The Temple of Elemental Evil [ToEE] is a licensed Dungeons & Dragons RPG that was first released in 2003 by Atari. It is based on the Greyhawk campaign setting and uses the D&D 3.5 edition ruleset.
One look at The Temple of Elemental Evil and you’re going to think: “Baldur’s Gate“… Because it very much looks and plays like that particular game. That said: the game does have some heritage in the Fallout series, because Tim Cain (the lead designer on the original Fallout games) was also director of this.
Character creation is very in-depth and ToEE plays differently, depending on the alignment of your chosen party members. There are pre-made characters too, so you can start quickly if you want to.
Movement is controlled with mouse clicks (left-clicks to be precise), and is real time when not in combat. Right-clicking one of your characters – or an NPC or an enemy – will bring up a ‘wheel’ from which you can also access other, specialised commands.
Quests must be discovered by talking to people, which is a bit daunting at first, because the village you start in (called Hommlet) seems quite large and is initially shrouded in the ‘fog of war’ (the black stuff that hides everything but disappears as you walk around). So finding your first quests means some walking (which is slow), and lots of talking (ie. reading – there are voices, but you really have to pay attention to what is said to you to pick up on the details – they’re easily missed).
What is good about The Temple of Elemental Evil is the general presentation – especially the background graphics, which I think are fantastic. The story and dialogue are quite well-written (for a swords and sorcery game) and there is some humour, which is good. The music is also very atmospheric.
Unfortunately the game does have its downsides. For starters: I found it extremely difficult (and it took a long time) to get even a meagre foothold in the game. Combat I found to be quite difficult. I lost count of the number of times my party died after a seemingly innocuous battle. And for the first two or three levels my characters seemed to miss every swing in battle. Which is damn frustrating because levelling up does take a serious investment of time.
Other niggles: the pathfinding of your characters as they run across the landscape is generally abysmal; the command ‘wheel’ menu I found to be cumbersome; the cost of curing diseases is way too high (better to let them run their course); and trading with shops is a clumsy process.
That said: there is something about The Temple of Elemental Evil that stops it being a failure. Maybe because it’s very detailed and extremely well constructed. If you can get over the initial frustration of the early levels and manage to gain a foothold: there is an interesting, enjoyable, and fairly hardcore RPG to be had in here. Expect lots of deaths, though.