We try out an early version of Troika Games' re-interpretation of the classic Dungeons & Dragons adventure.
The role-playing system known as Dungeons & Dragons has grown and changed a great deal over the years, but it has easily been the most popular and most-copied role-playing system around. What was originally known as the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons ruleset debuted in 1985 along with the very first campaign setting in the Greyhawk universe, The Temple of Elemental Evil. This epic adventure started players as lowly level-one characters who were tasked with exploring an ancient temple in which an evil spirit was said to be imprisoned. Since then, Dungeons & Dragons has been highly streamlined and revised to the "3.5 Edition" rules, and fortunately for role-playing fans, the team at Troika Games has taken it upon themselves to update the classic adventure accordingly for the PC.
Troika is attempting to re-create as much of the pen-and-paper Dungeons & Dragons experience as reasonably possible with the game, which is why when creating a new character, you must randomly "roll" their ability scores (like dice) for attributes such as strength, dexterity, and intelligence, and you have no ability to adjust these numbers past swapping them around. While it was often easier to create characters in previous Dungeons & Dragons games by "min-maxing"; that is, increasing their important abilities and decreasing the unimportant ones (giving your front-line fighters a strength score of 18 and an intelligence score of 3, for instance), you won't be able to get off quite as easily as that, since Temple of Elemental Evil uses the revised 3.5 Edition rules, which, like 3rd Edition rules, penalize low dexterity, constitution, and wisdom scores when it comes to avoiding the effects of traps, poisons, and dangerous enemy sorcery. The game lets you pick characters from any of the standard 3.5 Edition professions, and since you can have up to five characters to begin with, you have plenty of choices as to how to plan your adventuring party.
Once you've got your party set, you'll begin your journey with a brief encounter outside of Hommlet that varies depending on your party's alignment. For instance, a lawful good party must rescue a besieged trade caravan that has been attacked by bandits, while a chaotic evil party callously finishes off the survivors of the caravan instead, then moves on in search of the bandits to claim the loot they consider to be rightfully theirs. Once you've finished this encounter, you're free to move on to Hommlet, where you'll find merchants selling various weapons and armors, as well as peaceful townspeople who have jobs that need doing. You'll also be able to find several hirelings in this area, including the town drunk, a sellsword who plies his trade at the local merchant shop, and a shifty-looking monk and his brawny companion at the local inn. The game lets you add up to three different hirelings to your party, and depending on their own motivations, as well as how persuasive you are at getting them to join, they may demand full or partial shares of treasure, which they'll loot automatically as soon as a battle is over.
Though most of the game's exploration takes place in real time, and even features local and overland maps you can mark for later reference, the sound of battle brings your party to a screeching halt. Temple of Elemental Evil's combat is fully turn-based, so that it can completely articulate the round-based nature of the 3.5 Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules, complete with knockdowns, partial actions, and attacks of opportunity. You can access all your abilities, which can include spells of all classes, tactical options such as defensive stances and full attacks, and miscellaneous abilities such as summoning animal companions. Your movement and actions are indicated onscreen by a time bar on the left-hand side that clearly indicates how much time a selected action, such as a movement or an attack, will take, so that you can plan accordingly.
The Temple of Elemental Evil is scheduled for release later this year.