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Pool of Radiance
PoolRad-Title
Developer(s) Strategic Simulations, Inc.
Publisher(s) Strategic Simulations, Inc.
Engine Gold Box
Platform(s) Amiga, Apple II, Atari ST, C64, MS-DOS, Apple Macintosh, NES
Release date(s) Flag of the United States 1988
Genre(s) Role-playing game, Tactical RPG
Mode(s) Single player
Media 3½" and 5¼" floppy disk ROM_cartridge

Pool of Radiance, released in 1988, was the first of a long series of tactical role-playing games that shared a common engine that came to be known as the "Gold Box Engine" after the gold boxes in which most games of the series were sold. It was well received with the accolade of being "the best RPG ever to grace the C64, or indeed any other computer." [1]As the first game in the series, Pool of Radiance was to be surpassed in terms of features by later Gold Box games. Party characters could only be selected from among the classes of fighter, cleric, wizard, or thief, and the maximum class level was restricted to level 6 (9 for thieves, 8 for fighters).

After the success of the original game (which won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1988)[citation needed], a book and a D&D module based on the Pool of Radiance plot were also published. It is the first in a four-part series of Forgotten Realms Dungeons & Dragons adventure computer games published by Strategic Simulations, Inc (SSI). In 1992, the game was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System under the name of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Pool of Radiance.

StoryEdit

Pools of Radiance title screen

Title Screen for Pool of Radiance

The game takes place in the Forgotten Realms setting, in and around the Moonsea region and the City of Phlan, which has been overrun by forces of evil. The city had originally held off many attacks, but the forces were marshalled by a bronze dragon which was believed to be possessed by a powerful spirit named Tyranthraxus. The object of the game is to have the party clear the old city of its marauding inhabitants, so the people of Phlan can rebuild and repopulate the areas.

The party begins in the civilized section of "New Phlan" that is governed by a council. This portion of the city is a place for the party to buy equipment at the shops, rest up in the inns, listen to rumors in the pub, and contract with the clerk of the city council for various commissions. The party can also go to the hiring hall and hire an experienced adventurer to accompany the party.

Beyond this region the party enters the area of the slums, which have been overrun with low-level monsters such as goblins and orcs that the party must clear out (gaining experience in the process). Further into the slums, the going gets tougher, with ogres and trolls for opponents.

The next commission is to clear out Sokol Keep, a fortified area located on an island. This is filled with undead, among other opponents. Inside the keep is a specter who suffers under a curse. When you remove this curse, the keep is cleared and the shipping lanes to the city are finally opened.

There are a variety of other locations that are encountered as the party ventures further into the city, including Kuto's Well, catacombs filled with a bandit horde, a thieves' guild, Podol Plaza, and a buccaneer bar called the Pit. With the party making impressive progress, they are next contracted to go to the old Textile House, to recover the treasure of a council member. Pressing onward, the party can enter Mendor's Library, a temple of Bane in the wealthy section, Kovel Mansion, and the deadly Valhingen Graveyard.

PoolRad-FinalEncounter

Encounter with Tyranthraxus, before the final battle.

Eventually the party ventures outside the city by boat, where they encounter a silver dragon. Various side treks and adventures occur, including visiting an encampment of the Zhentarim, as the party continues to build up experience and aid the city by defeating the plans of the mysterious "Boss".

Now the more difficult endgame begins. The party reveals a traitor in the city council, and is commissioned to hunt him down. At some point the party will have to assault Stojanow Gate, a difficult task against bugbears and ettins. The party then enters Valjevo Castle and its inner sanctum, descends a stairwell to encounter some guards of the impostor Tyranthaxus (who assumes the form of a bronze dragon). After defeating his guards, the party refuses his offer to join his side and engages the dragon boss in a deadly battle, emerging victorious.

Plot overviewEdit

The party's objective is to ultimately free Phlan from the monsters and the boss, Tyranthraxus. There are many missions from the Phlan city council the party can undertake, some optional, which will give rewards for successfully accomplishing the tasks.

The only real mandatory task is for the party to clear the areas on the outskirts of Phlan so it can make its way to Valjevo Castle and defeat Tyranthraxus. It is highly recommended, however, to gain enough experience to undertake this task.


Copy ProtectionEdit

The original Pool of Radiance game shipped with a decoder wheel. After the title screen, a copy protection screen was displayed consisting of two pictures and a line. The player was required to use the decoder wheel to line up these two pictures, and then enter the word revealed in the appropriate cutout in the decoder wheel. The player was given three tries to enter the correct word before the game exited.

In the MS-DOS Version you can bypass it with the command line string "STING" after start.exe . For the Wizworks distribution you had to type "STING"<ALT>154 after st.exe to bypass the copy protection.

Differences between versions of Pool of RadianceEdit

Pool of Radiance was released for several computers/game consoles, so there are differences between the versions.

Commodore 64 (C64) featured music, while the DOS version had none. The C64 also had more detailed graphics. Unfortunately, C64 had notoriously slow load times, unless the computer had a fast load cartridge installed. The game was also distributed on four double-sided floppy disks, making disk swapping a common frustration for players. The use of disks to save characters, however, made disk-swapping exploits possible to achieve item duplication.

The Nintendo (NES) version was completely different from the other releases. It featured original music, different graphics, and a unique interface. It lacked many of the features of its computer counterparts, such as editing character icons. It also lacked several areas to explore, most notably the randomly generated creature lairs found on the wilderness map. Battles in the NES port were also considerally toned-down, partly because the NES had trouble with a large number of sprites and partly to lower the difficulty.

