Tales Of Maj’Eyal: Age Of Ascendancy is not your average freeware roguelike. Detailed sprite art, a mouse-friendly UI and even a full soundtrack let you know right off the bat that this is something different. The work of Nicolas ‘DarkGod’ Casalini, this is officially the fourth in a long-running series of roguelikes that began with the ASCII-based (and potentially lawyer-angering) Tales of Middle-Earth back in 1998. Tales of Maj’Eyal – now set in its own fantasy universe – is often referred to as ToME 4 for this reason, although it fully deserves to make a name for itself now, especially as it has finally left beta.
There’s a lot more to ToME than just dungeon crawling and hoarding loot. Depending on your race and class chosen, you’ll be thrown into an introductory chapter with its own story driving you towards adventure, escape or otherwise some core plot-hook. Once it concludes, you’ll end up in a massive overworld with the freedom to go wherever you please. While the general structure of the world remains the same each time, the locations, the dungeons and the experiences are all randomly generated. There are story threads to follow, places to find, bosses to slay, other dimensions to discover and eventually a world to be saved, but that’s for you to discover as you explore.
“Tales of Maj’Eyal (ToME) is a free, open source roguelike RPG, featuring tactical turn-based combat and advanced character building.”
At first, your options are limited – only a few races and a few classes to pick from – and the only starting options are your chosen difficulty level and whether you’ll be allowed a stock of extra lives. As you play, you’ll unlock new races, classes, starting points, playmodes and features, giving it a sense of long-term progression. Something as small as talking to a shady figure in a village may end up involving you in a gladiatorial fighting ring. Proving yourself there will permanently unlock an arena survival playmode for all future characters, for instance. Unlocks are bound to your online account, which also handles high scores, achievement tracking and even in-game chat with other players for advice.
Warm Up The Cooldowns
The combat engine is another of the big departures from genre norms. Rather than just bumping into targets until one of you dies, you pick from a large pallette of skills in vaguely MMO-esque fashion. Some are class-based, some bound to your equipped items, and some that you semi-permanently attach to your character through magical infusions. All of them have their own cooldowns, perks, penalties and rules. While some classes are limited by reserves of mana or some other source of energy, probably the closest point of reference would be Guild Wars 2, but played out in turn-based format.
There are no traditional potions, scrolls or food items. As the game-world is so huge, there’s no arbitrary time limit imposed on play, and healing and recharging are all done through skills meaning that you’ll often be forced to make tough choices. You can only have a fixed number of ‘infusion’ skills on your character, so for instance, you’ll have to weigh up whether you’re willing to swap out your emergency ‘quick heal’ skill for a barrier spell or something else with more combat utility. Even within a single class, there’s a lot of depth and tactical nuance to discover.
“I intend to continue doing so for many years to come, but I am also a firm believer of eating each day This is why I am asking for donations.”
On top of being a sprawling, massive game in its own right with huge replay value, ToME is highly moddable. There’s an official forum full of tweaks, content, features and new sprite-sets. It’s one hell of a package. The game is freeware, but donating will get you a couple of perks, including an extra character class that dual-wields shields and an unlimited lives mode, letting you explore freely without having to worry too much about making mistakes. While these features are by no means necessary to enjoying the game, they’re a nice bonus. Give the game a spin and see how it works for you.
tl;dr – Tales Of Maj’Eyal is an accessible but deep graphical roguelike 14 years in the making. It’s also completely free. You should play it if you like dungeon crawls.