[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/toee/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Once more, the world of Forgotten Realms takes its brilliant fantasy world to a video game. As games begin to utilize new technology that replicates the “rolls” of a pen and paper role playing session, DnD is now in full swing within the video game industry. Temple of Elemental Evil is a pen and paper Greyhawk Campaign that many role-players are familiar with. Trokia Games and Atari have translated the classic adventure to a roleplaying game simple enough to play (maybe not understand) for those not familiar with Dungeons and Dragons, yet challenging enough for the most hardcore of role-players. TOEE being the first game to use the new 3.5 rules edition means the game will offer more then any other DnD game previously has.
[heading]Who invited that guy?[/heading]
As with any adventure you must form a party. You can pick from a few pre-made characters, but why would you when you can create you own perfect fellowship of up to 5 adventures? You can customize each of your character’s statistics, look, class, voice set, deity, alignment, among other things. The customization is pretty shallow, as there are not enough looks to differentiate characters from others in your party. A lack of voice sets to choose from is a bit disappointing as well. In the game you may recruit other NPC characters to help in your journey. They will, however, take some of your loot or require you to pay for their services. A nice addition, as you can pick up a tank for the tough battles in the game. If you need a better thief, then go to the local inn and recruit one.
Alignment plays a crucial part in your party, as only party members of compatible alignment can be in the same party. A lawful good paladin cannot join a party with chaotic evil rogues. Of course, a paladin would never associate with, much less run with an evil doer, so the game does not allow it. You must choose a party alignment for the whole team and then you may pick from your character pool accordingly. Your actions in game will affect your party. If you chose evil deeds with a lawful good party, you can cause your paladin to fall or lose certain bonuses for those particular classes that have restrictions on alignment.
Your basic classes are all here and represented. You can create your perfect wizard, paladin, rogue, fighter, cleric, druid, ranger, wizard, sorcerer, monk, bard, and, of course, the hardcore barbarian. You may also multi class as you level up. Of course, with the checks and balance system that is DnD, choosing one class will restrict you from ever using another class. Alignment will also dictate which classes you can or cannot chose from. Some classes require you to be neutral and others require you to be anything but evil.
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/toee/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright][heading]A task made simple.[/heading]
Off the bat comparisons with Baldurs Gate and Icewind Dale will surface as you control a party of five or more. The difference, however, is a less chaotic turn based format that TOEE uses. As in Baldurs Gate and Icewind Dale your party will meet up with hostiles and have to battle through the enemy to achieve a goal. Instead of each character taking his or her own “turn” all at once TOEE has your party go individually based on their statistics or items that may boost stats.
Each character makes an action depending on the time they have. Each action takes up a certain amount of time, even changing weapons. Moving long distances will leave you no time to attack, cast magic, or use an item. As you control your party you must find a medium between positioning your character and having time to enable them to take an action. It is your job to manage your team for the best opportunity for defense or offence. Of course, you lean a few tricks that help along the way such as extra turns per round or even give up your moving for an extra action. You are able to see whose turns are up on the top of the screen, allowing you ample time to strategize your moves and lay out a plan of attack. The new system is easy to learn. Most gamers will have it down after the first few battles.
The engine on which the game runs, runs smoothly as each character’s actions take place. All the “rolls” that happen on the table top happen in real time from the saves your character makes to the bonuses that get stacked on to your attacks or defense. You attack and the hostile parries the move just like that, without the complaining and rolling of a few 20 sided dice just to see if your attack scored a hit or missed (most times you will miss). For those unfamiliar with the rules of DnD the game makes the complicated numbers game that is really going on in the background, seem like an after thought. To ignore it completely however would be hazardous to your future as a fellowship. For instance, you will need to build up as high an armor class as you can without infringing on the restrictions some of your characters may have. For instance, a ranger with heavy armor looses all of his bonuses from that particular class. A wizard dawning armor suffers an arcane failure percentage. No need to worry if you have no idea what I am talking about as the item descriptions tell most of what you need to know. I do, however, strongly recommend reading the instruction booklet, or even glancing through the classes sections so you know what your characters can and cannot do. Yes, this game is deep, yes, it is complicated, but TOEE manages to make DnD a bit more understandable, however, you will find yourself flipping through the manual a bit.
[heading]My characters keep going…dammit![/heading]
The point and click heavy interface is hesitant to work at times. When the screen has even just a few enemies the interface bogs down. While this is a minor problem it becomes more annoying each and every time you have to fight. To make matters worse, sometimes the paths your party takes split them in two groups often times leading one group to an encounter while your other guys are too far away to help. Annoying tight hallways will have your characters blocked off and your weak Druid will accidentally be on the front line of combat while your fighter with full armor stands in wait.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/toee/ss03_thumb.jpg[/floatleft][heading]Can I get a glowing sword?[/heading]
I love little details and this game is full of them. The character animations are great (minus the corny Monk’s crane kicks) as they fiddle around with their equipment or search the surrounding area. The sneaking animations are my personal favorite, as they lower themselves to the ground and seem to cover up with their cloaks in true thief style. Most items you place on your body are shown on the character. From crowns, hats, cloaks with hoods, wizard gear, shoes, gloves and of course weaponry that all look different. Rusted swords look jagged and a shiny new longsword gleams. I try to make my elves look elven with leather armor and a green cloak, and my paladin look like a brilliant holy warrior. For fans of equipment – you will not be disappointed.
[heading]A good purchase?[/heading]
This game will appeal more to the fans of DnD then anything else. Those that love games where they can whoop up on everything will be dissatisfied, as you will not get to benefit from the god like spells that high level characters get in DnD. Most of the annoying factors can be looked over, that is not to say they won’t get to you though. I have turned the game off on quite a few occasions only to come back and plan my attack because I know what lies ahead. Noobs to the world of DnD can manage the game just fine, however they might miss out on some of the benefits of the feats a characters should have. Ignorance in leveling up can cost you dearly at times. While TOEE offers a better game play then some of the other DnD video games the lack of multiplayer has turned many off. I do enjoy running with a group of friends battling bad guys. This game, above all else, is more of a pass time then an epic roleplaying game. A good buy for those who are fans of the genre or fans of DnD. For those who love a long enthralling roleplaying game – you more then likely should not bother with Temple of Elemental Evil.