AD&DForgotten Realms Archives
By Al Giovetti
AD&DForgotten Realms Archives
Way back in 1988 a game was released resulting from the joint talents of Westwood, SSI, and TSR's best. The result was one of the greatest games of all time. The last of the efforts was a real hack of a program, Dungeon Hack. In spite of the lack luster ending, most of the titles in the series are stirling examples of the epitome of the art of computer fantasy role-playing.
There are other games in the gold box series, notably the Dragonlance games, which included Dark Queen of Krynn and six others, and the Buck Rogers Games, which included two games using the same game engine. Others in the series included the two games which were set in the Ravenloft game setting: Strahd's Possession and Stone Prophet.
Company LineThe Forgotten Realms Archives is the only compilation that includes all twelve original Forgotten Realms PC titles for the first time in a collectable boxed set representing more than a decade of AD&D computer game development. The set includes the popular Eye of the Beholder series. Interplay owns the exclusive license to produce all electronic entertainment games for TSR's Forgotten Realms and Planescape product lines.
"This is sure to become a collectable item for the AD&D enthusiast," stated Mike Markin, marketing manager of the AD&D division at Interplay. "This collection is also a great place for the novice AD&D player to begin because it furnishes the entire Forgotten Realms computer game history and it will offer months and months of gameplay."
The games basically use the first person perspective interface, save perhaps the Hillsfar title. Hillsfar was somewhat of an enigmatic game with simplistic gameplay set in the city of Hillsfar on the southern central shore of Moonsea. Hillsfar never caught on with many game players and remains an enjoyable but lackluster title when compared to the others in this anthology. Of all the titles the Hillsfar and Dungeon Hack are the least desirable, but the other ten games are just wonderful.
Six of the games, including Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, Secret of the Silver Blades, Pools of Darkness, Gateway to the Savage Frontier, and Treasures of the Savage Frontier use the old and severely outdated EGA 16-color, 8-bit game engine. And while the graphics are a decade old, the games and their plots are just wonderful. (See the archives for a review of the first in the series Pool of Radiance -Ed.)
The other five titles include the Eye of the Beholder trilogy, Menzoberranzan, and Dungeon Hack use the new first person perspective 16-bit game engine, first developed by Westwood and later refined by DreamForge, both excellent game production houses.
The plot, err play, is the thing. And these games have some great stories to tell from the masters of storytelling at TSR, Westwood, DreamForge and SSI. The recapture of Phlan in Pools of Radiance and the Exporation under the city of Waterdeep in the Eye trilogy are some of the best plots seen to date, and rival even the great Stonekeep by Interplay
The graphics are EGA (enhanced graphics adaptor) using 320 x 240 pixel resolution and a maximum of 16-colors for the gold box games including Hillsfar. The sixteen bit game engine used first in Eye of the Beholder has sophisticated animation that simulates the later three dimensional dungeon games with real time combat. Eye of the Beholder may be the true Doom precursor with the true trappings of role playing. The game resembles in many ways the Dungeon Master action role-playing game from Faster than Light.
AnimationAnimation, where it occurs in the gold box games, involves moving a character with different facings and two frame animation to show the swinging of weapons or shooting of a bow. Arrows and spells fly through the air and death scenes superimposed a skull on the dead before they pop out of sight and off the screen.
Voice ActorsHuman speech never made it into the games.
Music ScoreMusic within the dungeons was one of the nice features setting the mood.
Sound EffectsNot the strong point, save in the later games where ambient dungeon noises kept you on the edge of your seat.
UtilitiesThe first gold box games had only ten save games while later games had more. Automapping systems got better and reached a zenith when notes could be taken on the maps.
Multi-player FeaturesThe company line is not entirely correct about having every AD&D Forgotten Realms game in the box, since Neverwinter Nights was excluded, a multiplayer gold box game that is still being played on some boards like Compuserve and America Online. This was one fun game, but it cost money to continually play.
Cheats, Hints, WalkthroughSSI produced some most excellent hint books back in the time when these games came out which really enhance the game by pointing out the nooks and crannies in the game plot. These easter eggs, plot and sub-plot nuances really make a game especially for gamers who love to kick the tires and see everything. We can only hope that the hint books are still available as they were excellent adjuncts to the games.