Twilight Princess Dungeons: Temple of Time

In my dungeon review last week I said that Snowpeak Ruins was the last dungeon in Twilight Princess that I had any personal fondness for, so you already know that I don’t particularly care for the Temple of Time. That’s not necessarily to say I find it bad, however. The word I would probably choose for the Temple f Time is… solid. It does its job, but it doesn’t really excel at it.

I think that’s a little unfortunate because this ended up being one of the most epic dungeon premises in the entire game. A hollowed-out tree in the woods, a lava-filled mine, a temple at a lake’s bottom, a haunted prison in the desert, and an icy ruined mansion… do any of these concepts really beat returning to an iconic location from the most-lauded game of the series by traveling back in time? You enter the Temple of Time in the Sacred Grove where you found the Master Sword, passing through a door with nothing on the other side only to end up in the past within the intact Temple of Time, with its familiar shape and unforgettable music. The ensuing dungeon, undiscovered within the outer temple during your journey in Ocarina of Time, should have been one of the most impressive dungeons ever.

The actual dungeon’s music is one of the better dungeon themes in the game in some ways, because it doesn’t feel purely atmospheric to me. It’s got a bit of a beat going on and accomplishes more for the dungeon than just thicken the area’s atmosphere. That said, I don’t find it very impressive and I certainly don’t think it lives up to what you’d expect from the Temple of Time. It didn’t need to be an arrangement of the familiar Song of Time, but something more iconic than this would have been appropriate, I feel.

Visually, the dungeon’s hit and miss. Like other locations in the game and certainly like its own music, I feel the Temple of Time never really accomplishes anything noteworthy; it’s just pretty basic. It does manage to feel distinct compared to other areas in the game, though, which is good. Pristine stone, gold trimmings, and marble floors all lend to the feeling of a place of importance, regal and sacred and well-kept, which is a good contrast to the forest-claimed ruins that it’s become in the future. It also contributes to this being one of the only dungeons in the game that I actually think feels like a real temple, and that’s nice to see. Visually, it does manage to look mostly like the Temple of Time ought to, but it doesn’t do anything fancy with it.

The most memorable rooms in the dungeon to me were the rooms that, hilariously, are some of the only ones in the game that look like they come from an actual real-world dungeon; I really liked the rooms that were darker, with dirtier stone. Especially the final chamber before the boss, where you have to run through an obstacle course of sorts. That room was excellent for setting up the boss fight, but rooms like that in general helped give the dungeon a bit of a sense of a darker thing hiding under all the cleanliness. This theme works well the prevalent (and gross!) spiders found throughout the dungeon, as well as the spider boss at the end. Unfortunately, that theme is under-represented here, and as a result of lacking any unique, particularly driving theme, the dungeon feels pretty generic to me. It has no real attention to visual or musical flair, or thematic originality; it’s a series of clean white corridors with a few dirty rooms in-between.

The Twilight Princess-themed Wii U tech demo showed a version of the Temple of Time that did manage to be visually striking, and not because it was HD but simply because they put effort into it. The Temple of Time could have had polished floors with a milder version of the reflection effect seen in Snowpeak Ruins, more impressive lighting like bright beams of light coming out of the windows or even visible past-landscape outside, among other things. It’s just such a huge missed opportunity.

Gameplay-wise, the dungeon isn’t very different. First off, the Temple of Time misses the chance to use any time themes for the dungeon, though it didn’t really need to. More importantly, though, it introduces several unique concepts without using them in any way that’s compelling. The dungeon is entirely linear aside from a few side rooms, which isn’t necessarily bad, as you solve puzzles along the way and must solve more on your way back with the statue you need to unlock the way to the boss. Unfortunately, there’s no sense to how the experience goes both ways down the path; the first time through, the puzzles are exceedingly simple. There is nothing complicated here, just simple switch pulling as you fight some enemies. The way back through is… much of the same, as you can now just destroy most obstacles with the statue. The only truly challenging puzzle — or interesting bit of navigation at all really — is the weight puzzle in the middle of the path, but even it isn’t really all that complicated.

