Monday, October 17, 2016

Pools of Darkness: Summary and Rating

The implications of requiring a hard drive didn't occur to me until now. This must have been a tragedy for C64 owners who'd enjoyed the previous three games.
  
Pools of Darkness
United States
Strategic Simulations, Inc. (developer and publisher)
Released in 1991 for DOS, 1992 for Amiga and Macintosh, 1993 for PC-98
Date Started: 18 September 2016
Date Ended: 7 October 2016
Total Hours: 68
Difficulty: Hard (4/5)
Final Rating: 52
Ranking at Time of Posting: 211/228 (93%)

I feel like we've reached the end of something. Pools of Darkness is not the last Gold Box game, but it's the last of the original series--the last time we'll see Phlan and the Moonsea region. Names like Corymr and Hillsfar and Zhentil Keep won't appear again in CRPGs in our lifetime, unless I'm mistaken. (We will, of course, encounter Myth Drannor again, but that's better forgotten for now.)

Reflecting on the entire series, Secret of the Silver Blades seems the least "necessary" of the four; the appearance of Priam aside, there are the fewest plot ties to the other titles. It was important for character development and inventory (more on that below), but the cycle really could have been a trilogy. Between Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, and Pools of Darkness, each title opens up more explorable area of the Moonsea and adds more to the "Banite" plot. I might even recommend that modern players approach it that way. You don't lose that much in the way of experience and character development; you'd hit encounters like the Cult of Moander, Myth Drannor, and Mulmaster while their prior references are fresh in your mind; and inventory acquisition in Pools would be much more meaningful.
   
Pools of Radiance let's you explore basically the northwest quadrant; Curse of the Azure Bonds takes place across most of the western half; this game doubles the map to the east.
   
In an earlier post, I suggested that Pools might be the Gold Box game that finally surpasses Pool of Radiance in the GIMLET. I no longer think so. The primary problem with Pools is the lack of meaningful character development. In the first 10 levels of a first edition AD&D game, spellcasters learn most of the most valuable spells, fighters become notably more powerful and get a second attack, and clerics learn to turn just about every type of undead. The next 30 levels are boring by comparison. Sure, spellcasters get more and more slots and a few extra spell levels, but not enough to make a serious difference. In Pools of Radiance, each map might only have 3 or 4 safe resting spots, so you have to conserve spells in between and use every resource you have. In Pools of Darkness, each map has those same 3 or 4 resting spots, but this time you can't possibly cast even all of your "Delayed Blast Fireballs," let alone all your spells, before you have a chance to rest again.

Similarly, you gain very little in inventory development in Pools. I started the game with several +5 weapons and armor, but I think the highest I found in Pools was +4. For the most part, my characters ended the game with the same equipment they started with, excepting Vorpal Blades, Girdles of Giant Strength, and Boots of Speed, most of these items not appearing until the end of the final map.

Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I also think that this is the last time we'll see characters of this experience level in a D&D game. I think I got into the 20s in Throne of Bhaal, maybe around the same in all the expansions of Neverwinter Nights. Of course, in those games, high-leveled characters have a lot more to work with--feats and skills that don't exist in first edition AD&D--making them arguably more powerful. It's frankly bizarre that the game lets you get so high. Pool of Radiance is meant for Level 1-8 characers; Curse of the Azure Bonds caps out around Level 12; and Secret of the Silver Blades stops you at 15. If Pools of Darkness had ended at Level 20-22, it would have been enough to get into the highest spell levels but not so high as to create staggeringly overpowered characters. I guess the greater length required more levels.

I happened to watch Captain America: Civil War on a plane last night, and I began to think of parallels between the Avengers and my Pools of Darkness party. I thought about how eager everyone was to see us to a ship and send us to parts unknown. The game presents it as if it's some kind of reward, but in reality it seems like exile. But then again, what do you do with a bunch of Level 40 characters running around? My mages could level the city. Two of my fighters could defeat a phalanx of city guards. There are no Sokovia Accords in the Forgotten Realms. And my 6 characters aren't even all good by alignment (though none are evil). Perhaps it really was time for this group to retire.

