A Tim Schafer Designed “Game of Thrones” Style Strategy Game? Yes, Please


After Tim Schafer was done with one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time for his studio Double Fine’s entrant into the adventure genre Schafer once helped perfect, many expected to not hear from the company until “Broken Age” was completed.

It’s somewhat of a surprise then to hear today that Schafer and co. are already working on another Kickstarter title before “Broken Age” even has a confirmed release date. While it’s initially troubling to think of Double Fine’s new offering “Massive Chalice” as a reason for them to reach into your pockets again, once you actually begin read about the game, you may take up that internet joke and start willingly throwing money at your screen.

Described as a turn based tactical RPG that sees you command generations of heroes and try to repel demon hordes from a vast and intricate fantasy land ruled by factions, “Massive Chalice” cites its inspirations as games like  “Fire Emblem,” “Final Fantasy Tactics,” and “X-Com,” but also mentions the influences of TV shows like “Game of Thrones.” Collectively, of course, those are known as some of the best things ever.


In, fact, much of “Massive Chalice” reads like a best of. You’ve got the feuding factions of “Game of Thrones,” the permadeath system of “Fire Emblem,” the tactical map design from the “Total War” series, and the combat style of “XCOM” all blended together and topped with that unique dialogue and general feel that Schafer studios usually provide.

It’s that last part that really matters, as if this was Peter Molyneux preaching a game where you control a faction over generations in a multi-faceted, kingdom consuming war involving mysticism and a variety of in-depth strategy elements, it’d be easy to dismiss it as all hype. However, Schafer (and for that matter project lead Brad Muir), have a history of always delivering an experience that may not be perfect, but is noteworthy and unlike anything else regardless of where it draws inspiration.

By the project’s own admission, “Massive Chalice” is unlike anything the studio has ever attempted. Whenever one of the most creatively exciting developers out there decide to step out of their comfort zone, that’s a cause to take notice of, and one that may easily be worth the $20 backing price.


Bethesda and Dishonored Give Me an Excuse to Run This Lena Headey Picture

You know, as much as I love Bethesda, they don’t exactly have an astounding history of success with original titles.

If you look at their history as a developer, you’ll of course notice their standout titles (“Fallout 3” and the “Elder Scrolls” series) are both of unquestionably great caliber, but only one of which is a true independent property. After that, you’ll see that Bethesda mostly spends their time as a publisher of titles that include “Brink,” “Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth,” “Rouge Warrior,” and “Rage”  (which John Carmack recently apologized for). All of those titles share one thing in common. None of them were really, truly great, but they all featured at least one aspect or element that made them stand out.

See that’s the real magic behind Bethesda. Even when everything doesn’t come together as it should, they always manage to attach themselves to titles that never really feel like they are phoning it in. Hell, they even published a “Pirates of the Caribbean” game that wasn’t a complete hack job, and Disney and Johnny Depp have been phoning that franchise in since “Pirates of the Caribbean 2.”

It’s such a consistent enough history of exceptional effort that it makes gamers everywhere stand up and take notice when the Maryland based developer starts a new project. Apparently, gamers aren’t the only ones taking notice as some A-list Hollywood celebrities have jumped at the chance to sign on for Bethesda’s next title “Dishonored.” It was recently announced that Susan Sarandon (“Thelma and Louise”, “Rocky Horror Picture Show”), Chloe Grace Moretz (“500 Days of Summer”, “Kick-Ass”), and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia…duh), will join previously announced actors Brad Dourif (“Deadwood”, “Childs Play”), Michael Madsen (“Reservoir Dogs”, “Kill Bill Vol. 2”), Lena Heady (“300”, “Game of Thrones”), and  “Mad Men’s” John Slattery as voice actors for the new title.

That’s clearly one hell of a cast assembled so far. What’s got them so excited? Well “Dishonored” is described as a “Steampunk, stealth first person role playing video game” that follows an Empress’s bodyguard, turned assassin who becomes framed for the Empress’s murder and must prove his innocence and find the real killers. “Dishonored” is supposed to support a revolutionary stealth system that boasts that no enemy must be killed, and a non-lethal solution is available for any situation. Along with that, the games steampunk open world promises to offer the traditional Bethesda quality open world, where they claim that every NPC is alive and active even if they are not interacting with you.

If you’re anything like me, that description got all kinds of hairs on you standing up. Like I said, when Bethesda gets behind something, they don’t do it half-ass. Between that description, that cast, and the development team attached to “Dishonored” (Arkane Studios, who previously worked on the incredible “Dark Messiah of Might and Magic” and “Bioshock 2”, and designer Viktor Antonov who helped design “Half-Life 2’s” City 17), this is starting to look more and more like a sleeper Game of The Year contender in the making, that’s causing all of the stars to align.


GAME REVIEW: Game of Thrones

It’s truly a rare occasion for a beloved movie or TV property to be adapted into a successful video game, and though George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series had all the makings of a really great action RPG, “Game of Thrones” falls well short of the mark. Though developer Cyanide has done a good job of creating a separate story that could conceivably exist within the rich history of Martin’s novels (namely, the events of the first book), the rest of the game fails to match that same level of quality. Following in the narrative style of the fantasy series, you’ll split your time between two characters – Mors Westford, a veteran ranger of the Night’s Watch with ties to the Hand of the King, Jon Arryn, and Alester Sarwyck, a red priest of R’hllor (better known to fans of the HBO show as the Lord of Light) who’s returned home from self-exile to reclaim his lands and titles from House Lannister.

The story allows for a few familiar faces to pop up throughout the course of the campaign (including Lord Commander Jeor Mormont and Lord Varys, both of whom are played by their respective actors from the TV series), but while that may add the connective tissue needed to make “Game of Thrones” feel like a legitimate part of the existing canon, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still not very fun to play. You know that something’s not right when one of the game’s biggest problems is also one of its strengths. Although the use of long, dialogue-driven scenes may enhance the storytelling in Martin’s novels and the show, it really shouldn’t be the focus of a video game. It’s hard to argue the quality of the writing on display, but every minute spent watching one of these cutscenes is time where the player is left to sit around and do nothing.

And when you finally are given a chance to roam the world and engage in battles, the combat system is so boring that it feels like it’s on auto-drive. Of course, that’s probably because it sort of is, as the only real control you’re given in the fight is deciding the best strategic order of your attacks and special abilities. However, the rate at which you earn new attacks and abilities is pretty slow, and by the time you do have more to choose from, you’re so set in your old ways that it’s not really worth experimenting. Additionally, the game itself is choppy, buggy and even a little ugly at times, and for a property with as large of a fanbase as “Game of Thrones,” that never should have been allowed to happen.


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