Eulogies are good for first impressions. But it can’t substitute a serious long term look at the issues.
Lets start with a premise. ToEE was meant to be another classic module released, much like Haunted Halls and with guest narration. ToEE being bigger, naturally mean a lot more. And a lot more evidently meant less ‘special’ stuff and the need to bank on more random encounters.
There was also a difference in over all itemization scheme. Meaning that unlike in HH they wanted to provide an incentive to people to explore the entire map, so they instead added named items to rare encounters and ‘mats’. The idea was that you can always rush to the end OR as an added incentive you should/could explore and find more stuff. Either way – exploring meant profit, more so than always going for the end zone.
There was also the premise of making it ‘hard’. And hard in the world of exploiter builds and flavor of the week uber DPS toons means HP bloat. Hard either boils down to hitting really hard or in combination with hitting hard add x amount of HP. And in this case also add DR and resists. Just to make the pile of HP you have to plow through as unappetizing as possible.
ToEE is several large maps combined together. And Turbine figured that in order to keep players doing something they were going to add a randomization scheme that would add regular mobs everywhere, sometimes just a bunch of urns or boxes and seldom rares or something like a small chest.
PROFIT! 2-3 rusted on EH out 200 needed
So in order to profit you plow through a multitude of hordes and once you finally find a rare it’s time to punch the HP sack until you either wish it was another trash mob or that you simply quit out to save your humanity.
The issue with ToEE boils down to a failure of premise. If wading through trash mobs to fight a few bloated rares is the alternative to bolting to the end zone, most people will bolt to the end zone.
First – there’s just too many randoms trash mobs to find a rare and the experience of fighting becomes auto attack snooze fests.
Second – it’s not worth it. The items you can upgrade are situational and not really worth the investment. You need a LOT of material to even upgrade to tier 1 and you need almost as much to upgrade to tier 2. That in itself isn’t all that bad since they’re BTA, but given that you will spend about 1.30 to 2 hours going through ONE part and you mostly end up with about 10-15 of the first material (rusted), means roughly 20-30 hours of monster slaying for a weapon that might be good for crushing more mobs in one of the nodes.
Air Cleric, guardian of the Rune so you can fight another bloated encounter and get nothing for the experience
Third – some of the encounters are absolutely absurd. On one hand the earth elemental temple can be dealt with by either destroying a number of high HP Earth elementals or charming them. Either way the fight against the actual cleric is trivial.
Then you have this guy; Kelno. Lots of DR and resist and with about 135k-160k HP (EH). After a small wave of mephits you’ll be clobbering this guy for a while. He’ll throw some spells and you keep mashing buttons. You can’t avoid this fight unless you don’t want to finish part 1 (you need the key). And unlike the earth temple this guy do not have a chest. Or anything. Just a sack of HP and nothing better to do.
But it’s not over yet; now you go to the air temple to pick up the key. And once you do that you have to fight a Goristo. Hits like a truck and has a ton of HP. Provided that you don’t have a ddoor, then you can ddoor out of it and save some sanity.
And in contrast the Fire temple have either an option to skip combat by giving plat’s (you don’t get the chest) or fight and get a random vendor trash chest and the key. This entire fight is fast paced and fairly well balanced with several orange named Fire Salamanders and a red name with the appropriate amount of HP.
And then there’s the Water Temple.
This is the zoomed out version of the water guardian
Seen here is the water guardian itself and about the room you have to move around in. You can either stand in the middle of it as it jiggle around on top of you or you can stand against a corner and be ‘outside’ it and fight. Either way you’re going to get hit. Moving around is entirely pointless.
If you have a ddoor you can escape this IQ killing encounter but if you don’t there’s another surprise lined up for you.
After you destroy the cube, you also have to fight 2 more Water Elementals (red named for effect) in order to escape.
And yes – there’s no chest. Nothing.
Part 2 is not all that different.
Lots of trash mobs lined up every 10-20 feet and a few (something like 2-3) red named here and there in each node. But it also adds something dreadfully worse. Random placement of node stones.
Briefly; in part 2 you start in the inner sanctum of the temple. After a brief clear out of some of the living quarters and 2 orange named priests you now have one random entrance open to a node. It seems to favor Air, but it can be any of the elements. In there you need to find a node stone to unlock the next node in line or to get to the end boss fight.
If you do all 4 and defeat the boss you get an extra chest. In there you can find Elemental Victory (an all absorb helmet without augment slots). If you don’t have time since you spend 40 minutes looking everywhere for a randomly placed stone in a fairly large node area, you at least get one chest at the end fight.
Again, there’s virtually no incentive to check out all of the map since the chance for a rare encounter is so abysmally small, the HP bloat is dreadful and the waves of mobs tedious. Altho there’s a great chance that you end up doing most of the map anyways just to find the stone.
Is ToEE worth it?
For that one first time experience, yes. It’s a beautiful quest and the score is great. But it’s soiled by a boring scheme of playing slaughterhouse with horde after horde of trash mobs. Every corridor, every room and every tunnel. There is nothing else to do. All traps are randomly placed, you don’t click or interact on something and there are no secret areas. Yes, some require search but there’s always a longer way around.
By the time you’re done the first time and you start doing those secondary and tertiery runs for stuff, you’ll notice just how much you end up dreading the time you’re going to blow on wracking up kills and show almost nothing for it. Soon you start forgetting the visuals and the scores and you have that creeping nausea of one more fight, just as pointless as the previous.