Written by  :  Cadorna (223)
Written on  :  Oct 23, 2003
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  2.5 Stars2.5 Stars2.5 Stars2.5 Stars2.5 Stars

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Faithful conversion of the Greyhawk P&P module with the same name, spoiled by bugs

The Good

Arguably one of the best things one can say about ToEE is that it offers a very good computerization of the aforementioned pen & paper module. Even this statement has to be taken with a grain of salt, though, since the Gary Gygax' old AD&D modules aren't exactly notorious for their immersive storylines. Still, if you liked the old Gold Box series, you'll feel very much at home in the Temple of Elemental Evil. Unlike the rather terrible Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor, ToEE actually managed to make me think of it as a worthy successor to the Gold Box games.

The visuals are OK, far from breathtaking, but sufficient. One of the better things about ToEE is also that it's the first to implement the rather new D&D 3.5th Edition rules. Most of these actually work in the game, making it possible to do things like enchanting your own weapons and armor, scribe your own scrolls, brew your own potions and do more stuff like that for the first time in a (A)D&D game.

The Bad

The worst things I have to say about ToEE: it's terribly bug-ridden, and it lacks a LOT of polish.

The interface, having its roots in the not-so-bad one seen in Arcanum, is terribly sluggish. The mouse pointer crawls across the screen, scrolling speed is terrible, occasionally the game even "hangs" for MINUTES (no, really!) until it allows you to go on, there's a lot of issues with micromanagement (for example, if you want to move 10 unidentified potions from your Fighter to your Cleric, you'll actually have to drag and drop each one individually...), etc.

One of the worst things is also that there are NO item descriptions. Remember the ones in Baldur's Gate, where important magic items would even have their own background stories? In ToEE, you don't even get the most basic info, like what the item actually does, if it's not featured in the identified item's name. Some things can be looked up in the manual, others remain a mystery to people not familiar with the D&D ruleset.

As far as bugs are concerned, you'll encounter a LOT of crash to desktop situations, non- or malfunctioning items or spells, quests that can be "broken" under certain circumstances, and a lot more stuff like that.

Furthermore, the faithful conversion attitude has been taken a bit too serious, in my opinion. For example, identifying an item requires a pearl worth 100gp by the D&D rules. Thereby, Troika decided to make the spell consume 100gp, making it cost exactly as much as the storekeepers ask to identify items yourself using the spell. Especially in the early stage of the game, where 100gp is a LOT, this is very annoying. Another example: all Gold Box veterans will fondly remember the "Fix" command, which made your healers automatically cast and re-memorize heal-spells until everyone in the party was fully healed up. There's no such command in ToEE, so the process of healing up your party can be quite a tedium.

Finally, the original ToEE module was for 1st Edition AD&D, and 3.5th Edition D&D handles a lot of things quite differently, which hasn't been taken into consideration at all. For example, the way creatures like Werewolves, Salamanders or even Trolls must be fought has changed a lot, which will force you to skip a lot of encounters early on and return to them later with most party-configurations. On the other hand, you can beat the final enemy of the game in a single combat round if you use the right tactics, obviously not making it the most thrilling of all showdowns. ;-)

The Bottom Line

All in all, by its heart, ToEE is a lot better a game than, say Ruins of Myth Drannor, the turn-based approach to combat is a welcome change to the RTS-styled battles seen almost everywhere these days.The lack of a "deep" storyline is disappointing, but actually has its roots in the namegiving P&P module.

If Troika get around to patching this one up HEAVILY, I'd at least recommend it to all gold-box-fans, or to fans of Icewind Dale which can stand turn-based-combat. In its current state, it just isn't worth the money, feeling unfinished and all.