Pool of Radiance
for PC (DOS)

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Company: SSI
Year: 1988
Genre: RPG
Theme: Based on Other Media / Sword & Sorcery
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 21910
Review by Wandrell (2010-11-01)

Well, this is a classic. The first of the Gold Box games, and I must say it shines. Not that it is perfect, but as a start it surely is great. Leaving you in charge of a team of adventures who must get rid of all the bad guys, it looks like a great way to adapt D&D into computer.

I never was too fond of D&D, and this is based on the old Advanced D&D rules, so I can't tell how good of an adaptation it is, but I suppose they did it well. Actually all the game is quite polished, except for a few bugs, like the charm bug that transforms your characters into NPCs.

But apart from it, it's all great. Things like how the battlefield is created dynamically from what surrounds you on the exploration view, or how the combat works, including opportunity (free) attacks against things such as fleeing.

It's all very complete. Even if the game may be a mismash of features from other games from its time, or maybe due to that, this is an original and great game. As long as you don't mind all the combats.

Because this is, after all, an adaptation of D&D. So the game is action oriented, there is a bit of plot, which is nothing not seen before, and a bit of encounters, dialogs and such that gives a nice mood to the game, but nothing far from a light adventure tone, but the meat of the game is in the combat, and you will get lots.

Sometimes it will be uneven, others you will get hordes of weak enemies, and always there is a bit of an strategic element, not too much I would say, that will let you win any situation. But they rarely get tedious, except for the nuisance of random battles on the world map.

Yes, there is a world map. After half or so of the game you can get outside the city and explore. But that's not as fun as the city itself, it's just a way to get to some sidequests, including the awful wizard isle, with that labyrinth of teleporters that I beat with a mix of several attemps, luck and then the cluebook.

I know that this kind of dungeon is the trademark of D&D, but it's too much, unless you expend some days mapping it, and then take a look at how the teleporters work, and then map them again (which is way too much time and work) I don't know how are you expected to beat that maze.

Well, it's the typical late-game filler dungeon after all, but it's still a sloppy design. And talking about design, I have the feeling the game was made with selling extras in mind. You see, the exact info about each spell is not on the manual or the journal, but on the cluebook, and the details of what is going on, that sometimes the game seems to expect you to know, are on a module published apart from the game.

So, you want to have all the info? Buy the extras.

Anyway, the game itself is quite fun. May need some improvements, but as long as you look for a fun action RPG, on a place filled with monsters that have some personality (lots of little descriptions and small dialogues everywhere make the encounters less clonic), you must try this one.

Review by derceto (2017-09-15)

One of the most influential CRPG's of the 1980's, Pool of Radiance was the first entry in a long line of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons licensed computer role playing games published by Strategic Simulations Inc. (SSI).

Set in the Forgotten Realms of the AD&D universe, the story revolves around the city Phlan in the Moonsea area, and the party's efforts to rid the area of monsters, and uncovering a deeper, more involved plot of evil. Spanning many zones and areas, the party will grow more and more powerful, until it faces the game's primary antagonist in the form of Tyranthraxus, a servant of Bane.

Graphically, the game was never terribly impressive, even for its time. However, this game is not popular and well liked for its graphics, but more its deep AD&D design and implementation for the time. Movement is mostly done through cardinal directions of north, south, east and west, represented on a pseudo 3D display in a small window. Party list and stats are displayed along side this window. Combat is portrayed through icons on a checkerboard style format, with each unit taking it's turn for each round, as dictated by the AD&D rules. Icons are of rather low diversity and customization, however, there is enough to make each of your 6 characters fairly distinct from one another.

Audio is left to the glorious PC speaker, and consists of blip and blurps to get across something that resembles music, and sound effects. In short, it gets the job done, but never threatened to break any boundaries of the time.

Overall, the game plays sluggish, but the story and character development is what keeps players coming back. The combat can be slow and at times, even boring, but later on in the game, each and every battle can be nearly a struggle just to stay alive.

All in all, this is a classic in CRPG entries, and should be in the collection of anyone who likes role playing games of any kind, dungeons and dragons, or just likes a good story driven game. If you can get your hands on it, be sure to pick it up and try it out. Highly recommended.

Presentation - 6/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 4/10
Controls - 8/10

Overall Package - 8/10

Comments (6) [Post comment]


Very good german Podcast about Pool of Radiance:


Mr Creosote:
What I appreciate about this one is its clear structure. There is no endless running around to see where something may happen. If in doubt, always go to the council.
Herr M.:

Yes the level restrictions come from the original pen&paper version of D&D (AD&D 1 edition to be precise), but it wouldn't have been all that hard to ignore them for the computer version (since they where really stupid player-patronizing anyway). Especially for mages the character progression is definitely not linear! There is a rule of thumb for D&D-characters: Fighter-classes progress linear, while spellcasters progress quadratic (no wonder with all that nifty spells they get). ;)

Actually I liked the second game of the series the best, because the story focused more on your characters and the plot was a little different than the usual "Monster and loot be there!" You had an actual reason to go through all those troubles, even if it was a little bit forced.
While paralyzing your whole party may have been a little bit cheap, I think it made the fights a lot more challenging. And with the right tactics (casting hold person yourself, using slings and bows) it was possible to beat those pesky priests.

The third part was a little bit of a let down, at least in the beginning (losing so much). The fourth one was almost too easy, but had a nice epic feel (with lvl 40 chars). I especially liked the part where you crawl around in the carcass of a dead god! Still it almost took me five years to complete... well sort of, because the savegame I have always crashes after the final fight (there is a bonus dungeon I will never see).


I suppose the problem is intrinsically related to D&D, for what I know of it, the character progression isn't lineal, so a level 8 is more than two times better than a level 4.

Still, this game greatly surprised me. Sadly I didn't get the same impression on the second, and the cheap tactics of hordes of priests paralyzing your whole party, so the warriors would get one hit kills.

Herr M.:

I have very fond memories of this one: a damp cellar room, sparely lit, a very old computer, late at night (probably past 3 am), stacks of square paper, a game journal with the paragraphs plus notes, excellent music on the radio... and me spelunking with my party of six through the castle of Tyranntraxus (or whatever his name was). Sometimes a fireball right in the face of a horde of mindless minions can be really satisfying.

There is only one thing about this game (or more precisely it's sequels) I could never forgive: The level restriction for the classes. In the first game it was only a few levels that your non-human characters where missing, but in the later games it was ridiculous: While a human mage could reach up to level 30 or 40, the best an elf mage could aspire for was level 9... which equals to a wasted character slot.