This is particularly true when you consider that the party and its strength, in effect, caused the core crisis of the game. From the opening animations, it's clear that Bane is wreaking havoc on the Moonsea region specifically to punish the party for its previous successes. Like the Avengers with Ultron, we created our own enemy, and the world is paying the price. I'm not really fond of plots like this, where the world doesn't gain any net benefit and the heroes simply deal with a problem that they created.
    
Just a thought: maybe the powers of good should have stepped in now.
    
I always like checking out the unused journal entries when I've completed a Gold Box game. There won't be many more of these. I counted 20 unused entries, but some of them might just have been entries that I didn't find. A couple were just nonsense tavern tales--one of them warning the party not to go through the "magical gates" because they deplete strength. Others hint at enemies that never show up--The Frostmaiden, the Red One, and some mysterious "rider in red." There's one fake entry that has Bane himself talking to the party, saying that the party is wasting its time defeating the lieutenants when in fact a "rider in red with a sword of flame" is the real enemy. Another tells the party to "seek out the Flaming Sword" to defeat Bane. Less obvious misleading stuff than in some of the earlier titles; there was probably a sense even among the "fake" journal entry authors that the journal's time was coming to an end.

Let's see how she rates:

1. Game World. In my final rating on Curse of the Azure Bonds, I discussed my basic problem with the Forgotten Realms, amounting to there not being any "there" there. For the era, the Moonsea is a reasonably well-defined place, with a variety of factions and each area steeped in lore. I liked all the call-backs to previous games and the ability to re-visit some memorable areas. On the other hand, as I note above, I didn't really care for the overall plot, particularly the end. Score: 6.

2. Character Creation and Development. Nothing new added in this installment except higher levels, which (as above) is a lot less rewarding than advancing in lower ones. Even dual-classing doesn't add much here because you get to Level 10 in the space of half a map. The title otherwise has the general A&D and Gold Box strengths, although the level caps for non-human races become completely unworkable here. Pools seems to offer fewer encounters in which character race, sex, or class actually matters; the optional Dave's Challenge is the only place I can think of. Score: 6.
     
An end-of-game character sheet.
    
3. NPC Interaction. There are some memorable NPCs--Nacacia, Shal, and Sasha stand out as "characters" more than any previous Gold Box denizens. I like the way that so many different NPCs can join you briefly for mini-quests and play out their own stories. On the other hand, the series refuses to advance at all when it comes to NPC dialogue and role-playing options. Score: 5.
    
The last we'll see of Sasha.
    
4. Encounters and Foes. Again, we must reflect that the Gold Box series, in using the AD&D monster manual, is giving us a much greater variety of foes than just about any other title of the era. Practically every encounter is a mid-term exam that requires player to recall the strengths, weaknesses, and special attacks of the foes. (And as we saw, I often forgot some of them despite my experience with the titles.) There are a few original, high-level foes created just for this game. Many battles are preceded by some contextual text, which I always like. You can grind as much as you want. Oh, I found some of the enemies annoying, but really that's a minor complaint when you consider the breadth and depth of what's programmed here.

I'm sure the game has more monster types than any of its predecessors. The manual describes 40 monsters, the same as Secret of the Silver Blades, but it's missing a bunch, including 4 different types of vampires, wights, wraiths, all of the human enemies, and many of the animal enemies you fight outdoors and in Mulmaster at the end. This is the first time that I've noticed that the manual doesn't exhaustively catalogue every enemy in the game--did I just not check in previous titles? 
   
A fitting pre-combat message.
   
On the other hand, the series still hasn't managed to out-perform Pool of Radiance when it comes to non-combat encounters. When I think of true "role-playing" in the Gold Box series, I think of maps like the Zhentil outpost, the buccaneer base, or the lizard man village in the original game, where you could play the entire series of encounters in different ways depending on your preferred approach. I think of the final battle, where you can have your evil party members join Tyranthraxus. A handful of encounter options with gate guards and whatnot don't rise to that level of roleplaying. Score: 7.

