The Temple of Elemento Evil: A Picturebook Journey - Part 03

You'll be glad/distressed to hear that this will be the last blog on Troika's second of three projects (did they know they'd only make three games before going under? Is that where the company name comes from?) The Temple of Elemental Evil: A Classic Greyhawk Adventure. The game is based on one of those notoriously difficult modules for the pen & paper D&D, that alongside Tomb of Horrors (which would make an amazing game if FromSoftware wants to make one with their Dark Souls money) would have gamers in the 80s cowering in fear whenever the DM pulled it out of his nerd bag (which I guess would be a rucksack with d20 stickers on it?) to play through it that session. Seems a bit weird to wait until the fourth blog to talk about this game's pen and paper roots, but hey. "But hey" I say. Like that excuses everything.

So, allow me to lead with this showstopper and lose the respect of almost all of you (the remainder of which never had any such respect to begin with):

Yeah, that's right. I went there. To Shift-¬. Noclip, mf-ers.

The core of the game is its second dungeon, the eponymous Temple of Elemental Evil. You have a really schizophrenic four-floor dungeon full of mini-temples to the four elements, random rooms full of furniture and bugbears just standing around waiting to attack people, weird gardens with ladytigers, storage closet areas with gelatinous cubes (well, where else would you put the vacuum cleaner?) and many other things I don't want to spoil for people who haven't played the game yet. It reminded me a lot of the bonus dungeon in the Baldur's Gate 1 expansion: Tales of the Sword Coast. Not just because it kept on going, but that each floor would be graphically and thematically different and filled with crazy shit and encounters with creatures that have no business living in immaculate, furnished rooms under a church.

Then you have the nodes, where the game really decides to fuck around with you. The nodes are entirely optional: It's basically ToEE's equivalent of those super difficult optional dungeons that you'd want to progress through to get the best ending, or at least make the final boss a complete pushover with the rewards you earn. The above Balor was one such superboss that could be found in these nodes, along with a bevvy of slightly insane NPCs who have been trapped in the nodes for weeks or more. Hey, just like the wizards on that frozen island in the Baldur's Gate 1 expansion: Tales of the Sword Coast! What? You can also recruit a demonic Charisma Carpenter, if hot tanar'ri sorceresses with very few spells that prevent you from being able to sell shit to vendors is your deal. Works for me!

What amazed me most about the Circle of Eight stuff, besides the fact it rarely fixed anything (or fixed so much that I can't even imagine what the original was like) is how they were able to create so much additional stuff with the art assets the game had lying around in its coding. [Disclosure here: ArbitraryWater insisted on a level cap and no fan content to make it a more "traditional" contest between VGK and I. Though I may have broken those rules with the Balor thing above. So let's all pretend that never happened. Okay?] It makes me wonder if a really industrious team could somehow acquire those same assets through legal means, boosting them with their own contributions, and create more 3e modules for the Indie market. A pipe dream, alas, as I can barely follow who owns the video game rights to D&D any more.

That's it for my whole ToEE undertaking. VGK will continue talking about getting killed by low level creatures over on his blog and ArbitraryWater's been talking about ToEE's fan additions in more detail on his latest too. No doubt others will take up the mantle of challenging ToEE and then talking about it. But as for me, I'm all done with this great, Snider-approved CRPG. No more super-tough, quasi-medieval fantasy for a while. Next up: Dark Souls!

I leave you all with this final ToEE comic, all Stand By Me epilogue style:

I never had any adventuring companions later on like the ones I had when I was level 10. Jesus, does anyone?

And now, a different thing:

BONUS COMIC!

Continuing the whole "what sets apart the Tales games" series from last time, I'm adding one more this week for Symphonia. Perhaps the best Tales game? Maybe. I haven't played Vesperia yet. Or Legendia. Or Abyss. I am an expert on this series, everyone.

Not pictured: Kratos, the real god of war.
8 Comments
9 Comments
Posted by Mento

You'll be glad/distressed to hear that this will be the last blog on Troika's second of three projects (did they know they'd only make three games before going under? Is that where the company name comes from?) The Temple of Elemental Evil: A Classic Greyhawk Adventure. The game is based on one of those notoriously difficult modules for the pen & paper D&D, that alongside Tomb of Horrors (which would make an amazing game if FromSoftware wants to make one with their Dark Souls money) would have gamers in the 80s cowering in fear whenever the DM pulled it out of his nerd bag (which I guess would be a rucksack with d20 stickers on it?) to play through it that session. Seems a bit weird to wait until the fourth blog to talk about this game's pen and paper roots, but hey. "But hey" I say. Like that excuses everything.

So, allow me to lead with this showstopper and lose the respect of almost all of you (the remainder of which never had any such respect to begin with):

Yeah, that's right. I went there. To Shift-¬. Noclip, mf-ers.

The core of the game is its second dungeon, the eponymous Temple of Elemental Evil. You have a really schizophrenic four-floor dungeon full of mini-temples to the four elements, random rooms full of furniture and bugbears just standing around waiting to attack people, weird gardens with ladytigers, storage closet areas with gelatinous cubes (well, where else would you put the vacuum cleaner?) and many other things I don't want to spoil for people who haven't played the game yet. It reminded me a lot of the bonus dungeon in the Baldur's Gate 1 expansion: Tales of the Sword Coast. Not just because it kept on going, but that each floor would be graphically and thematically different and filled with crazy shit and encounters with creatures that have no business living in immaculate, furnished rooms under a church.

