Pool of Radiance

aka: Pool of Radiance: A Forgotten Realms Fantasy Role-Playing Epic, Vol. I
Moby ID: 502
DOS Specs
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Description official descriptions

Located on the northern shore of the Moonsea in Forgotten Realms, Phlan was once a flourishing trade city. However, lately monsters began settling in it, gradually turning whole districts into ruins. Only New Phlan remained under human control, but its inhabitants are afraid to venture into the monster-infested areas. In order to clean the nearby Barren River and rebuild Phlan, local authorities spread rumors about alleged riches hidden somewhere in the city. A party of adventurers, attracted by these news, sails towards Phlan and accepts the quest.

Pool of Radiance is the first adaptation of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons role-playing system in a computer game format. In the beginning of the game the player can use a pre-made party of six characters or create each of them from scratch. Six races (human, elf, dwarf, gnome, halfling, and half-elf) and four classes (fighter, cleric, wizard, and thief) are available. The player can tweak the attributes of the characters and assign a moral alignment to each one.

Exploration of the town and hostile areas (dungeons) is viewed from a first-person perspective in a pseudo-3D world. Enemy encounters are random and take place on separate isometric combat screens, where player-controlled party and enemies take turns fighting each other. Experience points are awarded for defeating enemies, and characters level up after having accumulated set amounts. Fighters gain more attacks, thieves become proficient in backstabbing, while clerics and wizards can memorize more spells to cast before they need to rest. Non-human characters can also "multi-class" (learn the abilities of another class) when leveling up.

The NES version was substantially different from other versions. It removed references to the Adventure's Journal and some of the more complex features of the computer versions, like different currency units. Battles were significantly reduced in size, the graphics were overhauled and redesigned so that the game could be controlled with a control pad, and music was written for it. A randomly generated dungeon feature was also removed.

Spellings

  • プール・オブ・レイディアンス - Japanese spelling
  • 光芒之池 - Chinese spelling (simplified)

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Credits (DOS version)

42 People · View all

Scenario created by TSR, Inc.
Game Created by
  • SSI Special Projects Group
Programmers
Additional Programming
Artists
Additional Art by
Music
Sound Effects
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 78% (based on 24 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 99 ratings with 9 reviews)

Criminally unknown NES gem

The Good
Pool of Radiance offers fantastic, challenging game play. It's one of the best AD&D games, and, along with Baldur's Gate, was instrumental in the development of Western RPGs. With a large number of quests and a large world to explore, you can easily sink many hours into this game, but unlike many Japanese-style RPGs, it never becomes a mindless grind-fest.

Once you clear the Keep, you can take a boat out into the overworld and the game becomes very non-linear. The story progresses through quests assigned to you from City Hall, and many of these are pretty interesting. They usually go well beyond fetch quests and may have multiple ways to complete them.

Dungeons are in 1st person, like Wizardry, must most areas have an Area map (use the Area command) that will make things much easier. In a few tricky areas, you'll need to break out the graph paper. Battles take place in 3rd person on a tile-based board. There's actually considerable strategy to how you fight. Hold spells like Sleep and Hold can be used to swing the battle in your favour.

This version feels more streamlined than its PC counterparts. Battles are smaller and more manageable and the addition of music adds to the experience. The menus and controls have been mapped very well to the NES's controller and you'll hardly know that this was originally a PC game. This is certainly a port done right, taking advantage of the system's strengths and modifying the game to address its weaknesses.

The Bad
There are a few spells that are buggy or don't seem to do anything. Some parts of the game are notoriously difficult until you gain some levels and get more powerful weapons. Since you can save anywhere, this invites the player to save before difficult battles and reset after poor level-ups, getting slain, level-drains, etc.

Randomly generated creature dungeons on the world map were removed in this version due to space constrains. The quest journal, a physical book that came with the PC game and was referred to in the game, was not utilized (though a few parts of the game erroneously refer to it)

The Bottom Line
An excellent Western-style RPG and one of the few on a retro console. This version is more accessible than it's PC counterparts, but missing a few features. If you take the time to understand a few AD&D concepts (such lower = better for many stats), you'll be rewarded with one of the best roleplaying experiences on the NES. On a platform where RPG usually meant "grind-fest" Pool of Radiance really stands out as a unique, one-of-a-kind adventure.

NES · by Scribblemacher (195) · 2012

Great game.