5. Magic and Combat. In general, all of the strengths and weakness of the previous titles. I honestly love the Gold Box combat system, and I don't think I'll ever tire of it, but that doesn't mean I didn't tire of many of the battles. We've already talked in this series about how overpowered "Delayed Blast Fireball" is--and how it's almost impossible to force yourself not to use it regardless. 

As many commenters have pointed out, combat in Pools of Darkness amounts largely to a "quick-draw" in which you have to hope you can blast a group of enemies with magic attacks before they blast you. Either way, combat is usually over within a few rounds. I miss the longer, grander battles of the early games in which making use of terrain, holding a line, concentrating physical attacks, exhausting all your spell options, and healing in battle really made a difference. (You could argue that the Moander battles meet these criteria, but the game ruins that by offering too many of them.)

One thing that I constantly wished for is the ability to revive unconscious characters and to cast "Resurrection" and "Stone to Flesh" in combat. That would have turned a lot of hopeless combats into real tactical challenges. I guess canonical spellcasting times would have made this impossible under AD&D rules.

All that said, the game is still significantly ahead of anything else in the era when it comes to the tactical nature of combat and spells in particular. Few other titles, before or after, can match Pools of Darkness in the variety, logistics, and utility of so many spells. For that alone, it deserves a high score, and nothing is going to surpass it until we get to an era of better enemy AI overall. Score: 7.
    
My party in the thick of the final battles.
    
6. Equipment. The equipment system in general remains quite good in the Gold Box titles, and I appreciate the addition of helms to this outing. Melee weapons, missile weapons, ammunition, armor, rings, helms, boots, gauntlets, girdles all add to character development, and wands, potions, scrolls, and a few special items add to combat tactics. That said, this game offered fewer honest rewards than any of the previous Gold Box titles. I ended the game mostly equipped with the same items that I had at the end of Secret of the Silver Blades, which offered several +5 items, compared to what seemed to be a +4 cap in Pools. Making me wait until the last area of the last map to get a couple extra Boots of Speed and Girdles of Giant's Strength was a particular slap in the face. Score: 5.
    
My thief's inventory at the end of the game.
   
7. Economy. I offered a double guest post on how much it "sucks," and I think that pretty well covers it. You only need to buy a few items (mostly Elixirs of Youth) in the game, and the developers could have saved everyone a lot of time by just making everything free. Score: 1.
8. Quests. Decent main quest. No opportunities for role-playing or alternate outcomes, but more than any previous title, we see a lot of optional areas and side quests. In fact, in general these side quests were better than the main plot. I particularly liked Myth Drannor and Dark Phlan, and it was fun to clear up little "pockets of evil" in between the marked places on the map. Score: 6.

9. Graphics, Sound, and Interface. The interface remains fantastic--supporting very intuitive keyboard, mouse, and joystick inputs. It's a model for others to follow. The graphics are getting dated. Although many of the cut scenes are well-composed and animated, the blank hallways and empty rooms are getting less defensible. The sound is probably the worst part of the game. Amidst a bunch of mediocre sound effects are a few that are so grating (the Wilhelm scream that accompanies the death of every enemy is the primary example) that I had to play most of the game with the sound off. Score: 5.
 
I didn't take many screenshots of blank corridors even though they make up 80% of the game. This is supposed to be Gothmenes' "palace," and the text has to tell me that there's a pool in front of me.
    
10. Gameplay. We had a little argument in my first post about whether the game is "linear." I maintain that it at least presents itself in a linear manner, meaning that you start in the northeast, end in the southeast, and there's an obvious sequence to your exploration by going counter-clockwise around the Moonsea. If you do that, you'll hit the main plot points in a sensible order (running right to the Moander dimension would be suicide, for example). I know that the game supports different orders, and indeed you can get quests from both underground Phlan and Arcam's tower if you don't approach things that way, but that doesn't change what 90% of players are going to do on a blind first run.

Still, given that there are some alternate dialogues and encounters to be found if you do things in a different order, that makes the game slightly replayable.

