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Platform

PC

 

Genre

RPG

 

Publisher

Atari

 

Developer

Troika Games

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2003

 

 

- Great use of the Dungeons and Dragons license in general, and a great adaptation of  one of the classic Greyhawk modules

- The pre-rendered graphics are lovely, as are the various spell effects

- Level of customization and the gameís variety of quests make replay value high

 

 

- Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

- Difficulty level doesnít ramp up smoothly which leads to lots of ďdo-oversĒ

- Final battle is anti-climatic

 

 

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The Temple of Elemental Evil

Score:  8.0 / 10

 

I was excited when The Temple of Elemental Evil arrived in the mail.  I have played and reviewed a number of role-playing games in the past year, but most of the games were real-time, action-oriented titles like Morrowind, Grandia Xtreme, Neverwinter Nights, and Dungeon Siege.  As a near-elderly gamer who still counts the Interplay classic Wasteland as my favorite RPG of all time, I looked forward to an old-fashioned, turn-based game set in the venerable World of Greyhawk from the classic Dungeons and Dragons years.  Now that I have played through The Temple of Elemental Evil, I canít say that it completely met my expectations, but despite an almost unbelievably high number of bugs, the game is enjoyable and, if one is able to look over said bugs, can be quite addictive.

 

temple of elemental evil pc review          temple of elemental evil pc review

 

The Temple of Elemental Evil is based on the classic Gary Gygax-penned module for the pen-and-paper RPG Dungeons & Dragons.  It is a module that I remember fondly, though nearly twenty years removed from playing it, or any other RPG module, the details were more than a little fuzzy.  In fact, though the game is apparently (according to the geek-on-the-street interviews I conducted) a faithful fleshing out of the original module, nothing seemed familiar to me at all.  Well, thatís not totally trueónone of the events or encounters jumped out at me, but the game definitely evoked the feel of those classic modules with the wimpy early 

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encounters that eventually ratchet up to stunning encounters with some of the truly cool beasties of the D&D universe (including creepy Shadows that are only visible when the light hits them just right and the ubiquitous green slimes).

 

All of the creatures and areas in and around the temple are well-modeled and attractive.  Going with pre-rendered backgrounds instead of a 

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3D engine really allowed the creators to capture the look of the pen-and-paper RPG and it pays off with a nice fantasy atmosphere that somehow seems more ďauthenticĒ than many recent D&D licensees.  Unfortunately, the pre-rendered backgrounds mean a pre-set camera and the resulting inability to alter the point-of-view means sometimes the creatures and even the player characters are obscured by walls or other landscape elements.  A press of the [tab] key will cause obscured objects to highlight, but the lack of control is terribly annoying.

 

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If the camera were the only problem, the game would be a must-have title.  Sadly, this is not the case.  I received my review copy from our cold neighbor to the North pretty late, and, by that time, the first patch (which alleviated roughly 12 million bugs) had already been released.  Despite this fact, the list of problems I had with the game is fairly long.  Very few of them are more than annoyances however, and only a couple were potential deal-breakers (the annoying stuttering mouse pointer and five-minute long, black screen near lock-ups specifically), so, in the end, the game had a chance to work its wiles on me despite the problems.

 

And The Temple of Elemental Evilís list of accomplishments is nearly as long as the list of bugs fixed by the first patch.  The character creation system is wonderful.  I havenít played 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons much less version 3.5, but the customizability of the characters is certainly expanded over the AD&D I was familiar with.  Putting together a balanced party involves some interesting planning and thinking about just how the player is going to approach the adventure.  Skills can be divided among the characters, so the partyís thief is not the only character capable of picking locks and the cleric not the only one able to bring a character back to stable health.  Lots of NPCs are also made available during the game that can fill in for some of the partyís weaknesses.

 

As mentioned above, another of the gameís true strengths lies in the smart purchase of the D&D license.  Ripped as it may be from a myriad of great fantasy works by authors like Tolkien, Carroll, Lieber, Burroughs, and Moorcock, D&D presents the gamer with a vast, colorful world of creatures to meet, interact with, and eventually slaughter.  From the goofy giant toads in the first levels to the huge, 2-headed Ettins in the temple, each encounter has a sublime sense of fantasy about it unmatched by games like Dungeon Siege and Morrowind with their more generic fantasy settings.

 

The story is nothing special.  The stories of the classic Gygax modules rarely were.  Still, the constant push to become more powerful and to explore deeper into the unknown is a fair replacement for a compelling plot.  There is real tension in the game and a real sense of accomplishment when the next task is crossed off the list. 

 

In the end, I really enjoyed The Temple of Elemental Evil.  It provided me with a pleasant flashback to my grade-school discovery of Dungeons & Dragons and my high school play-throughs of the classic SSI Gold Box D&D games on the Commodore 64.  Donít get me wrong, despite its bugs, The Temple of Elemental Evil is light-years beyond those old games in both technology and simulation of the pen-and-paper experience.  It is simply a purity of attempt to re-create the D&D experience that they share, a purity I ultimately appreciated despite the rushed-out-the-door feel of parts of the game.

 

- Tolen Dante

(December 3, 2003)

 

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