[If you are unfamiliar with roguelikes, consider reading my introduction to the genre. You can read previous Roguelike Highlights here. As always, click on screenshots to view bigger versions.]
In the year when Dungeons of Dredmor was released to critical acclaim, topped the Steam sales charts for a while, and introduced a whole bunch of people to the roguelike genre, I was somewhat surprised to discover that it did not win the ASCII Dreams Roguelike of the Year award for 2011. Instead, a game I had never heard of took the prize: Tales of Maj’Eyal, a.k.a. ToME 4. Upon further investigation I discovered the the award is simply given to the game that receives the most votes from its fans, and that indeed one can easily vote twice or for several different games. Still, the fact that ToME 4 took the prize for the second year running indicates a very devoted fanbase, so I decided it was time to check it out.
I’m glad I did, because ToME 4 is actually one of the more unusual roguelikes out there, with quite a lot of ideas and mechanics I haven’t seen in other roguelikes. It’s not just a game, but also an engine, providing building blocks and tools for players to construct their own roguelikes. The game itself demonstrates the versatility of the engine, which is able to handle both traditional and non-traditional mechanics, as well as sound effects, music, and fancy sprites and graphical effects if desired. I haven’t poked around with the engine myself, so I’m not sure how easy it is to use, but it’s certainly powerful.