For difficulty, I rated it an average of "hard" above, which I don't mind, but what matters more than the average is the variance--and that, unfortunately, is quite significant. Deliberately nerfing characters by making them abandon their best equipment just before the hardest battles, and then removing spells--a huge part of the game--for the final battle are both a little hard to swallow. In general, the pacing is good, though I think it clocks in a little on the long side. Score: 4.

That give us a final rating of 52, not anywhere near the 65 I gave to Pool of Radiance, which I rated for a better story, better character development, better non-combat encounters, and a better (though still bad) economy. But it outperforms Secret of the Silver Blades (50) and puts the title in my top 10%. More important, it ends the overall series with honor. It's not a perfect game, but it's epic and ambitious and a worthy bearer of the Gold Box label.
    
This Drow woman featured prominently on the box cover and game ads doesn't actually appear in the game, unless she's one of the random Drow mooks in Kalistes' realm.
    
My review aligns fairly well with Scorpia's December 1991 Computer Gaming World review. She disliked having to give up equipment at Limbo--calls it "idiocy," as a matter of fact--and has a lot of venom for the end of the game:
   
[Your party has] just finished a task whose proportions are almost immesurable, turning back, virtually single-handed, powers of darkness and defeating what is nothing less than a demi-god. What's the reward? Nothing. That's right, nothing... No cheering crowds, no banquets, no speeches not even a thank you. After all they've been through, there is nothing for your party to do except slip out quietly by ship, either for retirement or Dave's Challenge. What a downer!
   
But aside from these flaws, she calls the title "otherwise the best in the Gold Box line to date." She loved the Moander portion.
    
I'm still a little confused as to why we're just leaving.
    
Dragon gave it 5 stars on its usual scale of 5-5.

Amiga magazines, which always seem to favor graphics and sound over good RPG gameplay, were generally less charitable, offering scores in the 50s-80s (out of 100) on average. The worst comes from our old friends at Amiga Power (whose criminally incompetent review of Secret of the Silver Blades I covered in my final posting on that game). The reviewer, Dave Golder (a different one than the Secret reviewer) gave it 22/100. Among his complaints are a "plot so thin it makes Lena Zavaroni look like Mike McShane." This is a cringe-worthy simile, given that Ms. Zavaroni suffered from anorexia all her adult life and died in 1999, in part because of the disease. But it's also cringe-worthy because he clearly didn't play the game long enough to grasp the plot--he believes that it is "Lord Blane" (not kidding) who is jumping around using the Pools of Darkness. He complains about the speed of combat messages, apparently not bothering to note that you can slow it down, and the "sub-menus" of the interface. This is clearly someone who never played anything that wasn't an easily-controlled, first-person blobber (he praises Eye of the Beholder in the same review).

But the most mysterious comments are at the end: when you meet NPCs, he says, "you can't actually engage in a proper conversation with them, which goes completely against the spirit of role playing." I mean....okay, I guess I can't disagree, but what games was he playing in 1992 where you can have strong role-playing conversations with NPCs? I sure haven't run into them yet.

Despite Amiga Power's hope that this would be the last of the series, of course we still have Neverwinter Nights (1991), The Dark Queen of Krynn (1992), Treasures of the Savage Frontier (1992), and some Unlimited Adventures modules (1993) to check out. I'm sure I'll have a huge Gold Box retrospective some time next year, but for now, I'm sorry to be leaving the Moonsea for the last time. We had some unforgettable times in the Forgotten Realms. 


135 comments:

  1. There's also the second Buck Rogers and the Spelljammer game in 1992 according to the Gold Box series's Wikipedia page, though I suppose they're a bit more on the peripheral. I'm intensely curious about Spelljammer, as one of the more bizarre D&D campaign settings. Really, that whole period between 92-96 when every off-beat D&D campaign setting was getting their own adaptation(s): Spelljammer, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, Al-Qadim, Birthright, etc.

