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SummaryA superb sequel to Pool of Radiance
The GoodI'm biased about this game, I loved the book and I loved the game. Azure Bonds is a sequel to Pool of Radiance and the second game in the fabled Gold Box series from SSI.
Based on the book of the same name, you play an adventurer who has been branded with azure coloured bonds (tattoo's) on your arms which are used to control you and compell you to do various misdeeds. Your aim is to remove those bonds and become free.
Unlike the book, you dont play the heroine, Alias with her sidekick Dragonbait. (They do however, cameo later in the game).
Many events in the game parallel those in the book.
It is based on the same game engine as Pool of Radiance but with all the tweaks required to vastly improve game play, such as having your spellcasters automatically learn heal spells to cast on you, instead of you having to manually forgetting your currently learned spell set, learning heal spells, then re-learning your old spell set again, which was in POR, an absolute chore regarding gameplay. And you will need to use this magical 'Fix' command in camp many many times.
Small tweaks to the engine like this made Azure Bonds that much more playable than its predecessor.
There is a nice (limited) amount of side quests you can go on, in order to build up experiance and see other parts of the game (eg: Mulmaster Beholder Corps.)
The combat engine is tweaked, the auto-AI is still pretty poor, but the option to 'Quick' the combat is very useful.
On the graphic side of things, its still EGA but they are a marked improvement over POR. The EGA graphics in POR were very flat looking, Azure Bonds has much more gradiated/shaded colouring.
There is also a much wider variety of monsters and more interesting ones like Drow! Even Drow weaponry and items follows the AD&D rules, of being destroyed in the sun.
Mapping the game is easy (If you look around on the internet, you can find my solution with full and complete ASCII maps) as it is nowhere as complex as say any of the Bards Tale's games.
You can also cheat to an extent by trading characters bewteen Pool of Radiance, Hillsfar and Azure Bonds and back.
The BadI liked the idea behind Pool of Radiance, where you get a list of different quests that are available on the council notice board, but unlike por, Azure Bonds follows a more traditional branch with a set quest, you do however, get the choice of which 'bond' you want to try and remove, but new characters will not survive going straight to the end run.
Being a sequel, and an RPG, this means your stat levels get extended. And its where one of the fundamental problems with the Gold Box series comes into play, by the end of CAB, your characters are far too powerfull! Sure, that doesnt sound bad to you but it imbalances the game, and means all future games have to allow for your powerful characters. (One reason why the next game, Secret of the Silver Blades, knocked your characters back down to ground level)
Music and Sound effects are minimal through out the game, well music is but the effects trudge along. Would be interesting to hear it on a tandy/pcj, if the music used the extra voices or not. But the pc-speaker effects are terrible.