By Al Giovetti
Pool of Radiance
The Advanced Dungeons and Dragons license is worth its weight in gold which may be why SSI chose to box these games in gold paper. These so called "gold box" games certainly were a cash cow for SSI selling a minimum of 50,000 games and actually going gold in each of the 13 reincarnations from the six gold box games to the later first person perspective three dimensionally simulated games that started with the popular Eye of the Beholder trilogy and ended with the title Menzoberranzan.
SSI also produced six "gold box" games based upon Dragonlance and Buck Rogers, two other TSR game settings, producing twenty games in all, and all best sellers. Interplay has obtained the rights to these games and will be selling Anthologies of them to current game players so that they can share in the magic. See the article on the AD&D Forgotten Realms Archives. More than two million copies of AD&D computer games have been sold by the beginning of 1997.
Company LinePrepare yourself for the first AD&D computer fantasy role-playing game set in the magical world known as the Forgotten Realms. Located on the northern shore of Moonsea in the Fogotten Realms, the fabled city of Phlan has been overrun by monsters lead by a mysterioius leader. Your quest is to discover the identity of this evil force and rid Phlan of its scourge. Pool of Radiance, the ultimate breakthrough in fantasy role-playing computer games.
Cities, dungeons and encounters are showin in beautiful edge-to-edge 3-D perspective (IBM PC). Every monster type has its own individual drawing. Venture out to the Wilderness surrounging the embattled city of Phlan (This was a big deal back in 1988, when most fantasy adventures were dungeon delves with no wilderness play. -Ed.) Unique tactical combat display gives you full control over your heros during battle.
The game can be played in first person perspective with multicolored walls showing in the walls and surroundings or in third person overhead perspective when in the over thirty city blocks and dungeons of up to 15 x 15 squares each. The window on the world is a one quarter screen area in the upper left portion of the display. To the right are various party read outs showing character names, armor class and remaining hit points.
You adventure with a group of up to six player characters (under player control) and you can add up to two non-player characters to bring your party up to a maximum of eight characters. Each characters has skills, experience, class (profession), race, strength, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, constitution, charisma, and luck. Characters are regulated and controlled by the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Second Edition rules.
Characters can be created as Elves, Humans, Half-Elves, Gnome, Halfling, or Dwarf and can be Cleric, Fighter, Magic User, and Thief. AD&D racial limitations to advancement apply so that a Half-Elf can only go to 5th level cleric, 6th level fighter, 8th level magic user, and 9th level thief. A dwarf can only be a 9th level fighter or thief. Humans can be dual class characters starting out in one profession then switchiing to another later and have therefore two professions. Half elves can be triple or two class characters simultaneously being any combination of cleric, fighter, magic user or thief, while elves can do the smae with fighter, magic user and thief, but level limitations may apply.
Alignment in AD&D is a two dimensional affair that involves all nine combinations of good, neutral, or evil, and chaotic, neutral and lawful. You can have an evil lawful character that will honor contracts but be aligned with the evil gods and oppose the good ones. You can have a chaotic good character that aligns with the good gods but is unreliable in their dealings with others. Other characters and encounters are often determined by character alignments. For example, a chaotic evil character will refuse to adventure with a lawful good character and vice versa. Lawful evil characters will parley with other lawful evil characters and not fight.
Other way to determine a parlay is to decide on a stance from meek to abusive. How you act may determine whether you will be helped or will have to fight the groups of adventurers that you encounter in your travels. Another nice feature is the Modify option which let you use the statistics of favorite characters from the AD&D and other paper and pencil games or from other computer role playing games.
Combat is in an overhead oblique isometric view with a limited battlefield. Characters fight in rounded fashion taking turns moving and using weapons or throwing spells. Each of the first four characters appear on the front line and can engage the enemy with one of 38 available melee weapons unless they engage at a distance where one of seven available ranged weapons and spells could be employed. Those on the back row have to maneuver to use melee weapons or they can use range weapons unless engaged by the enemy in melee combat.
The combat system was seen first in Wizard's Crown and Eternal Dagger, except that this system is more higly refined and less confusing. Gone are the multple body parts and different damage for cutting, piercing, and crushing weapons.
Spells are active in camp, while adventuring or when in battle. There are 24 clerical spells and 31 wizard spells on levels one, two and three since the clerics and magic-users are limited to advancing beyond level six in this game.
Puzzles and copy protection scheme are contained on a character translation wheel where you translate amoung English, Elven and Dwarvish characters. The messages given in many puzzles provide clues to avoiding battles and making the job of ridding Phlan of monsters easier. Puzzles, even the word translation type described here, are not the main thrust of the game, which is to figure how to overcome battle and situational obstacles to your goal.
