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POOL OF RADIANCE: THE RUINS OF MYTH DRANNOR

AN UNSPEAKABLE, ANCIENT EVIL HAS REAWAKENED, RENDERING EVERYTHING IT TOUCHES UNDEAD

Malevolence is afoot in the Forgotten Realms world. Something horrific has re-appeared. A new Pool of Radiance has been discovered beneath the city of New Phlan. A wave of pure evil now emanates from the Pool of Radiance, cursing all it touches. Swept up by the mystery and enlisted by the good wizard Edminster, your party is charged with a quest: find out what is behind this vile resurgence and put a stop to it. But be warned, brave hero, for the source of this evil lies in the ruined Elven City of Myth Drannor, one of the most mysterious and dangerous places in the Forgotten Realms.

Encounter enemies never before seen in the Forgotten Realms. Unique multiplayer game featuring Random Dungeons. Huge 3D animated characters and monsters.
  • Features the latest Dungeons & Dragons Rules.
  • Includes over 90 spells plus new D&D monsters and items.
  • Multiplay and Single-play dungeons.
  • Characters can rise to 16th level of experience and cast 8th level spells.
  • Timed-Action Combat system and non-linear quests.
~ from the back of the box

I still have my receipt for the big-box collector’s edition of Pool of Radiance:  Ruins of Myth Drannor. I was working for the famous UK entertainment store HMV over Christmas and found it hidden under a shelf in the storage cupboard. It was like discovering the Ark of the Covenant – big box PC games were long since phased out in the UK, and as no second-hand shop dared to trade them, finding them second hand was even more difficult. I would pay £2.99 plus my now-unheard-of 30% staff discount to take it home with me on the last day of 2004. By then it was already a few years old having first released in the November of 2001, but this Dungeons & Dragons RPG was right up my alley. Plus it was cheap and included three “collectible items”;  a mouse mat that looked nice but remains superfluous , a complete yet disappointingly small map of the game’s overworld, and an Orc Berserker metal-cast figure from the D&D-branded Chainmail miniatures game. Consider me excited.

I never did play that miniatures game but when I got home from my shift I immediately put the disc in my PC and installed it. I got so engrossed with the game I almost missed the New Year’s celebrations later that evening.  It would be years later when I read up on the game, surprised by the mediocre reviews it received. To this day I can’t understand why, with my only theory being that the deep lore and complex gameplay found in Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale was still a recent memory in 2001. It admit that for the most part, it does hold up unfavourably to those classics but the two are very different beasts. There's a lot that Pool of Radiance does right and - in my humble opinion - does better.

Character creation is very familiar to D&D veterans. Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Half-Orcs
and Half-Elves can all be assigned one of these 8 classes (left) and their own character model (right).

Let’s begin with the bad stuff first. If you’re expecting a deep, branching story, you’ll have to look elsewhere.  Set within the Forgotten Realms, it’s a pseudo sequel to the first ever game to adapt the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules; SSI’s Gold Box classic Pool of Radiance from 1988. This stand-alone adventure sees your adventuring party of four is tasked to hunt down and close off a new Pool of Radiance that’s spouting pure evil into the lands. Rumour has it that it’s located in the ruined underground Elven city of Myth Drannor, and it’s in this mono-chromatic labyrinth where you’ll spend most of the game. There’s isn’t really much in the way of side quests, no interesting character developments and zero room for any spontaneity. Despite the two massive maps that make up the overworld landscape and the underground ruins, it is rather linear.

What’s worse is a PC-breaking glitch in the original release. The original install program would remove important system files when uninstalling the game. In retrospect, it answers a lot of my undiagnosed PC problems back then where I should’ve noticed the correlation between playing this game and having to re-install Windows, but hindsight is 20-20. Thankfully, with my custom installer replacing the original one, it’s no longer an issue.

Now that’s over, let’s move on to the good. More than any other Dungeons & Dragons game I’ve played Pool of Radiance adheres closer to the core mechanics of the table-top game. Ok, so character improv isn’t exactly doable, but the battle, spell and character creation mechanics work in a similar way. You have six races to choose from, and eight character classes should you choose to create your own party members. Alternatively, six pre-prepared adventurers can also be chosen. Either way, it’ll be familiar to any D&D player, even if this one is directly based on the 3rd Edition’s ruleset.

If the tent icon glows green, you can safely rest, healing to full health and replenishing spell slots (left).
Features such as wells and barrels will often contain heals or stat boosts... and also traps (right).

I can only really compare it to the 5th Edition, but the turn-based nature of combat is much more in keeping with how the table-top plays than the automated real-time management of Baldur’s Gate. Think classic Final Fantasy with a plethora of combat options listed in a menu. Here, the turn order is displayed as coloured gemstones on the top left, and when it’s one of your characters go, time is paused so you can assess the situation (though the amount of paused time you have can be altered in the settings). If you have the speed to move, the cursor will change to the move icon. If you want to use an action to run, it will change to run. If you can do another action after you move, a blue plus symbol will be added. If you are close enough to attack with your melee weapon, the cursor will change to show this when hovering over an enemy. The same goes for ranged weapons.

