The Temple of Elemental Evil: A Classic Greyhawk Adventure, 2003 Developer: Troika Games Platform: Windows PC only Purchase at GoG.com Modding community HERE Story Not too long ago, the peaceful and prosperous area in central Flanaess not far from the city-state of Verbobonc became threatened by great evil. Zuggtmoy, Demon Queen of Fungi, dread and fell ruler of the 222nd ghastly plane of the Abyss with the help of her priests and the vile demigod Iuz the Evil created the Temple of Elemental Evil and built a massive force threatening to swallow the continent. Eventually, they were defeated in battle by the forces of good led by Prince Thrommel of Verbobonc. However, the great evil was not vanquished but sealed; the wizards of the Circle of Eight trapped Zuggtmoy in the temple of her own making. For years, this evil was thought to be destroyed, and peace returned to the area. However, as worrying reports of bandits gathering forces near the village of Hommlet begin coming in, local authorities recruit a team of brave adventurers - you - to investigate the matter. As you delve deeper into the happenings, you find out that there is more than meets the eye, and that the ancient evil is about to threaten Flanaess once more. Setting The game introduces the players to the world of Greyhawk, one of the original Dungeons and Dragons campaign settings crafted by Gary Gygax himself, and based on a 1st edition D&D module also co-authored by the RPG legend. It is a classic high fantasy setting, with which most gamers will feel instantly familiar - although it is also more classic-medieval and down-to-earth than the more popular Forgotten Realms setting. The PC game features a fairly small chunk of the map, with about half of the game focused on finding the legendary Temple, and the other half delving deep into its many levels and uncovering its secrets. It also updates the original campaign to the popular and (at the time) most recent 3.5e ruleset. One D&D CRPG to rule them all... One can name a number of reasons for TOEE to be on this list - from the fact that it was designed by the acclaimed Tim Cain to the fact that it is one of those games with a cult following that never stopped being played throughout its years of existence and still retains a fair number of fans. In fact, the game has one of the most dedicated modding communities in the history of PC gaming, which went from basic bug-fixing to creating a wealth of new content enough for a separate campaign in complete absence of official developer tools. At its core, however, the game has two primary features, which are likely to draw many a RPG fan. Firstly, it is the closest adaptation of D&D setting and rules from Pen and Paper to cRPG. Unlike many other attempts to bring D&D to computer gamers, it chooses to incorporate the less easy-to-adapt features of the ruleset rather than ditch them. In fact, fact that the in-game manual is basically a copy of the D&D 3.5e Player Handbook - which is also helpful if a player new to D&D wants to learn the details. While the game does cut out some of the PnP features, it does allow you to do just about anything you can in a PnP campaign. Beyond the wonderful D&D flavor and the wealth of character build options, this also contributes to point #2: Combat. If there is one reason why TOEE should be on a list of CRPG classics, it's because it features the single most well-done, detailed and advanced turn-based combat system in the history of RPGs. On the one hand, this is thanks to the wealth of options offered by the D&D ruleset - you really learn something new about the way it works every time you replay the game. On the other hand, the game's visualized turn-based combat in a way that is simultaneously accessible and complex enough to be fun. Finally, the presence of the "simultaneous turns" options brilliantly solves the primary complaint about TB combat systems - that they're too slow-moving and make you sit through several minutes of enemy turns in large-scale battles. No longer! While TOEE combat can last a while, allowing groups of enemies act simultaneously as grouped by initiative is something that every TB game should feature. The Grievances Two points to make the game, two points to break it... First major drawback is the technical one - Atari (the published) rushed the living hell out of Troika while making this game, so it was nigh unplayable at release, and barely playable after 3 patches (after which all support for the game was terminated). Fortunately, brave modders (as usual) stepped in to save this little gem - see link in description. At this point, they have solved most of the major technical issues with the game, so it would be unreasonable to forgo the game on technical merits alone. The game does remain a bit "funky"-acting at times, though. Second, the fans of the Two Big C's will not be satisfied with the game - Choice and Consequence are sadly lacking in TOEE. Yes, you do get options for completing many of the quests, and varying endgame slides; you can even join the side of evil, which is unusual for heroic games like this. Unfortunately, much of the interaction is very bare-bones, especially in the second half of the game, where your party will most likely be exterminating the evil without many conversation partners present. TOEE is basically a near-perfect D&D combat simulator, but with a beginner hack-and-slashey DM, who filled the place with monsters but didn't bother with a complex story. Still, if you're able to look past that, you're in for hours and hours of entertainment with this one. Note As a side-note, the game does feature rather beautiful-looking isometric environments, visual spell effects, as well as an unobtrusive but atmospheric ambient soundtrack that sets the mood rather well.