Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nerdicus NES Review #12 - Advanced D&D : Pool of Radiance


Title : Advanced D&D : Pool of Radiance

Publisher : Strategic Simulations

Release Date : 1992

Estimated Value (as of today's date) : $10 - $20

Well, this is it folks. The last of the Advanced D&D games on the NES. Can this game finally be the hidden gem I was looking for? Or is DragonStrike going to be the one glimmer of hope that the D&D series has on the NES?

Before we get started, let's take a look back on our D&D journey. We've ridden on the backs of dragons, sending our enemies screaming as our flames charred their skin to their bones. We've crawled our way through a side scrolling dungeon, battling side by side with a party of adventurers who had names chosen out of a random fantasy name generator.

One word - Hasslehoff.

Our quest continued to the city of Hillsfar where we pillaged our way through homes, seeking out treasures with our pouch of lock picks and discovering the hidden staircase exit. All while avoiding guards. Who do nothing. Yup, that was it.

Fear not for a new adventure awaits. We have used our will and guile to form our party. We have readied our grid paper for map making.  There is no looking back. Welcome to Pool of Radiance - another bewildered D&D adventure, yet oddly enough, one of my favorites.

That's one text filled title screen...
Before we even start the game, we are given the option of using a pre-made party, or creating additional characters. Every time I've played this game I've had a party of 5 with a Battle-mage (fighter/magic user) a thief, and used the the default party to battle along side with them. With this type of party, the game breeze by a lot faster. You pretty much end up being unstoppable by the end if you level up correctly. But just take a look at those choices!

Most people would run away screaming just looking at this
We begin our journey in the city of Phlan (flan? I like flan) which is apparently being plagued by "Evil Hordes" - how appropriate. What D&D story isn't complete without evil hordes of monsters. This is the basic premise of the story. You hunt down and destroy the evil within the city and its surrounding ruins, only to find out that an ancient dragon possessed by an evil spirit is the true root of the problem. An evil spirit is bad enough, but having it possess a dragon just makes it that much more amazing.

So to quickly run through, much like Hillsfar, you listen for rumors, acquire new quests from the "city hall comissions", clear out areas, level up, and buy new equipment. Sound familiar? It's your basic RPG. Can't go wrong.

Fortune and Glory!
Now, I don't want to go through the entire story, but it does get pretty interesting if you have the patience to sit through this game. The story and the technical aspects of the game are pretty extensive for an NES title, but that doesn't mean this game is without it's problems.

Problem #1 as you may have noticed is that the color scheme for this game is horrendous. It's all puke green, and rest area toilet bowl brown. Not the most enticing visuals.

Problem #2 is the multiple view points throughout the game. Battles are in one view point, talking to people in another, and traveling in yet another way. Traveling is the absolute worst. It's a first-person view used on the main map areas which was done a lot in old school PC RPG's. If you played Grimrok for PC which came out a year or so ago, it's just like that. Just a lot worse - Take a gander at this comparison.


Okay, I know. That's not really fair...but it's the same idea.

Problem #3 - Battles are kind of - well - weird? It's trying to be a little bit like a tactical RPG, but it doesn't always work. Basically it comes down to who kills who first. Put your tanks in front, protect your magic users and characters with a pitiful armor class and you'll do fine. Then again, you can blow through the battles with the right equipment and character skill set.

First you encounter - 

And then you battle -

Looks cool - too bad it doesn't play out the same way.

As I said before, this game has a great story if you can survive some of the bad mechanics. Unfortunately, that was the running problem with all of these AD&D games. They tried to do way too much with these titles, and on the NES, they just didn't work. These games are exponentially better on the PC, so if you ever want to try them, I really suggest just playing through those instead. Those are how they were meant to be played.

Honestly though, if you are looking for a real D&D adventure, get a group of friends together, grab a D&D Red Handbook, create a character, and start your own. I guarantee you, you'll have more fun than you would playing any of these games. Can't really beat your own creativity, especially when it's boundaries are endless.

Just watch out for Tyranthraxus...(what a name)

Until next time. Keep on gaming!



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