I’ve spent many hours playing it – both on Lam and live. Most of the times I get 2 hours deep and give up (time constraint) and on Lam I tried not to spoil to much by at least get some early romps in, try out the basic mechanics – get a feel for the quest and what it did. Again – I didn’t go in to solve the entire quest and get to the end.
My desire was strictly to get an early look and provide feedback (if needed) on bugs and overall balance.
My first play through – a 4 hour session that had me do almost the entire first part (every nook and cranny), a good portion of the second part with the Air and Water nodes (I have since done all 4 on a different character). Plus of course the end fight.
So if you don’t want any spoilers I suggest you stop now – take your time to experience TOEE first hand and come back and see if you agree. This first part (out of 3) will deal with the first portion of the temple only since TOEE is huge. The second will deal with part two and give more importantly get a better understanding of the ‘negatives’ (for part 3) beyond the obvious itemization and size of quest issues.
But first – lets deal with 2 significant portions of TOEE and which goes beyond visuals, mechanics, mobs and features.
I’m not a fan or for that matter dislike Wil Wheaton or anything he have done. I know he is from Star Trek the next generation fame – often either reviled or liked. I’m entirely neutral to that and can enjoy reruns of STTNG without cringing or suffering from his character. I know also that he’s a professed ‘nerd’ like me – outspoken about the medium of PnP and games in average. I saw him in a documentary about games and I’ve seen him briefly in the Big Bang Theory – in the very few episodes I’ve watched.
So when it comes to his addition I’m entire ambivalent and neutral, because I’m not ‘into what he does’ nor know that much about it any more than I’m into ‘known people’ in dancing with the stars (another show I refuse to watch). I simply don’t care. I think I have to state this since sometimes people take ‘positions’ on features that are barely important (to me anyways). To me he adds a ‘dimension’ of nerdiness that feels cool. Not because I’m interested in his work, but because it adds a flavor from a person that is very into the genre. And that has a fan base.
It’s also thematic considering the work on haunted halls with the narration of Ed Greenwood, the originator of that classic module. So having a ‘guest’, be it the creator or in this case, someone very much into the genre is interesting and it seems appropriate. Then there are the auditory commentary. It’s interesting to hear portions of the interview with him – which is a step up from say how haunted halls was done with a separate interview released around the update and recently a full version.
I’m somewhat torn about this; It’s interesting to find these nuggets while you explore but I do agree somewhat with someone I read on the forum that said it ‘takes you out of immersion’ (roughly). And it’s true. It’s a break in immersion – as the scores hammers or sooth, the area is overwhelmed by mobs, you’re pulled out by Will talking about his experience with the module or just PnP in average. In a way the suggestion of providing back ground to the module would have been nicer – sort of like the narration in wilderness areas such as Epic gianthold with either the giant or The truthful one providing the back story.
Or simply it could have been something you collect and can listen too or watch later on. Like they do it in some console games where you unlock features you can read later. Sure, that would mean figuring out a new mechanic for your account, but it would keep you immersed while adding a bonus for later. Either way; it’s not a big deal and it’s interesting to hear his thoughts – and you can always skip these things on subsequent play troughs (they do provide some XP but you won’t be running this for XP anyways).
I want to point out the score because it is a very important part of an overall experience. In fact it is what adds the emotional vibrations to a visual medium. You can have a mediocre film getting an extra emotional lift from a great score or an otherwise okay film can be downgraded with terrible sound. That is also true with games. Luckily in games you can most often turn off bad scores, but then you also remove an integral part of the total experience. Plus the worst part with some game music is how looped and repetitive it can get. But if you have a good sound system and some suitable tracks of your own you can easily add whatever emotional punch you want yourself. If there’s one gripe that I’ve had about DDO is that the sounds and the score was often mediocre at best. That changed with the release of MOTU. For the first them Turbine added high fantasy scores, getting away from what sounded like bad industrial annoying sounds for the Eberron world (I’m sure it was meant to sounds stream punk but it never hooked me), to the scores that conveyed a dense dimly lit forest, the spacious caverns of the underdark and the menacing presence of Drow. It was also the first time Turbine added action music, for all fights – adding energy to the visceral.
It’s been up and down mostly until this release. Some okay, some annoying (I didn’t care for wheelon and the mountain area. Both didn’t convey the settings very well). With TOEE it’s back to menacing, nerve wracking and high fantasy. From the serene while swimming underground in massive underwater caverns, to the ‘what’s behind that corner’ in the fire cave, to the malice of a temple full of brooding evil. All areas have it’s own feel and it’s own tempo conveying areas as unique and their own and an imagery and art that is bolstered with a temperament that goes from the intense around combat, creeping doom in dimly lit corridors and wondrous in spacious areas.
That is an achievement. It is clear that Turbine set out to produce a very ambitious and worthy experience. It’s capped off with soaring heroic tones as you defeat the Fungi Demon Queen and Wheaton declaring that you managed to defeat her. And it genuinely made me feel like I had accomplished something. A journey that began 4 hours earlier and ended with a fast paced end battle.
There’s not much building up to the temple itself. You start not far from the gates, with one area to the left and another to the right of the temple doors. You might find a random encounter of a guy wanting spider eggs for his giant frog but that one can be found inside as well. There might also be a few bandits around with a bunch of NPC bandits by some tents getting drunk. I don’t know if those NPC are for lore only or if it triggers an event that you complete inside.