The Amiga version was very well made with nice music and enhanced graphics and animation, and a level of quality the PC version would not reach until Treasures of the Savage Frontier. The game scenario and engine was identical to the PC version in every other aspect.

For MS-DOS there are three different known versions available:

OS Version Language
MS-DOS Initial (no number) Turbo Pascal 5.0
MS-DOS V1.2 Turbo Pascal 5.0
MS-DOS V1.3 Turbo Pascal 6.0 (exepacked)

DifficultyEdit

Pool of Radiance is considered to be very unbalanced with regard to difficulty, especially by today's standards. The frequent random encounters were often more challenging than the set-piece battles and tended to be very time consuming.

HackingEdit

The save game files were very simple and easy to edit using either a Hex Editor or Pooledit, a DOS-based saved-game editor written by Stephen Oulton. It was possible to edit a character's statistics (Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma) up to 25 - the maximum allowed in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Version 1, and the game was programmed to accept scores that high, though it was impossible to get them without using an editor.

It was also possible to edit equipment items - giving rise to "Helmets of Fireballs", "Swords of Ice Storm", "Shields of Lightning Bolts", and other interesting if improbable creations.

BugsEdit

  • Bag - The Commodore 64 version of the game had an interesting bug - if a character had a lot of arrows you could split them until all of the character's 16 inventory slots were filled, and then split them once more. The result was that the topmost item in the character's inventory would be transformed into an item called "bag" and appear as a 17th item slot. The bag was not worth anything to sell, however it virtually made the base item +57. So if you had a plate mail transformed into a bag, you could get an Armor Class of well below -50 and if you had a weapon transformed into a bag, you would easily deal 60+ points of damage with each blow at a miss chance of 5% (natural 1). Basically, the same thing also worked with all other items that had quantities (quarrels, flasks of oil, silver arrows, carpets etc.). The bonus the so created item had and its name varied. Some had minor bonuses, some had huge bonuses and some had such high bonuses that they turned negative (silver arrows made superb items with a malus of about 100).
  • Lizardmen Camp - The NES version of the game has a rather annoying bug, though it does not affect the completion of the game. If you enter the abadoned castle and find the old lizardman but flee before he gets a chance to give you your quest, he will disappear from the game and the overall quest for this segment cannot be completed.
  • Wraith - When fighting a wraith, it was possible to have a character's level drained until it reached 0 and then drained again, wrapping around the 8-bit register to level 255. If a member of your party survived, it was possible to resurrect this dead character and have a level 255 character with 255 hit points.
  • Export - Not so much a bug as an exploit, if there was a particular item you wanted more of you could give it to a character then export them at the adventure hall. Strip the item from the character then drop them from the party. Re-enter the adventure hall and add the character back in - with the original item still in their possession. This could be repeated ad infinitum. Also of note is that in the NES version codes are provided to export your characters. Though not technically a bug, no sequel was made for the console so the codes are worthless.

Game creditsEdit

  • Scenario created by: TSR, Inc., Jim Ward, David Cook, Steve Winter, Mike Breault
  • Game created by: SSI Special Projects
  • Programming: Scot Bayless, Brad Myers, Russ Brown, Ted Greer
  • Original Programming: Keith Brors, Brad Myers
  • Graphic Arts: Tom Wahl, Fred Butts, Darla Marasco, Susan Halbleib
  • Project Manager: Victor Penman
  • Encounter Coding: Paul Murray, Russ Brown, Victor Penman, Dave Shelley
  • Developer: George MacDonald
  • Testing: Joel Billings, Steve Salyer, James Kucera, Robert Daly, Rick White

Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth DrannorEdit

Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor is the sequel to Pool of Radiance and was released in 2001 from Ubisoft. This game takes place in the Ruins Of Myth Drannor. Myth Drannor was considered to be one of the biggest and most beautiful cities in the Forgotten Realms. But now, the once beautiful Elven city is in ruins.

This was a new game based on the same AD&D module, but with rules updated for the 3rd edition. Sales for the game were initially low as it received lackluster reviews and was plagued with bugs, especially in multiplayer. The situation was so bad that uninstalling the unpatched game could wipe the user's system files [1]. The main complaint about the game was that it was boring, as the AD&D module it was based on was intended for a large player group. Other problems, such as the infinite and confusing dungeons and only one style of gameplay - hack'n slash - contributed to make this title considered boring and repetitive. Later patches fixed some of the stability issues, but by this time stronger competition such as Bioware's Neverwinter Nights had been released.

ReceptionEdit

Pools of Radiance received positive with Tony Dillon from Commodore User scoring it 9/10. The only complaint was a slightly slow disk access however the reviewer was impressed with the features even labelling the game as a Commodore User superstar.[2]

A review from Zzap was less positive only achieving 80%. It was noted the game felt too much "hacking,slicing and chopping" without enough emphasis on puzzle solving. The game was awarded on 49% for puzzle factor. [3]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Dillon, Tony. "Pool of Radiance". Commodore User (Oct 1988) p: 34, 35. http://amr.abime.net/issue_805. Retrieved 2008-02-21. 
  2. Dillon, Tony. "Pool of Radiance". Commodore User (Oct 1988) p: 34, 35. http://amr.abime.net/issue_805. Retrieved 2008-02-21. 
  3. "Pool of Radiance". Zzap 44 (Dec 1988) p : 127. http://www.zzap64.co.uk/cgi-bin/displaypage.pl\?issue=44&page=127&magazine=zzap. Retrieved 2008-02-21. 

External links Edit


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