The Temple Of Elemental Evil
The Dungeons & Dragon world has always provided a lot of shake'n'bake potential for creating computer games. All the elements are there for a standard RPG adventure, it just requires the appropriate bindings to take it off the paper and on to the screen. Although Bioware might have taken a box of standard D&D Victoria sponge and somehow managed to turn it into a triple chocolate fudge cake with their hugely successful Baldur's Gate series, not all developers can bake up an RPG as well as these lads can.
Troika Games has had a fare stab at emulating Bioware's winning recipe with The Temple Of Elemental Evil, which uses the new 3.5 edition rule set in a party-based adventure. D&D fans, start getting excited now.
Let's get one thing straight. This isn't an 'epic' role-playing game. In fact it doesn't have many locations, and the ones it does have could have been taken out of an identikit RPG 'village' or 'dungeon'. There are no big surprises here, and much of the game is taken up by a large dungeon crawl through the titular temple itself.
To begin with you're provided with the usual collection of village quests in which you help out a bunch of useless squabbling locals who couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag. Much of the early part of the game is spent toing and froing between houses, talking to NPCs and slowly accumulating experience points.
Generally these villages are good for two things - experience points and bolstering your party numbers. You start the game with up to five characters, which you can either create yourself or choose from a respectable pre-prepared pool. Your chosen alignment has a bearing on the characters you have access to, both in the initial party creation screen and later on in the game. The NPCs you encounter in the game are a chatty bunch, right up until they join your party, at which point - save for a few perfunctory comments when entering new levels - they are silent. They also get a bit stroppy when you try to sell their things. Fortunately, this lack of a party atmosphere is eased slightly by a nice-looking isometric engine and a great soundtrack.
Fight For Your Right
Also of note is the excellent combat system (see boxout). Even if you're not used to turnbased combat in an RPG, you'll find that under all the complexity, it works surprisingly well.
However, a great combat system doesn't make a great game and there are plenty of niggles too. Faithful adoption of the D&D rules is fair enough, but you can't help but feel it's too inaccessible for non D&D fans. There's a distinct lack of information about the weapons and spells, and it would definitely have benefited from something akin to the 'Recommended' button in Neverwinter Nights.
Matters aren't helped by the multitude of bugs and annoying issues either, such as monsters spawning in walls and dodgy Al path-finding, which can suddenly leave half your group stranded down a comdor. None of these are hugely detrimental to the gameplay, but they do make it feel rather rough around the edges.
Hardcore D&D fans will get some enjoyment out of TOEE, especially the battles, but lack of information, party interaction and bugs mean that it's a rather unappealing and inaccessible prospect for anyone who doesn't regularly use 12-sided dice.
No, After You
Wait Your Turn Like A Good Adventurer
Those who grew up on pen and paper role-playing will find the combat system in The Temple Of Elemental Evil reassuringly familiar. However, those whose experience of D&D just extends to the Bioware games may feel a little out of their depth. But it's worth delving into the manual because the combat system is one of the best parts of the game.
When you enter a battle, your comrades and enemies will form an orderly battle queue in the best - although not very realistic - traditions of turn-based combat. Through your characters' menu system, you can choose your method of attack (which will often depend on the kind of enemy you're fighting). You can also swap their weapon combos. This works extremely well, allowing you to focus on your individual character's attacks, use them as a team and protect your weaker party members all in one fell swoop, which is essential, as the enemy will often try and target your weakest member first. Bastards.
Download The Temple Of Elemental Evil
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
However, this is very much a minor effort from developer Troika, that was probably knocked out in a weekend to help fund bigger projects (probably).
Saying that, it's got plenty to recommend it. Based on a classic Greyhawk D&D module, this is hardcore dungeon-crawling at its purest, playing very much like a computerised version of its pen and paper inspiration. An excellent turn-based combat system gives the game much of its substance, while a capable isometric engine does a sterling job on the graphics. What's more, many of the original bugs and flaws have since been fixed by a duo of patches.
As with many of the Atari Best Of' range, this game would be more palatable for a fiver, but even so it's a fine purchase for the D&D hardcore.
Zuggtmoy. Spugnoir. Ostler Gundigoot. Hezrou. No, we haven't trapped our gentlemen's parts in the cooling fan again. Those far-fetched words merely herald the arrival of another traditional fantasy RPG. Except this one has some pedigree behind it, coming as it does from Troika Games, creators of last year's well-received steampunk epic Arcanum and, more recently, the forthcoming Half-Life 2-powered Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines.
Based on a Greyhawk module from table-top behemoth Dungeons & Dragons, The Temple Of Elemental Evil introduces the latest refinement of the D&D rules, now up to version 3.5. To those who couldn't give a flying cleric about that news, this shouldn't matter much because, like Baldur's Gate et al. these can generally be ignored in favour of straightforward action. Though aficionados who want to get busy with statistics should still be in their element and hopefully the new rule-set should provide a slightly new slant when converted over to the PC.
Battles are resolutely turn-based, acting at a slower strategic pace and allowing for greater tactical depth. To help, a new interface known as the radial menu has been introduced, which fans out contextual options around a central point with a right click of the mouse button.
The story revolves around goings-on at the game's doom-mongering subtitle, the (deep voice) Temple Of Elemental Evil (thunder and lightning). Erected near the L town of Homlett in the land of Flanaess, in the sh're °f Nulb, which was once headquarters for a malignant cult. Getting too big and evil for their boots they were soon ousted in a mighty war and the temple was knocked down. Switch to the present day and, what do you know, sinister events are starting to occur about the ruins. It's enough to send you off on an epic quest for valour, treasure and to save the free world.
Taking that challenge means the chance to pick up to five different player characters for your party. Each member is customisable, created by the standard rolling of a virtual dice to receive stats, picking a class and choosing an alignment. We're promised different paths throughout the game based on these initial choices and ones made while playing. In addition, you're allowed a few companions and pets to help you out. They won't be under direct control but they should assist in battle. In fact, we managed to spot one such party wandering about with a chicken. It didn't last long.
Grey Is The New Black
While different endings are enough to tempt replayability, for the true die hard there's also the Ironman mode. In essence, it lumps you with a one-choice pick of stats and the bare minimum of save games. One for the hardy student or unemployed we imagine.
From the look of things, The Temple Of Elemental Evil bears more than a passing similarity to Black Isle's classic output. Not too difficult to understand considering the developers come from the same stock. However, with Black Isle straying away from the D&D universe right now, as long as this gets the story and script right, it shows plenty of promise in fulfilling its role as a stalwart swords and sorcery RPG.