But combat is not always about weapons. If you right-click on your player character a whole host of options will appear in a drop-down menu. From here, you can select combat actions like defend or delay, use an item such as a healing potion or cast a spell. Cantrips are free, but at the early levels few of them are attack. Numbered spells are limited to spell slots, refilling when you take a rest in a safe area. This system is also used outside of combat to interact with the environment. For example, the thief can look for traps or pick locks in this way. You even get some precious experience for doing it too. My only gripe is that there’s not in-game description of what everything does, requiring you to keep the hefty manual to hand. Even my not-inconsiderable knowledge of the current edition couldn’t give me the knowledge of everything on offer.

You can store notes anywhere on the map. This is useful to log NPCs, shops and safe zones (left).
Even though you saved his life, anything decent in the shops cost an arm and a leg (right).

Even if you have all of that knowledge stored in your brain, combat is still no cakewalk. Whether your attack hits or misses is determined by the random roll of a dice for both and your opponents. A single hit from a deceptively strong ogre can down you in one swing of an axe, while an entire party can pummel him without a hit. As such, the difficulty curve swings violently, particularly when at your weakest at the start of the game. It takes a long time to level up with my party barely seeing level 3 after five hours of play. If one of your party falls, they are knocked out and could die outright if not stabilised. All it takes is a long rest to heal a stabilised ally, but rare and special reviving magic must be hunted down to bring a dead one back to life. This is so rare it’s as good as permadeath. Thankfully, the game allows you to save anywhere at any time, and I recommend using this feature often. There is an autosave whenever you enter a new area, but the areas are so huge it’s best not to rely on it.

Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor is at one the least and most faithful adaptation of Dungeons & Dragons when it was release. The sense of adventure isn’t quite there, even with minimal voice acting and text boxes that act as the Dungeon Master. It lacks a variety of locations, yet the graphics and presentation are pleasing and inviting – perhaps more so than BioWare’s more revered offerings. Everything else plays just how you’d expect if you’ve ever played the game it’s based on and that is no bad thing. UbiSoft’s take on D&D is a realm that shouldn’t be forgotten.


To download the PC game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses dgVoodoo to run on modern systems. Manual, Map and Strategy Guide included. Read the ChamberNotes.txt for more detailed information. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 962 Mb.  Install Size: 1.22 Gb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download


Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor is © UbiSoft Entertainment
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me


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12 comments:

  1. Will this version delete system files like some of the earlier version of the game did back in the 2000s?

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    1. Never mind, I didn't read the Chambernotes. On another note, I would DIE to have Descent to Undermountain given your installer treatment. One of the harder games to run!

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    2. The delete system file bug happens with the original game's installer/uninstaller program. As I use a different one, it's not really an issue. The game itself is updated to the latest official patch though.

      I was thinking of choosing Descent to Undermountain, but I've played Pools of Radiance before so I thought it would require less effort to review. Erroneously it seems :/

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    3. Any game in the unreleased back catalogue of D&D is appreciated, nevertheless! :)

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    4. I concur! These games are a time sink, though. I'm working on finishing the review today.

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  2. Aha, *PoolS* of Radiance, not *Pool* of Radiance. One letter makes all the difference!

    Thanks for this one Biffster, will definitely be checking it out. Sounds more like an Icewind Dale-esque dungeon crawler, but those can be very fun with the D&D ruleset. In single player games, mind you - combat is the part of tabletop D&D sessions I dread most. I think the much-maligned 4th edition was the only ruleset that genuinely gave players enough options to make these encounters fun. Even 5th edition was a step back I feel, despite being much better in most other aspects.

    But when you can eliminate the down time between turns, spare players the DM's increasingly strained descriptions of an arrow missing an Orc for the umpteenth round, and put ALL of the party in one set of hands, combats become so much more interesting, crunchy and tactical that you'd barely believe you were playing the same game. (Which is why Bioware's regression to 1 PC and an NPC companion was such a misstep in my opinion). The infinity engine really showed how this system can shine and I'll be intrigued to see how Pools compares with its turn-based and (I'm guessing?) 3rd edition spin on the formula.

    Thanks again for all you do!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! The fact that the Pools of Darkness D&D game also exists will always confuse me in thinking there are multiple pools of radiance :/

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  3. I remember that game, some dungeons were really big and map didn't help much, had to use GameBanshee (is it still alive? Isn't that site going to be closed?).
    Gameplay loop was nice in short sitting, but getting to the finale took a long, long time that felt like eternity. It was one of those game that feels like ~100h long journey yet have like 1/3 of that time on howlongtobeat... that game and Dungeon Siege gave me that feeling.
    I was unable to get the best weapon in the game because that one particular room (with the ultimate weapon) crashed the game.
    How ironic that a game set in such massive dungeon, filled with rooms (mostly fillers or empty to make it big for the sake of being big) and only one, most important room near the end of the game was inaccessible...

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    Replies
    1. There were a lot of bugs with this game. I didn't quite have the hundred hours free to reach the room you talked of, but I believe the lastest official patch (which has been applied) may have fixed that issue.

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  4. Pool of Radiance did not seem to work on my PC when I installed it. The cursor froze at the menu screen and could not be moved. I use Windows 10.

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  5. After unpacking the download linked from here and installing the game, I was able to start and play the game on my desktop computer with Windows 10. Thank you for making this game available and viable for modern PC players!

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  6. the game run but i got messed font in buttons, any idea someone? Thanks

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