[posted this initially on the 3rd but reviews were broken at that time.]
I'll start this by telling you that I've been playing TOME since it was Tales of Middle Earth. That's right, originally it was based on Tolkien's work and was an offshoot of a long lineage of games directly related to Rogue, via Moria and then Angband. There was a middle variant in there at some point called Pernband.
Some back story:
At some point DarkGod (the main dev) decided to rewrite the client because the old angband client was full of spaghetti code and it became untenable. So came t-engine. Tome was then written as a module of T-engine (all made by DarkGod for no $$ I might add.)
In Tome 3 there were Jedi!!! and other fun ideas but it was chaotic. Tome 3 was a mess, (Tome 4 was much cleaner.) But it was still pretty opaque as Roguelikes go. I would tinker with it, have fun with lost souls etc and then get bored. So I went the way of many players got involved in other games only came back periodically when I got a yen for playing with Lightsabers again. At some point, I noticed Tome 4 was progressing and downloaded and everything was different.
Gone were most of the touches of the Angband and Tolkien worlds. You can still see a few here and there but TOME had become Tales Of Maj Eyal with an original story and a total reworking of the graphics and mechanics. On and off Ive done some beta testing (though my forums account from then was deleted more than once so I guess being inactive on the forums is a good way to get culled.)
At some point I managed a couple of end games. I won once and once I sacrificed my guy (I still don't know why that doesn't count as a win...)
Every time I came back more and more stuff was added and then I saw that they had finally made the leap to Steam. I wanted to buy it immediately because I believe in the game and the devs and why not support them? But I was reticent with all the other games I have and also had to wait for money to pay for it anyway.
I probably should not have waited but I did and when I did finally get the steam version I was not disappointed with either the basic game or the DLC (which I had no previous knowledge of.)
Divergent note that tangentially relates to this review:
Bob Dylan has said on songwriting that if you can't change a song, if you can't mess with the words or change the arrangements it is dead and you should bury it. That is a paraphrase because I don't have the exact quote on hand. But this is how I feel about games. TOME is a living game, always changing.
Many pay to play games are not. They merely make some stuff they took out initially available for DLCs when the wells run dry. TOME is not like those games. TOME is developed by a caring group of dedicated players and programmers who are making an epic play experience.
Yes epic. You have a ton of races and classes which unlock as you play. Sometimes the unlock is just something you were going to do anyway but sometimes in true RPG fashion you have to investigate and figure out some puzzle or quest to get the unlock you want. And you can unlock them in something like 9 different modes. The game offers 50 levels of experience in whatever build combo you choose. As you learn more about classes and races you find yourself getting deeper into the decision making process and you realize you have many more choices than you will quickly be able to play with. This could take a long time. As is without any further changes. And the game changes from game to game so you may not always get an event or area you thought you might. And different play styles create vastly different approaches and in-game storylines.
There was a lot of discussion when Maj'Eyal became the world of the game about how terribly difficult the game was (is) so now there are multiple modes for discovering the game. The most rewarding depends on your personality and proclivities as a gamer. You can play with Easy and Exploration and virtually never risk death, or you can unlock, insanity and madness modes and play only in true Roguelike fashion (1 life, though there are items you can find to hedge that bet.) Or you could play as I do on Normal with Adventurous. To each player their own. This is an innovation I wish more devs would think about. Multiple play modes for multiple types of players means more fun for everyone.
The game has a few pit falls. It is deep so it is not hard to get into trouble if you are tired, hungry or bored. Don't do that. Play when you are fresh and excited and keep it that way. You won't complete it in a day. (The main quest line takes a minimum of 10 hours I think if you skip everything else and I highly recomend you don't do that.)
You may also find that the game lore is hard to penetrate. This is partially due to writing style and partially because who wants to read so much of it? Yes you should read the lore the first time you encounter it at the very least. You may or may not glean valuable clues from it but if you need to you can go back to it later. Once you have unlocked certain features you will be able to access ALL of the lore you've ever seen as a player.
You may notice that I am not giving a lot of specifics here because part of the fun of this game is playing it unspoiled. You can of course look stuff up or ask for spoilers if you aren't into all that.
I will say the sound effects while fairly professional are not my cup of tea. I am not really a game sounds kind of player though. I typically turn sound off in games I play and I only checked them out in TOME out of curiousity. You might find them entertaining. Apparently, also there is music. Something I didn't check out. (I am an older guy with a very staid taste in music. If it isn't Classic Rock. Folk, Blues or Soul from the 60s-70s then it probably isn't on my mp3 player. Though I do enjoy more varied styles, when I am gaming that's mainly what I listen to.)
I write all this mainly to enthuse about how much I am enjoying playing TOME again and want you to know it is worth every penny to buy it on steam. The community addons alone make the game extremely customizable.
Gandolfo in game chat, Winter Wolf on Steam.