The Good
Well, most everything. The game starts out with you creating a group of adventurers, I don't remember how many you can create, but you can create alot. You then explore in a first person veiw. This veiw has good graphics, for the time. Then you fight, when you find bad guys, from a isemetric veiw. You move around and attack. It works well, even compaired to things like "Balders Gate", mabye even better. Thats basicly all you do. That may not sound like alot, but it is. Theres lots of challenges and things to do.

The Bad
Makeing your figure in battles look the way you want is sorta hard. The use of a code wheel, those things are annoying and this is exactly why.

The Bottom Line
lots of fun. Buy it.

DOS · by Wolfang (155) · 2000

Timeless classic for the hardcore old school RPG gamers

The Good
I remember paying almost 70 dollars for this game when it was released on the C-64 and it was the best recreation of AD&D paper n pen game until Baldur's Gate was released. This game was EXTREMELY difficult, we even had the official clue-book and it was still tough. This game demanded patients and the will to explore vast regions with little success of completely covering every inch of the region.

The game drops you off in Phlan and BAM! You're on your own to go which ever way you want and do what ever you please. Thats what I loved about these SSI goldbox games, they didn't hold your hand while you sucked your thumb through the whole game.... no no no... these games were for people who loved a challenge. If you don't believe me, remember the Sokal Keep battle? like 6 huge waves of Orcs and Kobalds.... that battle alone took me more than an hour and died many times.

This game and all in it's series were extremely faithful to the 2nd AD&D rules which is a huge plus in my book. The graphics and sounds were amazing for what the C-64 was capable of. I wish I could give you an exact amount of gameplay hours this game contained but its just not possible. There is lots you can skip and lots you can't. Leveling up is that of a miracle, it happens only about 7 times if you are a fighter. Which in other words means, THIS GAME IS TOUGH. But when is it not tough when your highest level party member is only 7th level max??

The city of Phlan and all of the regions surrounding it are enormous and leaves players with hours upon hours of exploration time. This is a classic RPG and really the best SSI goldbox AD&D game ever created. Only until Baldur's Gate was there a game that compared in my opinion.


The Bad
I think any complaint I had about this game was more of a complaint about the C-64's performance than the game itself. Loading time, disk swapping etc.... all of which aren't the game designers fault rather the fault lies on the technology at the time. This was greatly improved with the release of the IBM AT/XT version (DOS version)

The Bottom Line
Timeless RPG classic for hardcore RPG gamers. If you're a real classic AD&D RPG fan, you HAVE to play this. This game in itself IS FLAWLESS. 3 thumbs up if I had an extra one.

Commodore 64 · by OlSkool_Gamer (88) · 2004

[ View all 9 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
Are you sure there's a PC-88 version of this game? RetroArchives.fr (709) Jan 26, 2022
CCS64 loading Ossie1972 Jul 20, 2010
Manual? SharkD (425) Feb 23, 2010

Trivia

Adaption

This was the first Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) game ever created by the software developer Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI). AD&D was originally a popular fantasy role playing game system developed by a company called TSR, Inc.. SSI adapted this role playing system to the PC in 1988. Pool of Radiance was also first of the many AD&D games to follow that are set within the Forgotten Realms. The game was so successful that it caused TSR to write a novel based on the story in the book.

In the same year, SSI released two more of these newly developed AD&D PC games: Heroes of the Lance and Dungeon Masters Assistant Volume 1: Encounters.

Copy protection

This game used 2 forms of copy protection: Code Wheel lookup at start-up and a Journal to read important text passages.

Cover art

The game box's cover features a painting by artist Clyde Caldwell, also used as the front cover to the 1989 novel of the same name as well as to the 1988 RPG module "Ruins of Adventure" inspiring both.

Monster portraits

Many of the monster illustrations of the Macintosh version can be found in one of the AD&D 2nd edition accessories, the Monstrous Compendium Volume One.

Other ports

An Atari ST conversion was advertised, but is generally considered vaporware, the strongest indication probably being the lack of an import option of Pool of Radiance characters in the sequel (Curse of the Azure Bonds) which the other versions offer.

A port for the Apple IIGS was also advertised, solid evidence that it was released has yet to emerge.

Awards

  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 12/1999 - #49 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking

Information also contributed by Indra was here, Pseudo_Intellectual, William Muir and Yakumo .

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Tony Van.

PC-88 added by Trypticon. Amiga, Commodore 64 added by Rebound Boy. Macintosh added by Andy Voss. Apple II, PC-98 added by Terok Nor. Sharp X1, NES added by Unicorn Lynx.

Additional contributors: Unicorn Lynx, Indra was here, Jeanne, Trypticon, Patrick Bregger, Rik Hideto, ZeTomes.

Game added December 1, 1999. Last modified April 2, 2024.