    Anyway, that score definitely seems in line with your reactions as you were playing. It definitely had to try a few curveballs to stump a party of effective demigods.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always wanted to play Spelljammer back then, but I also have vague memories of it being (reportedly) riddled with bugs and plagued by a shortened development circle overall.
      Ravenloft: Stone Prophet is an underrated, almost unknown gem. Btw, Desintegrate is a super powerful spell there. Interesting how differently rules were adapted (though SP was 2E I think).

      Delete
    2. I'm looking forward to the Addict hitting the Dark Sun games.

      I remember seeing Spelljammer advertised in one of SSI's catalogs they packaged with their games. As a clueless kid I thought it was the most awesome thing ever, but my parents were confused and bought me SSI's Stronghold instead...a much more fortunate outcome.

      I don't think the Mystara setting got a genuine PC RPG. Fantasy Empires took place on Mystara, but that was action/strategy and the two coin-op Mystara games were understandably arcade beat'em ups.

      Delete
    3. Spelljammer was oddly fun, but some of the boarding combats were brutal and most of them took too long. It also, IIRC, suffers from a really odd difficulty curve. It doesn't really fall into the Gold Box category in a number of respects.

      Delete
    4. Regarding Mystara, there actually was a Gold Box type game made in that setting, but it was released exclusively for the TurboGrafx-16 of all systems:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeons_%26_Dragons:_Order_of_the_Griffon

      Not really in the Addict's purview as a console game, but maybe worth a one-off just to gawk at its oddness. (And I'm now learning it had a Genesis sequel, set in the Hollow World. Strange.)

      Delete
    5. That would be Warriors of the Eternal Sun. Take the same visuals as the second Ultima trilogy, but give it a turn-based battle system that is more tactical (much like the Gold Box games, but dumbed down slightly). A secret CRPG in a sea of JRPGs.

      Delete
    6. Ah, Warriors of the Eternal Sun was the sequel I think? I had that on the Genesis (or Megadrive as it was in the UK). I remember it being very enjoyable - but that was before Baldur's Gate came along and changed everything...

      Delete
    7. Haha I remember Spelljammer. It was very odd and oh so slow. It ran like molasses on my PC of the time and combats were usually HUGE. I recall it having lots of glitches and crashes as well.

      Delete
  2. Quick correction:
    "My review aligns fairly well with Scorpia's December 1981 Computer Gaming World review."
    1981 -> 1991

    ReplyDelete
  3. A very well-written and on point review. I congratulate you on finishing the Pool 4 part quest. I would only argue that players play: Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds and then Secret of the Silver Blades and ignore Pools of Darkness. In the end, it might have been better if in Pools of Darkness they made up another lame reason for you to start without the saved equipment, rather than having to leave it in a vault when most needed it.

    Dark Queen of Krynn can go into high levels too. My current party is in fact now grinding near Kristophan. For reasons of avoiding spoiling, I found less of "the first to cast a spell wins" battle that you found in Pools of Darkness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On the subject of high levels, Mask of the Betrayer starts your character at level 18 and is capped at level 30.

      Delete
    2. Mask of the Betrayer is the best! The start is a bit lame, but the unfolding story is great and the NPCs are really epic.
      I really like all of NWN :-)

      Delete
    3. Many people hate it for the Hunger Bar which was depleting in real time.

      I thought is was extremely easy to manage though.

      If you're evil; there's plenty of "food" to be had.

      If you're good; you can control your hunger to such an extent that you won't feel any ill effects at all.

      I guess the problem arises only if you're trying to tightrope-walk the thin Neutral line.

      Delete
    4. Only thing I hated about NWN II was the buggy indoor camera that obviously got stuck in wall geometry which in turn made indoor maps very annoying to play.

      Delete
  4. I've only played PoR and CotAB, and I'm not too inclined to play the rest. For those that have played all of them, do you think we'd have ended up with better games if they hadn't been committed to letting players transfer their parties from game to game, building to higher and higher levels?

    Having never used the party transfer feature -- I like making new characters! -- I suspect the games would have been better if they stayed in the 1-14 level range.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, hence my playing of the first three mainly. Each one of the pool series is different and there is no guarantee that liking/disliking one will carry over to the others. I like to play them individually too, with parties created in the game itself.

