Tales of Maj'Eyal: Unbroken, Unforgotten Review - A Brilliant and Deep Roguelike
Over the past decade, the industry has seen a resurgence in video game genres that were long left behind. The likes of dungeon crawlers, roguelikes and more recently old-school FPSs have all made a return and quite an impact on the indie scene. One such title that made quite the impression was Tales of Maj'Eyal back in 2012. Recently the game has made quite the comeback with its expansion Embers of Rage and the massive update 1.5.0.
Tales of Maj'Eyal is a roguelike developed and published by Netcore Games. It initially released in 2012 on the developer's website and later on Steam and GOG.com. The game's first expansion Ashes of Urk'Rok released October 27th, 2014 and the second expansion Embers of Rage on February 23rd, 2016. Tales of Maj'Eyal is a procedurally generated title that offers huge amounts of classes, races and skills that give enormous replayability.
The world full of lore
While there is a plot to the game it isn't until late on that it begins to become apparent and actually get in motion. Most of the story to the game and the world of Maj'Eyal is told through lore. In total there are over 400 lore entries in the game.
Most are found simply by exploring the world, collecting documents, reading signs and statue inscriptions. Some you need to buy from various shops and libraries found in the towns scattered throughout the world. There isn't much about the history of Maj'Eyal that isn't covered in its lore.
From the creation of humans to the tales of war and destructive events, to the background of some of the most horrifying creatures lurking in the world's darkest reaches. There is so much to read and learn about the world and ever bit of it is enjoyable and interesting while others are quite entertaining.
The diary entries of a self-proclaimed paladin who was actually nothing more than a greedy individual looking for riches made me chuckle. If you love learning about the world that you are being a part of in a video game, then Tales of Maj'Eyal has a massive amount of stories to tell.
An enormous amount of character choices that caters for all players
Much like the immense amount of lore, Tales of Maj'Eyal has a vast array of characters choices on offer. Upon starting a new game you get to choose your characters gender, race and class. At the beginning, there will only be a handful of options available to you but as you progress throughout the game more will unlock.
There are seven primary races, each with their own sub-races to choose from. Each has their own backgrounds, stats and unique skills. The character classes work in the same fashion, there are ten primary classes each with their own sub-classes.
Each of the classes has their own set of skills but as which of these your character is proficient in depends on the sub-class that you choose. There are also a number of campaigns to choose from. Just like the other character creation options most will need to be unlocked by playing the game.
The other campaigns include the Arena, where you fight your way up the Arena ranks in any attempt to become the champion, eventually becoming a master yourself. The second is the infinite dungeon, where you must attempt survive as long you can while reaching the deepest floor possible.
If it is a case that you don't like how your character looks there is a large selection of appearances to choose from. There is also a number of difficulty settings on offer to cater players of all experience levels. While the game is intended to be played with permadeath as a mechanic, there are multiple options to this too.
For those who simply want to experience the game without the worries of permadeath can do so with the Exploration mode that gives you unlimited lives. The default setting gives the player a limited amount of lives and upon losing them all their character will be permanently dead.
The third option is for the more hardcore audience who are looking for the ultimate challenge, where you have one single life for the entirety of the game. A challenging feat for a game of this length.
With so many options up for grabs, each and every playthrough offers a new and unique experience that gives the game immense replayability. If you are worried as to whether you will get plenty of game time for your money, Tales of Maj'Eyal will give you more than most titles ever will.
Old-school roguelike gameplay with Diablo style enemy and loot system
When it comes to gameplay, Tales of Maj'Eyal is as old-school as it gets. It isn't a game that you can just rush into and expect to dominate every adversary you encounter. Instead, it is a game you must take your time with and learn.
With so many skills for each character class and each of those skills having their own purpose, it is very much a case of learning what ones are suited to which situations. Running into combat without a plan will quickly result in punishment.
It is a very tactical game, where a plan for both the battle and a retreat is essential to your survival. So taking your time and having patience are a virtue. As for the enemies and loot, it works in similar fashion to the Diablo series. Enemies come in various ranks, such as normal, rare, unique, elite, and boss.
The rare and elite enemies are much more powerful variations of normal enemies while unique are powerful exclusive enemies to specific places. As for loot and items, they work in a similar fashion and come in varying ranks including uncommon, rare, unique, elite and so on.
Again just like the Diablo series, the enemies and items are all procedurally generated with the exception of those marked unique. Not only that but there are tonnes of different enemies and items to find on your journey, each with different pros and cons.
Mix all this together with procedurally generated maps and the vast character creation options and what you get is a game that brings a major change every time you play. The gameplay to Tales of Maj'Eyal is unpredictable and offering new challenges all the time. It really is a case of never knowing what you are going to find.
Ever changing level design
One of the best aspects of Tales of Maj'Eyal is the level design. At first, the levels appear pretty simple, just walk around, kill everything and find the entrance to the next stage of that area. As you progress, however, the levels begin to become a bit more interesting.
Different levels start to react differently, offering new challenges that you will need to overcome to progress. For example, in the sandworm pit, you must follow the friendly sandworms as they burrow tunnels to navigate the dungeon. If you are too slow you may have the tunnel collapse on top of you, killing you.
In another area, you are in the middle of a storm resulting in receiving extra damage if struck by lightning, or a place that is entirely submerged in water, resulting in you requiring a specific item to enter it. It is through this design that the many places you explore remain refreshing not to mention it keeps you alert and on your toes at all times.
More games need a transmogrification chest
It isn't often that I single out and talk about one tiny little feature in a game but Tales of Maj'Eyal's transmogrification chest is one of them. Over the years I have become so tired of games that force encumbrance on you, resulting in you having to travel back and forth time and time again.
This game, however, changes that in the most brilliant of ways. Upon defeating the boss on the optional third level of the first area, you receive the transmogrification chest. Any item you pick up is immediately placed in the chest and doesn't weigh you down.
Upon exiting an area or level you choose what items you want to keep and what will be transmogrified. The chest teleports all your unwanted items to another realm where they are broken down and you receive gold equal to the items worth.
This mechanic means that you are not bothered by unwanted items, resulting in there being no need to keep returning to a town to sell equipment while keeping any gold you would have otherwise obtained. It allows the gameplay to remain fluent throughout as oppose to it stopping and going like in many games. If you ask me, more games need a transmogrification chest.
If you like roguelikes you must play Tales of Maj'Eyal
There are only two reasons I could think of why someone wouldn't play Tales of Maj'Eyal. The first would be the simplistic graphics and animations. They are definitely not something that would suit everyone. The second would be the massively in-depth character development and skills, that would be perhaps a bit too old-school and hardcore for some players.
Aside from that Tales of Maj'Eyal is an absolute must play that caters for everyone of all experience and roguelike preference levels. Don't like permadeath? There is an option to solve that. Don't like over difficult games? There are difficulty settings to suit everyone.
If you have the time, patience and are looking for a game with immense depth, then Tales of Maj'Eyal is worth every penny spent.
Disclaimer: A copy of the game including all DLC was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.