Monday, September 19, 2016

"Pools of Darkness", 1991.

Here we are: The CRPG Addict is coming out of his long moving-induced torpor, and has plunged into the final title in SSI's Increasingly Inaccurately Named Tyranthraxus Trilogy, 1991's Pools of Darkness. It picks up where 1990's Secret of the Silver Blades left off. I wrote about that title some two and a half years ago, while Pools of Darkness came out one year later than SSB did... meaning that it has taken me longer to get around to writing about the sequel... than it took SSI to make it! Here follows the ad blurb text:

The Final Chapter in the greatest AD&D computer fantasy role-playing series ever! First there was POOL OF RADIANCE. Next came CURSE OF THE AZURE BONDS. Then followed SECRET OF THE SILVER BLADES. Together these incredible games have sold more than 600,000 copies so far!

Now, the epic comes full circle -- Pools of Darkness takes you back to the Moonsea area to fight the final battle against the ultimate enemy.

Prepare yourself for the biggest adventure yet! Pools of Darkness propels you into alternate dimensions on an enormous quest. And it boasts a fully evolved version of the award-winning game system used throughout this series.

Transfer your characters from SECRET OF THE SILVER BLADES intact, or create new ones! Either way, you're in for some high-level action! Battle monsters never before encountered. Cast powerful new spells. Achieve character levels well above the 25TH level!

As if this weren't enough, state-of-the-art graphics and crisp digitized sound make this a true masterpiece of the fantasy role-playing art!

The hook, in summary: a) This is the end of the series. b) You may recall the names of the previous games in this series. You know that we sold a pile of them. Here, look at their boxes to refresh your memory. c) The well has run dry, we are revisiting locations. d) This is a larger game than its predecessors. e) "Alternate dimensions"? What we said about revisiting locations -- scratch that. f) "Fully evolved version of the award-winning game system" -- I'm guessing what they mean is that they've removed the crippleware limitations on character levels and high-level abilities that go with them. Certainly they're not implying that the previous games in the series are vestigial and only half-baked... are they? g) Like all previous games in the series, you can import characters. Or create new ones, only a feature to Wizardry players. h) Did we mention that this game is for high-level characters? i) We have removed familiar monsters, boosted their stats and reskinned them. j) We're not skimping on the high-level play. We probably had to write new code for some spell efffects. k) As it is now 1991, we're no longer trying to impress you with the sound and visual quality present at the beginning of this series in 1988, three years prior. Everything has been improved incrementally!

Also: l) There are most likely drow babes in this game. The screenshots suggest that there is also at least one Dragon (Dungeon and Dragon just doesn't sound as impressive... just a gloss for the ZX Spectrum's 3D Monster Maze) and what looks like the body of defeated god of decay Moander. Their copy writers seem a little out of gas -- if all you're allowed to do is compare it to earlier entries, it naturally follows that new products will be a bit better (if not, you're in trouble) ... but to make the comparison without ever being able to acknowledge the predecessors as lacking leaves the breathless prose without a normalized calibration. This game... it's good! It has a sequel now... it's great! The sequel got a sequel now -- it's amazing! And so forth.

I never played this game, though I did read hints for it in the letters section of The Lessers' computer game column in Dragon Magazine. By the time we organized access to this high-level tactical-combat CRPG, we no longer had enough free time at our disposal in which to play it. There's something to be said for adventure games that can be whipped through in a single afternoon if you know what you're doing!

Sorry for the disjointed remarks; I have well fallen out of practice where writing here is concerned. (But you can still find me at Pixel Pompeii often enough, describing textmode art renditions of various topics, more often than not!) Cheers and crawl on! (Dungeon crawl, that is.)