It just seems so bizarre to me that this dungeon is so painfully easy both ways through. It’s child’s play far more so than any other dungeon in the game, and there’s no real sense to how it plays differently once you get the statue. You’d think that, if the dungeon was extremely easy in the beginning, then getting the statue and having to get it through the same areas would be far more difficult. Or that the dungeon would challenge you and drain your hearts with deadly enemies and obstacles, then give you the statue to satisfyingly smash your way through. But it never really does either of those things. I think the dungeon’s puzzles should have been extremely simple for Link to get through but huge problems for the statue, whereas the enemies and spike traps should have been abundant and highly damaging the first time through, but a breeze for the statue. This would have made the two journeys very distinct even within the same space, first challenging Link’s body and then his mind, without changing the environment or the layout. That would have been really cool, really unique, and just good design.

There are a handful of other puzzles beyond just getting through the corridors, mostly utilizing the dungeon’s Dominion Rod item to move statues around in side rooms, but it’s really only notably used to move the large statue, making it a one-trick pony for the most part, and not worth saying too much about. It was an excellent concept that needed to be used more, both within and without the dungeon.

While the puzzles and traps and navigational challenges leave a lot to be desired, the enemies are actually quite challenging. Dinolfos become abundant here, and without spamming the right Hidden Skills, they are extremely challenging foes. Even Baby Gohma, swarming all over the ground, can drain your hearts as you try to take them all out. But best of all is the dungeon’s miniboss, a unique and particularly fancy Darknut, who is the precursor to all the rest of the Darknuts that will appear in Twilight Princess. Darknuts are extremely challenging foes in this game until you figure them out, so chances are you will struggle reasonably against this miniboss while later obliterating the rest. That makes him an excellent miniboss for first-time players, though, and he’s one of my favorite battles of the game. Especially when he sheds his armor, dons a lighter sword, and moves much faster. It’s an unexpected surprise, and just a great moment.

The dungeon’s boss, however, is a total and utter disappointment that serves, unbelievably, as the clear worst of the game.

Armogohma is ridiculously, unbelievably, excruciatingly easy, making even the rest of the game’s easiest bosses look like harrowing fights for survival. All of its attacks are easy to dodge save for the one time it sprays Baby Gohma, but that’s only because it’s a tricky regular enemy from earlier in the dungeon. Armogohma herself can do very little, and gives you ample time to shoot her extremely obvious weak point with the bow and then smash her with the available statues. Aside from being easy, this isn’t fun; waiting 10-20 seconds for a boss to stop moving, shooting the most obvious and easiest to figure out weak point of a totally stationary boss with the bow, and then using a stationary object in the room to do the one thing it can do with plenty of time to get over there and do so… is just not a compelling battle. There is no stimulation here. There’s no challenge. There’s barely any input required from the player at all. To complete this battle, all you have to do is go through the motions and do things you’ve done a hundred times before, and in more interesting ways. Its music is also generic and fails just as much in being compelling.

The second phase is creative, at least, as you chase the weak true form of the boss as its babies swarm around it, and this could have been a cool idea (especially if the boss could somehow revive itself or at least damage you effectively), but sadly it’s too easily dispatched with the bow or statues, and its music is also annoying… though intentionally so and it’s ironically far more interesting than the first theme. If only it wasn’t so repetitive.

The Armogohma battle is another thing that seems done right in the tech demo, where she jumps around, chases Link, and stabs at him with her legs. A better version of the first phase could have still existed, but afterward it would have been excellent to try to fend off Armogohma’s legs as she stabs at you, while you try to avoid her attacks and hit her exposed weak point. This would have been cool in another way, too: It would mirror the Darknut fight. Just like the Darknut, Armogohma could have had a heavy and slow first form, then shed its armor and barrel after you. The silly chase could have still followed, without any changes since the boss would already have two phases to challenge the player. This boss could have been so much cooler, and an iconic foe of the series like Gohma deserves better.

So all in all, I think the Temple of Time is largely just a lot of missed opportunities. As I said, I don’t really hate it; it’s a solid dungeon and there’s fun to be had here. But it had so many things going for it that it never used and never turned into anything cool, that at the same time I just feel sad at what this dungeon could have been. Still, it’s enjoyable, and it’s a worthy addition to Twilight Princess’ lineup of dungeons.

But what about you? What did you think of the Temple of Time, its concept, its gameplay, and its overall design? How about the battles with enemies throughout the dungeon, as well as with Darknut and Armogohma? Do you feel the dungeon missed its opportunities or nailed them? Tell me in the comments, and look forward to next week, when I review the City in the Sky!