Pools of Darkness

Moby ID: 505
DOS Specs

Description official description

Ten years have passed since the events described in Pool of Radiance, and the heroes return to the city where it all started, Phlan. The city is thriving, and looks quite idyllic; but a sinister force is lurking deep in the shadows... After the heroes leave to escort the council member Sasha on a diplomatic assignment, the evil Lord Bane sends four of his most feared lieutenants to destroy the cities of Faerun and twist our dimension. The goal is clear: explore the land and rid it of the evil, by taking on Bane's minions one by one...

Pools of Darkness is the fourth of Gold Box series of classic-style D&D / AD&D role-playing games. The gameplay is quite similar to other games of this type. At the start of the game, the player creates a party of characters (up to 6). Classic AD&D races (dwarf, elf, half-elf, gnome, etc.), character classes (fighter, paladin, monk, wizard, etc.), alignments (Good/Evil and Lawful/Chaotic axis), and statistics (strength, intelligence, wisdom, etc.) are there for the player to choose and adjust. Once the party is created, the player begins the exploration of the city of Phlan. Upon exiting the city, the player explores a top-down map, visiting dungeons and other locations of interest, as well as engaging in combat.

The turn-based combat is done in similar style as other Gold Box games: the player navigates characters one by one on the top-down battle field, assigning various commands. Experience points are gained after successfully defeating enemies. Enemies appear randomly on the world map as well as in dungeons.

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Reviews

Critics

Average score: 75% (based on 15 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 26 ratings with 2 reviews)

No doubt the BEST gold box game by SSI / AD&D and a worthy final to the Pool of Radiance storyline

The Good
The epic starting with Pool of Radiance, continuing through Curse of the Azure Bonds and Secret of the Silver Blades, finally got a worthy final. The graphics are majorly improved, as are a few other features we all know and love from the gold box games: now your character name is highlighted when he's ready to level, etc. Also, the story is completely non-linear, very intriguing and challenging. Your characters wander around the Moonsea, from Phlan to Zhentil Keep to Myth Drannor and back into other planes to meet and oppose deities (Lloth, Moander, Bane). You get to meet famous NPC's (Elminster from the Forgotten Realms RPG as well as old faces from the previous games), you fight Dragons, Demons and Devils, and you - of course - save the world. Simply awesome.

The Bad
Well, if you like gold box games there's nothing not to like, although many RPG'ers dislike gold box games and prefer the Ultima's, Might & Magic's or Wizardry's. Also, this game sticks very closely to AD&D rules - which, at this high levels, means that non-humans are ridiculously underpowered due to level limitations.

Another thing is that on modern machines combat is much too fast for you to see details. Moslo doesn't help here, interestingly enough, as it only slows down the intro. This is weird because Moslo DOES help out in Pool's predecessor, Secret of the Silver Blades. Anyone else have this problem and/or know why that is? I'd love to replay the game with proper combat speed.

The Bottom Line
If you've enjoyed the whole story arc starting at Pool of Radiance, you'll simply LOVE Pools of Darkness - the best of the lot.

DOS · by Gothicgene (66) · 2001

Pool of Radiance Revisited

The Good
Like the starter of the series, Pools of Darkness features a non-linear plot that allows for wide latitude in approaching the game. Whereas in Pool of Radiance you operated withing the environs of Phlan, here you campaign around the whole Moonsea region. The plot itself (Bane making an all out attempt to dominate the region) allows for a wild array of creatures to fight - giants, dragons, undead, drow, demons, rakshasha and so forth. The game offers lots of battles and quite a few challenge the best parties.

This game also has the characters journeying to other dimenisions to fight Bane's lieutenants. This can be fun as it offers new terrain, experience, and more bizzare creatures. One of the dimenisons is in fact the body of the fallen god Moandar - and you get to move and fight around his body and in it. This is without doubt one of the freakier gold box games.

The Bad
The above mentioned journeys to other dimensions are in part a poorly desguised attempt at leveling. When you travel to these places, you have to leave all your magical gear behind as the winds of limbo will probably destroy them. This means you land in a new land with nothing but memorized spells for protection. Usually you can find some new gear fairly easily, but in effect your party is underpowered while in the alternate deminsions, but you have to go there to win the game. I do not mind play balance, but this seemed like a last minute thought.

More importantly it exposes a crucial flaw that is common with all the gold box games. The characters seem to be nothing more than platforms for cool magical gear, weapons, and spells. Remove the +3 plate mail and +4 sword from your fighter and he is worthless in combat - no matter how strong! The only other important features seem to be the character's armor class and to hit stat.

Thus your characters have no real personality. Even alignment has no real effect in the game, which I thought was a shame. One of the plot devices of this game is that the various evil leaders you fight do not like each other. They often will offer money to the party to kill a rival, and then try to kill you later no matter what you did. This should have been changed into a possible plotline for an evil party, but you cannot play it out that way. You have to win by killing all four of Bane's lieutenants and their subordinates no matter your alignment.

The Bottom Line
This is good hack-n-slash with some added dimensional travel, but no much else.

DOS · by Apparatchik (16) · 2005

Trivia

Copy protection

This game used two forms of copy protection: Manual keyword lookup at start-up and a printed journal to read important text passages.

Cover art

The cover art for the game is adapted from a painting titled Queen of the Spiders by Keith Parkinson. The same artwork was used as cover art for the 1986 AD&D adventure module by the same name.

Novel

Like its predecessor Pool of Radiance, this game also has a book from TSR based on the same story.

Awards

  • Power Play
    • Issue 02/1993 – #3 Best RPG in 1992

Information also contributed by Yakumo

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Tony Van.

Amiga added by Rebound Boy. Macintosh added by Andy Voss. PC-98 added by Terok Nor.

Additional contributors: Timo Takalo, Patrick Bregger.

Game added December 1, 1999. Last modified May 9, 2024.