Multiple playthroughs reveal that the consequences of even these choices have an element of randomness, so you’re always kept on your toes about how your decisions will play out. These decisions can have consequences that are more frustrating than fair, though. The last remaining member of a family can die in childbirth. Rational decisions can have catastrophic consequences, removing members of your Vanguard (your squad) for a decade–if not more–and then returning them with negative personality traits. There’s a fine line between “keeps you on your toes” and “cruel,” and Massive Chalice plays hopscotch with that line.

Some choices are more silly and endearing. Do you feed a wild ostrich? Do you go on a deranged hot air balloon ride? They add levity and personality to a game where genuine personality is abstracted at most turns. You have the option to put the Double Fine spin on the biblical Judgment of Solomon (though this time it involves placing a baby in your magical chalice instead of cutting it in half). You can force two feuding heroes to go on a walkabout around your war-torn land thinking it will cure their anger, only for them to return angry at you instead of each other. These choices maintain the random absurdity of the more serious choices, but they are less frustrating because they at least illicit a chuckle instead of bitter curses.

Way to pick the landing zone.

Where the grand strategy campaign falters is, sadly, everywhere else. The sheer randomness of the gene pool you’re presented with at the beginning of the game means it’s easy for one of the three core classes to be extinct by the time you build your second keep, just because the few heroes born into that class were cursed with the “short lifespan” trait. Or all of your alchemists have the reveler trait from the start and so you’re stuck with a line of drunks for the next three hundred years and you never quite know when a member of your vanguard is going to wake up with a hangover and ruin your mission. It doesn’t help that the game’s ability to present information to the player is obtuse at best. I ran multiple saves of Massive Chalice before I felt I had a proper handle on its mechanical quirks (and then I ran several more as I began to grasp the complexity of the genetic interplay).

It’s also impossible to discuss Massive Chalice’s strategic elements without bringing up XCOM: Enemy Unknown, because its design is borrowed quite liberally from that game. You make research, marital, and building decisions and then fast forward through the years until something happens that requires you to respond. Regions of the map are attacked by the Cadence at the same time, and you have to choose which land to help, which sows “corruption” in the region you didn’t help, which can then lead to the permanent loss of regions if you continually ignore their needs. Bits of fallen enemies can be used to research better weapons and armor. Remove the marriage and breeding elements of the game, and Massive Chalice would veer close to being Fantasy XCOM in a way that feels less like homage and more like an unashamed clone. The research, production, and macro-military elements are about as thin as a heroin chic model, and if you can keep your heroes alive, the strategy offers so few meaningful choices that it becomes impossible to screw things up beyond poor genetic planning. By the 100-year mark, research and building decisions begin to feel like busywork to keep you occupied between battles rather than important moments in the battle for survival of your kingdom.

When the game puts so much effort into creating a genetically diverse breeding pool of clashing and conflicting personalities, it’s disheartening that none of it can be seen on the field.

On the battlefield, things only fare slightly better. Although there are a host of classes in the game, they’re broken into three core ideas: melee, ranged, and control. You’re free to mix and match your squad of five heroes however you see fit (I tended to stick to two ranged, two control, and one melee). And then you’re loosed in turn-based tactical combat within the game’s sprawling environments. But that’s partially where the game’s combat falls apart.

Massive Chalice’s maps are huge. If you’re moving cautiously around the map, you can waste minutes inching around the levels hoping to bump into the enemy. And whatever algorithm/design principle Massive Chalice is using to generate enemy layouts on these maps is comically out of balance. Combat missions range from easy walks in the park with monsters healthily spaced out to cramped spaces with monsters packed into a singular corner of the map. This would be less problematic if Massive Chalice’s combat weren’t designed around fighting enemies in manageable packs. Fighting large swarms at once is a recipe for instant death.

It’s even more frustrating because the core loop of Massive Chalice’s combat can be good. Executing feints and lures to manage enemy unit size and inventing fresh ways to counter the Cadence’s deliciously evil ways to hurt you (including attacks that age you and kamikaze poison plant monstrosities) is endlessly satisfactory. Combat is simple: you’re limited to a small suite of abilities and items, but there’s a synergy to the way the classes play off each other. And you’re given enough agency to execute plans and watch them fall together (or go hilariously, miserably wrong). Some enemy combat abilities are outright broken. One enemy can teleport you across the field. If you can’t kill it before it attacks, it can wreck all of your careful tactical planning. The aging effect of another enemy is merciless in a game where aging and mortality are constant specters. The length of Massive Chalice’s battles is an exercise in pop relativity; if you settle into the groove and the Cadence isn’t spaced preposterously apart, it can fly by. But if you’re stuck wandering around in an aimless haze, you’ll feel every agonizing second of fights that regularly push past the twenty-minute mark.

For a game that places such granular mechanical focus on the personalities and genetic makeup of the heroes you produce, the writing and aesthetics of Massive Chalice never translate this in a meaningful way. If much of Massive Chalice is a less complex XCOM, your heroes’ traits become a less charming Valkyria Chronicles. For instance, I didn’t realize that one of my “reveler” heroes was hungover until he suddenly couldn’t move as many spaces. Characters that are “strong-willed” (which means they’re unlikely to get the traits of their parents) don’t project any force of personality on the field. When the game puts so much effort into creating a genetically diverse breeding pool of clashing and conflicting personalities, it’s disheartening that little of it can be seen in battle.

Ah. Nothing like deluded meta-physicists during wartime.

The heroes of Massive Chalice felt more real to me as mythic heroes of bloodlines–their indelible effect on generations of warriors not fully understood–than they did as the figures they cut in battle. In the grand strategy portions, they were part of families with house sigils and house words and adopted children. On the field, they were hit point boxes killing other hit point boxes and I couldn’t care less about them as individuals beyond being tools for securing ultimate victory. The game’s lifeless artwork did little to alleviate this problem. Although watching the members of your Vanguards or Regencies age and wither away until death was fascinating, the look of the heroes was devoid of detail, and left me with an endless trail of blonde/brunette/ginger men and women with caberjack/crossbow/alchemist claws.

That’s ultimately Massive Chalice’s most unfortunate shortcoming. It’s a game with enough ambition and execution to spark the imagination, and enough organic entropy to let you suspend your disbelief about the families you help sire. But Massive Chalice extends you the invitation and then offers you a half-empty world in return. Massive Chalice’s entropy speaks to me. The random chaos that one marriage can wreak over the decades is a mysterious well of excitement. But the flatness of its world and the tedium of several core elements of the Massive Chalice experience is a high price to pay.