Once you open the gates (a nice creaking sounds would be atmospheric here, maybe with some foul air escaping as the portals open) you click and go inside to the first area. This is where you meet the guy next to the ‘workbench’ where you can upgrade stuff. He gives you some lore and if you explore this area you might end up fighting a few more bandits. To the left and right of the entrance there are doors that lead to the actual temple are.
The first part is really 3 separate areas with their own feel. First you have the ‘upper’ part – a large structure with corridors and such and one central earth Temple. Here you come across your first key out of 4 and there are two ways to beat it. One – you go there, you beat 4 HP bloated Earth Elementals and then a cleric. The Cleric is easy compared to many other red named, perhaps a little bit too easy. But the earth Elemental with their natural high fortification and DR are a bunch of lumbering sacks of ‘beat me forever’.
The second way is to explore 2 areas in particular where there’s a ‘club’ that can charm and control earth elementals. It’s either in a prison area or in the priests quarter – both located to the west or east of the temple itself. Using it you can hit the earth elemental and charm them (for a long time too). They can then be used to beat up the priest (altho they’re charmed and not dominated so the best thing is to round them up, get their agro and take them to the force field protecting the priest and charm them there.
Getting the club takes a little longer but it allows you to avoid wasting time beating up the earth elementals, even if the priest fight itself is trivial. Plus the club is useful in the end battle towards the end.
The second section gets unlocked after you get the earth key. This allows you to take down a force field that leads you to a ‘lower’ (different) portion of the temple. Here it gets roomier and more about the 3 other elemental temples.
Seen here is the fire temple. But there’s also a larger but devastated air temple and a more condenses and less spacious water temple. I’m going to touch on the negatives a lot more in part 3, but I can tell you that 2 of these temples have a couple of terribly boring HP bloated encounters and the fire temple happens to be the best one of them all (more intense, not as bloated and where you can at least move around).
The fire and water temples are straight forward. There’s a slight puzzle element (nothing special) to the water where you take water from a fountain, add it to the shrine, which takes down a barrier and fight a water pool guardian that is a water version of your average HP bloated Jelly cube. But it doesn’t stop there. In order to take down the barrier that comes up when you take the key, you also afterwards need to kill two water elementals with tons more HP. That makes the water temple fairly dreadful, dependent on what type of class you use and with what weapon.
For the air you first need to find the priest for the temple (the water temple priest is trivial and he and the other people worshiping the waterpool ends up sacrificing their HP to the guardian), the fire priest is a red named character with a reasonable amount of HP and far better encounter compared the air priest. The air priest has 78k HP on Normal and twice that on hard. And after a few spawns of mephits you spend the rest of the time smacking HPs out of him.
Once you’re done with him, you turn of the force field over the key (located in the air temple and as soon as you take the key you end up fighting a HP bloated Goristo.
And once you have all 4 keys you can take down 4 different force fields to enter the end battle – one for each element.
Seen here is the end part with 4 zones – 1 for each element. Note the charmed earth elemental to the right. If you have the club you can charm this elemental too, which helps as you have to fight a red named fire, water, earth and air elemental. The tactical battle is simple; you drag the elemental you’re fighting to the corresponding opposite element (so water to fire) and it becomes easier to beat. In it’s element it’s stronger.
After a bit the casters pet drops down – first it’s a wolf and then it turns into this nasty red named bug. And once you start beating that up the caster drops and you fight him.
After his defeat you will find a few items and some background lore in his chamber. You end up reading about the fragments and assemble some orb that can open a door to the entrance to part 2. Note, once you get here you will unlock part 2 and you can go directly to part 2 from the portal in the Hall of Heroes, rather then doing part 1 first. I’m guessing however that the end reward is tied to completing both as it is with all quest chains.
I’m going to tie everything together in part 3 – but the conclusion for anyone reading this is that TOEE is well worth the cost and the experience. It is by far the best module in my humble opinion for the one single unified experience you can get. If you’ve played them all you know that there are plenty of different quests out there with many different levels of quality. From the mediocre to the superb, but few offers that high quality from minute 1 to the end. Some chains have those 1 or 2 quests that are brilliant and rewarding and those others that range from poor to okay. Vale comes to mind with 5 quest of varied quality.
For most part you can get 2-3 hours out of running an entire quest chain (dependent on familiarity and also what difficulty). Usually you end up zerging a specific rout. Some, like the High Road Harper chain are nothing more than a bunch of rail shooters. You go from A to Z, more or less lead by the nose.
Or you can play some chains where there is exploration and side options but it’s so much more efficient to skip all that and go to the end.
TOEE rewards flower sniffing and side questing. It’s integral to the system of upgrading. That’s how you find the named stuff and the upgrade material. You can certainly find the most efficient rout to the end, but you’ll end up missing out on so much else in between. And because of the random placement of mobs and red named enemies no setting is entirely the same.
TOEE has a uniform feel, but with so many levels of different emotional impacts. Despite some of the dreadful stuff (HP bloat on red names) you get many distinct experiences. And that’s important. And while the complete experience seems to be a perfect ride despite offering narrow corridors, large and lofty temples and finally the splendor of the elemental node, there are so many distinct flavors and yet they all seems to harmonize.
If you haven’t bought TOEE yet, do it. While there’s a question about itemization right now and you certainly won’t run it for xp/minute – it’s an experience that gives you that feeling of dungeon crawling.