Tripflare & Torch: Alice at the Coalface

Alice is dead. So is Lisette Coalface. Halfling Shadowblade and Dwarven Berserker, they died in shockingly similar ways, neither overwhelmed by a tide of foes nor slain in dire melee with some fell champion, no, each was humbled by a single critical-hit with a spell. I begin to see why they massacred all the wizards (game lore… of course there are a great many spellcasters-in-hiding).

Alice’s death still feels completely unfair: she was callously re-slaying the undead inhabitants of a dungeon with ease when she rounded a corner and saw two more bony victims, er… scouges of the living. Unfortunately the one further away turned out to be not a hapless reanimatant but a Wight Mage or something like that, and it hit Alice with a spell that froze her in a block of ice and did damage equal to about 95% of her HP. Then the pathetic 2-hit skeleton that I’d (disastrously) targeted first tapped the ice and shattered her. I didn’t even get a death notice crediting the damn undead sorcerer.

Lisette Coalface, ah well, with Coalface I should have known better. I’d completed the introductory quest and retaken a place under the Iron Throne that had been corrupted by Horrors, who are the coolest things in the game so far. [don’t click the links in this paragraph, just don’t… uwaaah, my eyes! -ed] Garish, warped Carpenter-worthy monstrosities, with extra facelessness and tentacles. I think I’ll do a proper documented playthrough as Writing One (turning Junji Ito, I think I’m turning Junji Ito, I really Ito) at some point.

Anyway, having triumphed over unspeakable horrors, and practiced careful combinations of charge attacks, healing, and defensive buffs to defeat spellcasters, I undertook what seemed like simple, unremarkable quest to retrieve the body of an alchemist driven mad with grief after her husband died. Except that she wasn’t dead and… well, it’s actually a fairly well-written little quest, so I’ll leave out the more interesting spoilers and get to the fact that I was ready with a condition-curing power when she froze me in ice, but not for the subsequent 200+ damage critical hit with darkness magic, that after all of my warding and healing, etc. I really should have retreated after the ice thing, but Coalface was a Berserker: strategic withdrawal is not a noted ability of the class.

To be fair to ToME, I’ve been playing the game in it’s punishing full roguelike mode, as opposed to in preferred Adventurer mode, where you intermittently gain extra lives as you level up (or in no-permadeth Exploration mode). In Adventurer mode, Alice and Lisette would each have had three more lives left to lose, but I’m trying to get a rounded feel for the game, and playing to first death seems like a good way to sample different classes.

Look, I don’t have any good screencaps for Lys yet, and I forgot to take them with Alice and Coalface.

My new character, Lys Scullsdottor, is a Cornac (“common” human) of humble origins (no system but my imagination for that one) who has nonetheless made her way into the lowest rungs of Alchemist society and has bills to pay, viz the adventuring, golem in tow (again, this is all in my head, just like the pink elephants and delusions of grandeur). One of the things I like best about ToME so far is that, while the focus is absolutely on dungeon devling for XP and sweet loot, the world is rich enough and the characters detailed enough (in various ways: I’ve unlocked the facial hair option for female Dwarves) that I can get into them as characters, in the old D&D war-stories sense. I just don’t get that out of most roguelikes.

But enough about ToME, how’re you doing? (See what I did there? I’m so witty.) Nothing to say? That’s okay, I talk enough for the both of us. See you next week, my tactical trollops and strategic slatterns! (What? No, not at all, I’m talking about trolls and kaiju!)

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Notable Replies

  1. I'm getting all my roguelikes confused now. It ToME an old game with a facelift?

    I first cut my teeth in the roguelike genre many ages ago when I discovered Angband. I think I liked the potential of the game more than actually playing it, though, as I don't remember getting much further than a few floors down. Rolling characters is what I remember most.

    One of my favorite roguelikes from back in the day was a game called Ragnarok. Ragnarok may or may not have been good, but I still have fond memories of fighting early bears, cheesing the game by finding rings of invisibility and emptying out the shops, and finding portals to other realms that certainly meant instant-death.

  2. Tof says:

    Yeah, ToME has its roots in Angbad, apparently running through PernAngbad (inspired by Anne McCaffery's Pern), then rebooted as Tales of Middle Earth before dramatic redevelopment into Tales of Maj'Eyal in the '00s.

    I'm really liking the way that ToME keeps some of the best Angbad stuff, like a crazy range of character options, not rewarding grinding, and highly tactical combat (something it's known for), while taking a contemporary approach to mechanics: cooldown abilities, quests, a range of approaches to magic and powers, etc.

    The story's more contemporary as well: a major expansion added orcs to the game and explained how they'd nearly been exterminated in wars wages by a union of human and halfling empires. You can play as a member of the last intact "pride" of orcs and work for your people's survival.

  3. Tof says:

    Sorry, should be "Angband" (and "PernAngband") above. Dunno why I dropped the "n."

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