Then you have the nodes, where the game really decides to fuck around with you. The nodes are entirely optional: It's basically ToEE's equivalent of those super difficult optional dungeons that you'd want to progress through to get the best ending, or at least make the final boss a complete pushover with the rewards you earn. The above Balor was one such superboss that could be found in these nodes, along with a bevvy of slightly insane NPCs who have been trapped in the nodes for weeks or more. Hey, just like the wizards on that frozen island in the Baldur's Gate 1 expansion: Tales of the Sword Coast! What? You can also recruit a demonic Charisma Carpenter, if hot tanar'ri sorceresses with very few spells that prevent you from being able to sell shit to vendors is your deal. Works for me!

What amazed me most about the Circle of Eight stuff, besides the fact it rarely fixed anything (or fixed so much that I can't even imagine what the original was like) is how they were able to create so much additional stuff with the art assets the game had lying around in its coding. [Disclosure here: ArbitraryWater insisted on a level cap and no fan content to make it a more "traditional" contest between VGK and I. Though I may have broken those rules with the Balor thing above. So let's all pretend that never happened. Okay?] It makes me wonder if a really industrious team could somehow acquire those same assets through legal means, boosting them with their own contributions, and create more 3e modules for the Indie market. A pipe dream, alas, as I can barely follow who owns the video game rights to D&D any more.

That's it for my whole ToEE undertaking. VGK will continue talking about getting killed by low level creatures over on his blog and ArbitraryWater's been talking about ToEE's fan additions in more detail on his latest too. No doubt others will take up the mantle of challenging ToEE and then talking about it. But as for me, I'm all done with this great, Snider-approved CRPG. No more super-tough, quasi-medieval fantasy for a while. Next up: Dark Souls!

I leave you all with this final ToEE comic, all Stand By Me epilogue style:

I never had any adventuring companions later on like the ones I had when I was level 10. Jesus, does anyone?

And now, a different thing:

BONUS COMIC!

Continuing the whole "what sets apart the Tales games" series from last time, I'm adding one more this week for Symphonia. Perhaps the best Tales game? Maybe. I haven't played Vesperia yet. Or Legendia. Or Abyss. I am an expert on this series, everyone.

Not pictured: Kratos, the real god of war.
Moderator Online
Posted by Video_Game_King

To be fair, your adventures are incredibly lacking in sexilation (as Sexyface himself would call it). You don't even mention the gay pirates.

Posted by Ravenlight

Tales of Symphonia? More like Snores of Who Cares Let's Play A Real Game.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

I'm half certain that that Balor fight was meant to be fought using the other demons you could summon with the Orb of Golden Death. Because seriously, I can't think of any other way your team of 5-8 level 10 scrubs are meant to go toe to toe with not only one of the single most dangerous creatures in the Monster Manual, but also his Noble Salamander friends. I admit, in my initial playthrough I straight up pussied out of that fight and took the gems on the throne. If I was ever planning on going through the last 2-3 hours that it would take for me to clear the rest of the 4th floor and the elemental nodes, I would probably not have much of a problem doing it with my lolbroken party of level 12 juggernauts. I don't think I will though. I still have to finish Icewind Dale II at some point.

Oh man would I play some sort of Tomb of Horrors simulation in this engine. I mean, it wouldn't be fair, at all, but at least it would have great combat. I said it elsewhere, but in some sort of bizzare alternate universe I could see this being the successor to the Infinity Engine instead of an obscure cult classic. If what I have read on the internet is any indication though, it was a lot buggier before the Co8 mod was introduced.

Posted by Mento

@ArbitraryWater: I'm half certain that those big demons do nothing but stand there casting Mirror Image, farting various gasses that don't effect the Balor but sure does effect any PCs nearby and then spectacularly redeeming themselves by getting hit by Mr B's fear spell and running off to a corner until it was time for their summon spells to end. I did knock him down to half health legit once, before he decided to murder all my fighters. It was getting to the point where I considered giving everyone Wands of Magic Missile and hoping enough of them got through before he was done annihilating all the fodder we kept summoning around him. It was getting late though, so I wanted to punch him out and beat Zuggtmoy (which I did legit, by the by) because it was near the end and I was falling the hell asleep.

Also, I didn't get any Noble Salamanders in his fight, just some Efreeti. Aladdin 2: Return of Jafar is a lying pile of crap, because those guys actually go down fast, especially when there's Cones of Cold going off everywhere. There were six Salamanders on the other side of that node though. If you don't use Lesser Globe of Invulnerability trick to block their fireballs, that fight gets really interesting really quickly.

@Video_Game_King: The gay pirates quest ended for me when I accidentally hit the Pirate Captain too hard and he refused to pay up or continue the quest at all. I made it a point to go back to that tavern and punch him unconscious every chance I got thereafter.

Moderator Online
Posted by Video_Game_King

I'm not going to spoil how that quest went for me. Let's just say it's an integral part of the story, on my end.

Posted by Mento

@Video_Game_King: Was the "on my end" part of that sentence a hint?

Moderator Online
Posted by Video_Game_King

Take it as you will. (That's probably gonna be "up the butt".)

Posted by ahoodedfigure

Cool! Polymorph :) I can totally live with that, apparently.
 
I wonder if the way to 3e modding lies in the Open Gaming License for that rules system, which basically frees up anyone to use it as long as they publish the rules. Or does that not extend to media other than pen and paper games?  Not that game mechanics are copyrightable, but I guess game assets always are, so maybe I'm not focused enough to respond to what you just said.