second chance games

Search This Website of delight

It's been said that variety is the spice of life. If that's true, then Tales of Maj'Eyal (ToME) might be one the spiciest dis...

Tales of Maj'Eyal Tales of Maj'Eyal

Tales of Maj'Eyal

Tales of Maj'Eyal

It's been said that variety is the spice of life. If that's true, then Tales of Maj'Eyal (ToME) might be one the spiciest dishes ever served up. A roguelike that has been around since 2012, but continues to get significant updates and expansions on a regular basis. Like other roguelikes, ToME involves creating a character and then attempting to beat the game. As a feature of the genre, you can expect to fail much more often than you win. Every run is a bit different, though the overall structure remains the same, leading to endless replayability.  Each run of the game begins, of course, with a selection of your character's race and class from an impressively large menu of options. Assuming you have all the DLC, which I'll go ahead and say now you should get if you like this game at all, you will have 16 races and 35 classes to combine as you please.

Interestingly, when you first fire up the game, you'll only have a handful of options to choose from, and must unlock the rest. As you might imagine, the starting choices will be familiar: various types of humans, elves, and halflings for races, and several flavors of warrior, rogue, and mage for the class options. After a few runs at the game, you'll unlock some more choices, each more exotic than the last. It's practically a spoiler to mention what they are here, but suffice to say that they are wildly different from what you start with. Manipulating time and space, harnessing demonic forces, becoming a champion of the light or a bringer of darkness, there's something for everyone here. 

Once you choose a race and class, you'll get a chance to drop a few points into your skills. Every class has more skill tracks than you'll know what to do with. Even within one of those 35 classes, you'll still be looking at building a unique character each time you play. Each track has four skills within it, which are only unlocked by investing points in the earlier skills and investing in the relevant stat (Strength, Dexterity, etc.) and each skill can be upgraded multiple times, increasing effectiveness with each point. Of course, you won't have enough points to get everything, and so you'll have to focus on what you really need. 

ToME gives you so many options, that even if you play the same class several times, you'll want to play around with different builds. There are entire skill categories that you might ignore or invest heavily in, depending on what kind of character you are building. You can also gain new skills from items and quests, allowing you to do things normally impossible for your class, and perhaps opening up a powerful new strategy. After you've gained a few levels and conquered some dungeons, your skill bar will be filled out with tons of options, so many that it can be a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, unlike many other roguelikes, ToME actually has a user friendly UI that makes life easier. For one, you can play the entire game with just the mouse if you want to, no need to memorize a dozen hotkeys just to navigate the menus. Rather, ToME works much like any standard turn based RPG, and even goes a step further by giving you options to automate some of your skills. For example, you can set some of your attack moves to always fire when an enemy is next to you, going off every time its cool down timer ends.  Just like that, you can save yourself hundreds of clicks and button presses.

Like most roguelikes, ToME is light on story and you won't be diving into any deep dialogue trees with the NPC's, but there is a surprising amount of lore to discover throughout the world. Hints and rumors will lead you to secret locations which often lead to the unlocking of a new class or race. In all of the dungeons you will find trails of notes that tell a story, usually in the form of a diary of some adventurer who came before you. These are a clever way of adding to the history of that location, and often give you a heads-up about the dangers you will soon face. And you will face danger after danger. Giant sand worms burrowing in and out of the ground, skeletal mages shooting lightning, massive trolls that can knock you across the screen, and endless other horrors. Unlike most other roguelikes, ToME has a variety of difficulty settings that can take the edge off a sudden death. You can play one-life hardcore permadeath if you like, but you can also play a more forgiving mode where you have a limited number of lives, giving you the chance to respawn outside a dungeon that you aren't ready for, or jump right back in the fight if you think you can win. 

Another neat thing that ToME does is allow you to connect with other players, even though the game is single-player. You can choose to create an account, which tracks all of your runs on the official website, and also puts you online when you play. This lets you see when other players earn achievements (there are hundreds) and when they get killed, sometimes at embarrassingly low levels that give you a chuckle and and at high levels that will make you cringe at the loss of a good run. You can also chat with them as you go, asking for help in real time or congratulating someone else when you see they did something noteworthy.

If you are a veteran roguelike player or thinking about dipping your toes into the pool, or if you've never even heard of them but enjoy action RPG's or turn-based tactical games, you should give ToME a shot. The game can keep you occupied for potentially hundreds of hours, it can run on practically any computer, and you can even play the core game for free! The paid version unlocks a few extra options, and the DLC of course adds a lot of content, but more than anything, spending some money on the game rewards years of ongoing work by the developers.

ToME is available for free from the official website and can be purchased (for additional features and support of the devs) along with the DLC on Steam.

- Joe Beard