      Delete
    2. The problem was not in allowing you to transfer the party but in being relatively slavish to the pen and paper rules, which handled high level characters poorly in general, and specifically poorly in the context of a campaign (as here) that's mostly focused on combat with fairly limited ability to set your own priorities and roleplay.

      They should have gone the path that Baldur's Gate ended up taking, and fairly aggressively re-balance and re-design spells and other game aspects to make high-level progression more meaningful and more tactically interesting.

      Delete
  5. "This is particularly true when you consider that the party and its strength, in effect, caused the core crisis of the game. From the opening animations, it's clear that Bane is wreaking havoc on the Moonsea region specifically to punish the party for its previous successes."

    Oh, I never really noticed this, but do not worry too much, Bane and zillions other evil powers are always plotting to take over the FR. Punishing the Party is just, at worst, a slim excuse.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think that's actually supposed to be Lolth.

    P&P resurrection has I think an hour cast time. Not that that would really have stopped them, of course - they've taken plenty of other engine liberties with the rules and future titles like BG go far enough to reduce *everything* to a round or less.

    An amazing retrospective overall. I shudder to think where we would be without this classic series, which I think has been integral to the development of Western tactical RPGs. I'm glad you enjoyed the final outing, even if it didn't quite recover its earlier heights of intrigue.

    Really looking forward to '93 now - it actually feels within reach. That's a year with several of my all-time faves, and games I've developed exhaustive knowledge of through playing all my life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, it's stock art, from the cover of the Queen of Spiders, a mega-module compilation of the adventure series Against the Giants, the Drow adventures and Queen of the Demonweb Pits. All the Gold Box games used already existing TSR art for the covers. This art depicts Eclavdra, priestess of Lolth and her entourage. The full piece has fire giants behind her, you can kind of see their silhouettes.

      Delete
    2. Thanks Lugh! I looked myself and couldn't find it.

      Delete
    3. You'd think that in such a matriarchal society there would be no chain mail bikinis, but males in chain mail jockstraps instead.
      Not that I would like to see the latter, though.

      Delete
    4. So what you're saying is...drow respect their men more than humans respect their women? ;)

      Delete
    5. Male gaze :p

      But yeah given female drow seem all about sadism, whips and dominance I'm sure there's a thriving trade in submission gear for male drow!

      Delete
    6. I doubt that it would appeal to the Canageeks and Kenny McCormicks who buy all the AD&D stuff.

      Delete
    7. Based on my own (vast) experience with (A)D&D supplementary material, I think you'd be surprised. *cough*Book of Vile Darkness*cough*

      I should actually open up my AD&D Menzoberranzan boxed set and see what exactly it says on the treatment of drow men. In a funny turn of events, I recall that Unearthed Arcana let drow women level up indefinitely as clerics while the men were restricted to level 7 (I think), a reversal of AD&D 1e restricting the strength of women of other races (a move that very well goes against strong women in literary fantasy).

      Delete
    8. "In the case of male drow of great beauty awarded
      the position of patron (consort to the Matron), this is all too literally true. Some sadistic Matrons take new patrons every night, having the twisted, disfigured remnant of the last consort fed to House animals, slain out of hand, or put to menial labor to be slowly worked to death."

      I don't think Lolth allows any male clerics, but drow worship other gods/entities as well.

      Delete
    9. I was wrong, Lolth does allow male clerics but keeps them low-level (usually by putting them in harms way). Vhaeraun has no qualms about men and both male and female clerics of his can advance equally.

      Delete
    10. I always assumed the unlimited drow clerical advancement (in unbalanced UA) was "because biology" and not the result of divine assistance; though, it does make sense seeing as if your worshipers are all elves, you'd want them to be as powerful clerics as possible.

      Delete
    11. @PetrusOctavianus
      I'm in it for the spellcasters, mate.

      Delete
    12. These days I actually try and buy games that don't objectify women on the cover. D&D and Pathfinder have both been trying to make their art more diverse.