The scenerio was created by TSR's own Jim Ward with help from David Cook, Steve Winter and Mike Breault. Jim Ward has gone on to author TSR novels and adventure game settings and the others on the TSR staff have done similar things. This is why the game plot is so good, since there was involvement with some of the premier pencil and paper development people and many others who would go on to other areas like Victor Penman, and Westwood Associates. The plot is simple. Phlan, a city on the north central border of Moonsea in the Forgotten Realms game setting has ben under the influence of a dragon named Tyranthraxus. Phlan was the first great city of the Moonsea, reaching its peak over one thousand years ago when Moonsea was known as Dragon Sea. Phlan was a trading city at first set up to facilitate trade between the Elves of Myth Drannor and the tribes of Thar, Vaasa and the Ride and the Dragonspine Dwarves. The Dwarves floated barges down the Stojanow river (Stojanow was from the dwarfish word meaning "trade route") with trade goods which were then distributed throughout the Moonsea area. Only the Elven docks of Hillsfar on the southern shore of Moonsea rivaled the success of Phlan. Several times Phlan has risen like a phoenix from the ashes to flourish as a great city for hundreds of years only to be brought low by one catastrophy or another. The last catastrophe occurred one hundred years ago when a great dragon and hordes of orcs attacked the city and overcame it for the last time. Many claim that Phlans woes come from some ancient evil pool that is said to have been discovered by elves deep in the earth below the city. Two years prior to the start of the game, a group of adventurers and descendents of the old town council established a small beachhead around the old city docks. They established a new city council based upon the old one and they send a call out to adventurers to come to the city to seek their fortune in rebuilding Phlan by driving out the denizens of evil. The city clerk assigns quests where you reclaim parts of the city inhabited by groups of evil characters, including kobalds, thieves, orcs, hobgoblins, undead, lizardmen and others. Other quests will take you out of the city to reclaim a wizards keep up river that is dumping sludge and fouling the river, a den of kobalds, a tribe of lizardmen, a camp of pirates, and even an assault on the evil inhabitants of Zentil Keep to the west of Phlan. Each section of the city that is reclaimed and cleared of monsters takes you closer to the central evil itself the Pool of Radiance and the ancient dragon Tyranthraxus. You will spend time liberating the Temple of Tyr taken over by and desicrated by the Priests of Bane, Valhingen graveyard, Podal Plaza, The great Library of Mendor, The Elven Sokal Keep, Valjevo Castle, and other areas. The plot is colorful and filled with extensive details of the history of Phlan which extends back several thousand years, dripping with interesting anecdotes.
A nice feature is the ability to paint your characters with a dozen colors on six separate body parts and customize the icon seen in battle. Another nice touch is the ability to pick the icon that appears when examining the character attributes while in camp. The grapics are standard 4-color EGA graphics with 320 x 240 pixel resolution.
AnimationIn battle, the arrows move across the battle field, fireballs explode with a red cloud that expands to engulf the defined area effect, lightning bolts move throw characters and crackle with life and even ricochet off walls. Characters turn to face attacks from monsters who move into their zones of control.
Voice ActorsNo voice actors are used for the game. There is no human speech.
Music ScoreThere is some primitive music in the introduction, but
Sound EffectsSound effects are primitive but accurate
UtilitiesThe offline paragraphs can be read making it easier to take notes in the game. The mapping system reveals itself once the level is explored, save in certain areas where mapping is inexplicably impossable. The lack of fog of war in some areas and automapping in others is a serious detriment to game play. You can save the game only in camp whether in the town or the dngeons and some areas once cleared of monsters, especially within cleared rooms or anywhere on a cleared block of a dungeon are safe to rest in indefinately. Resting is required to heal and memorize spells.
The code wheel protects the game from being copied so that each time you boot the game you must translate a word from either Dwarven or Elvish to English. Autocombat was available for the more boring battles where precise control is not needed.
TSR books, game settings, and scenerios can be purchased to extend the computer game experience and spend more time with your favorite game and game characters. The best selling TSR Forgotten Realms paperback book series on Phlan continues even nine years after the game release.
Multi-player FeaturesThere are no multiplayer features in the Pool of Radiance computer game.
Cheats, Hints, WalkthroughThe $12.95 clue book pulbished by SSI, consisted of 63 pages of maps, item lists, including magical artifacts and where to find them, encounter descriptions, plot lines, and strategies. The hint book seems short by today's standards, but it has everything in it that you would need to finish the game.
JournalistsShay Addams, long time editor of QuestBusters and Simulations magazine, was writing for Compute magazine at the time. Shay has written on and off for various publications since the early days of computer role playing games. Shay has written a column called Adventure Road on and off for various publications all throughout his writing career. We have not seen much on adventure games and simulations lately from Shay and hope to see him back in the game soon.
ReferencesShay Addams, Compute, volume 11, number 2, issue 105, February, 1989, pg. 62.
Al Giovetti, AD&D Forgotten Realms Archives, The Computer Show, volume 2, number 3, March, 1997
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