Commodore User

Pools Of Radiance

Author: Tony Dillon
Publisher: Strategic Simulations Inc
Machine: Commodore 64/128

Published in Commodore User #61

Pools Of Radiance

Let's get straight down to business. Pools Of Radiance is, without a doubt, the best PG ever to grace the C64, or indeed any computer. It makes Wasteland look like a game of Draughts and is to The Bard's Tale series what Vulcan Venture is to Scramble. An advance far and above anything I expected.

Pools Of Radiance is the first of SSI's role playing releases based around the Dragonlance series of books, and more specifically on the northern shore of the Moonsea in the Forgotten Realms. The storyline is that the city of Phlan, plagued with a past of invasions and wars, has been overtaken by a huge band of various types of creatures, humanoid or otherwise. The rumour is, though, that there is one controlling force, something else in charge. Who it is nobody knows and it is your destiny to find and quench the evil tyranny.

The more astute among you might have already guessed which famous set of RPG rules this is set around. That's right, the original and still the best, AD&D. For those of you who find the thought of five thick hardback books-worth of complex rules a little daunting, I would just like to mention that all the rudimentaries of the game such as saving throws, hit ratios and combat initiative rules have been taken care of. All you have to do is move the part around, decide what to do, and tell them how to fight. No silly messing with numbers, this is simple, easy-to-use RPG. For people like me, who have played D&D for a substantial part of their lifetime, or indeed just like the game and are worried how it has translated, worry no more. SSI have managed to capture 90% of the feel of true D&D. There is no feasible way, of course, that a C64 could even come close to capturing the atmosphere generated by an intelligent and descriptive DM.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Pool Of Radiance

What they have managed to pack onto four double-sided disks (Yes, four! That's eight disk sides of monsters, dungeons, treasure and taverns - you'd be surprised by the amount of taverns there are in D&D, kid) is lots of colourful character and enemy graphics, three different views, a Chaos-like combat sequence and a character who looks surprisingly like Kenny Rogers. If you don't believe me, check the screenshots on the packaging. Still, let's begin at the beginning.

The first thing you have to do upon booting is get a party together. After going through the usual menu system of choosing race, class and occupation, you are presented with six statistics showing various aspects about the person's character, such as Charisma, Intelligence and Dexterity, each ranging from 3 to 18 (3d6). Once you're happy with the statistics of your character (a magician is going to need a high intelligence, a thief will need dexterity, etc), you are given the chance to define your character's portrait. Choose from a range of exciting and colourful heads and bodies from the disk library, stick them together and save them to your previously prepared Saved Game disk. It's only then that you get to define your battle icon. You can change the colours of the clothing, the size, the weapon, even the colour of the hair, just to make combat look more interesting.

Once you've got your party out into the big bad world, it's down to brass tacks. Viewed in a similar way as the Bard's Tale series, when in a city or town that is, you are presented with a 3D view of the way ahead, with the same kind of control method of BT (Rotate left/right and walk forward). Graphically, this bit is far better than BT and indeed a lot of other games, such as PSS' Swords And Sorcery. Whereas everywhere looked the same in BT, there is an incredible amount of variation in Pools Of Radiance. Moss clings to some walls. Some lights are lit and some aren't. Keep walking in the right direction and you'll come to the Moonsea, and scattered about are lots of important buildings. The Town Hall, for example, displays proclamations and offers work to any passing mercenaries/adventurers. The training hall offers you character advancements, provided you have the experience points and the cash. The temples offer healing, and the various shops and taverns can provide a wealth of information as well as just the usual wares.

Once inside a city, the view changes from a 3D view to an overhead Questron-type landscape, pockmarked with mountains and various remote places of interest. The other view is the map view, which can be called up from the menu bar at the bottom of the screen. It's from this bar that you do all your stuff, including things like manipulation of items, spell casting and memorisation, setting up of camp, viewing of characters as well as all the combat commands. Combat consists of a large overhead view of the room you are currently in, with pictures of your party and the enemy in their relative positions.

As you choose an action from the menu, you see a small animated sequence showing you what you've done. For example, choose to hack at a Kobold with your sword, and you'll see the little icon swing with all its might. Choose to fire an arrow, and you see the arrow fly at the enemy, accompanied by a twanging sound effect.

Pools Of Radiance is everything an RPG fan could wish for, and I can see it appealing to persons not of a pixie-bashing nature too. Unfortunately the disk access is a little slower than it could have been, but any game that has me playing for nine hours into the wee hours of the morning has to have something going for it.

Tony Dillon

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