Tales of Maj’Eyal Review!
Tales of Maj’Eyal (or Tome for short) is a roguelike game that attempts to modernize the genre by adding an extremely customizable interface, intuitive mouse controls, and streamlined gridbased combat. Each character you create has the potential to be unique and optimized to your liking, while maintaining the ‘feel’ of the class. There is a back story within the game and it is chock full of unlockable features, classes, and races. If you are impatient, you can edit the game to unlock them without putting forth any effort. Great for lazy folks!
Character development is a bit daunting at first, but after your first few characters you learn which stats do what. Reading what they do helps and you may figure out sooner, but I like the trial and error, grit ‘n moxie way of doing things. You can choose one of many races and bloodlines, classes and archetypes. There are tough fighters, spellslinging mages and some classes I can’t quite explain. Yes, you can play as a skeletal mage. How awesome is that?
Combat is ‘per turn’ and you can gain more hits/casts each turn by tinkering with Talents and items that affect your global speed.(a more detailed writeup from someone who probably knows what they’re talking about is here) Spells are generally area of effect, will damage YOU if you’re caught within them(though there are talents to reduce the effect of said self-harm), and add to the tactical feel of the game. A spell that casts in a beam may level a line of enemies, while a spell that casts in a ray may cause status effects on a larger crowd. My favorite spell is probably Phase Door because it gets me out of more situations than I’d care to admit. It’s like conveniently already having plans when asked to do something you know you won’t enjoy. Just Phase Door your problems under the doormat! Unfortunately, like real life, after a few steps those problems will have followed you around the level.
The interface is customizable and accessible. If you need more hotkeys, you need to click but a few times and you have an entire new row to accommodate your ever-increasing amount of skills, runes, magical items and the like. I find myself not even using hotkeys most of the time (seeing as Tome isn’t time sensitive), and clicking on skills/items to use them(blaspheme!) I realize this is sacrilege to many, but this is also a game where you can go away from the keyboard in the middle of a boss fight to tend to the mounting pressures of your personal life and return as if you were never gone. It’s wonderful, as if the game understands and accepts you for who you are.
The graphics aren’t much to write home about, but I mean, it’s a roguelike, so any graphics are an improvement over ASCII symbols. I mean, you know you’re fighting a dragon without having to memorize which color and symbol represents one, so that in my mind, is a huge improvement. I should note though that the depth of game-play more than makes up for the graphics, but I’m also not one to turn my nose at a game because of how it looks.
Tales of Maj’Eyal is built off of a Lua engine called T-Engine 4, which is a cross-platform game engine specifically for roguelikes. A full feature list can be read here. The game allows for some pretty extensive modding, such as tweaks to the Infinite Dungeon, or completely new classes and interface designs.
Tales of Maj’Eyal is free and moddable. There is a donation system which allows you to get some perks for a meager donation. The perks are small things like Exploration Mode which allows you to explore the game with the kind of hubris that unlimited lives allows for. A catch for Exploration mode is that, some Achievements seem to be tagged with ‘Exploration’, as in ‘done the easy way.’ Another benefit for donating is a shared Item Vault, where, you can store an item for another character. You unlock more spaces to store stuff depending on how much you donated. Lastly, there is a class which unlocks with donating called the “Stone Warden”, which fights with two shields, can only be of the dwarf race, and fuses the gap between arcane and nature magic.
To summarize, Tales of Maj’Eyal seems to be the natural evolution of roguelike games. Graphical, customizable, and with scalable difficulty. Having to unlock new races and classes is fun for me, and thankfully since it’s not fun for everyone it’s fairly easy to make them accessible. The combat is tactical and makes what is likely the best use of a cooldown system I’ve ever seen. Each class is different and interesting, and the benefits from each race are different enough so that not everyone is playing a flavor of the month race/class combo.
Oh yeah, you can get Tales of Maj’Eyal(Tome!) here.