      Delete
    13. While I have issues with Pathfinder mechanically, I do like that they've tried to diversify their art and iconic characters. I remember when they did that trans woman iconic character awhile back and thought that was cool.

      On a similar note, I'm now imagining Gygax directing his artists: "Make her scantily clad with a chainmail bikini-but don't make her too strong; after all, it needs to be realistic."

      Delete
    14. The double weird thing I've heard is that the women in the shiny bikini on in the Gamma world is was his daughter.

      Also, I'm not sure how much art direction they had back in those days. The really early stuff I'm betting they drew themselves, which would explain the quality.

      Delete
    15. I doubt it could get any weirder than the cover art of Sierra's Softporn Adventures.

      Delete
    16. Wizards (D&D and M:tG) and BioWare both do a comparatively good job on the inclusiveness front. The zombie-survival RPG 'Dead State' probably has the most diverse set of characters of a game I've played. It didn't feel forced either - more like a cross-section of American society.

      Delete
    17. Speaking of zombie RPGs, Dead Island (which is by no means perfect) actually has no white PCs. You start to notice after awhile how forced an all-white cast tends to be (with some exceptions).

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, just noticed this was a bit long, won't happen again...

      Delete
    2. Won't argue with the GIMLET too much, though I thought it would be a little higher.

      Some thoughts now a bit edited and shortened:
      Pools – as all GB games - is an awesome game and I would always recommend playing it if you have a soft spot for old crpgs. The GB games were always (a bit) underrated in the (German) press back then. They provided reliable, professional entertainment in an age where game design was still a bit amateurish and which more often than not still produced ambitious design disasters like Fate. They are among the most professional, best designed products you could get back then. As this, they have something of a factory product, off the shelf vibe which I think was not as well as deserved appreciated by critics at the time.

      There are caveats to this and I could engage in a lot of nitpicking, among them.
      - The final battles: Both in a weird way cool and absurdly unfair.
      - You play one heck of a party but the game never really acknowledges this. In the FR characters above level 15 are approaching superhero status; everything above level 30 is crazy. You do not play a party of Aragorns or Legolases, but of 6 enhanced Gandalfs. These are the “Glorious Six”, strangers will recognize them, enemies will shiver with fear, and even Abyssal Lords will ponder day and night about how to stop them. This party should conquer Zhentil Keep, kill Manshoon, rename it CRPG Addict’s Keep and use it as base for further operations, ruling as Dukes or Kings or whatever. However, the game always treats the party as if it would consist of a bunch of mid-level adventurers. I know there were issues with TSR, but still.
      - In a lot of ways and as always with GB games, PoD is a bit underwhelming because it could still be so much better, be more non-linear, have more and better NPC interaction, actions bringing greater changes to the game world etc., all of this would be possible within the limitations of the engine.

      But in the end, was it fun? You bet. Is it a classic and great game? For me yes. PoD has all the usual benefits of an excellent engine, an interesting variety of foes, some memorable NPCs like Nacacia, is excellently paced leaving you rarely clueless on what to do or letting you wander aimlessly around if you do not want to do this. It is challenging and there is quite a lot going on in the different areas and maps. The Moander-Dimension specifically had a dreamlike, grotesque (the Watcher, that strange army, Tanetal) and nightmarish quality which I found highly enjoyable . The economy with the opportunities to by Elixirs of Youth wasn’t as bad as in previous games. I really like it – a highly entertaining game.

      Delete
    3. Oliver, you don't have to apologize for making long comments. I like it when commenters get into a lot of detail.

      That's a good point about the game never acknowledging your level, in particular.

      Delete
    4. "You play one heck of a party but the game never really acknowledges this"

      I know the folks involved have stated, several times, that they were constrained by the terms of the contract in this case, to an extent.

      That being said....I totally agree.

      Delete
    5. Skyrim says it best with this...
      http://www.slothygeek.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/x0IZwaT1.jpg

      Delete
    6. I like that you can eventually intimidate certain thieves away in Skyrim, but it's dumb that it's dependent on your speech skill instead of your obvious power.

      Delete
    7. And also people asking you to help bring something or other to another person for 100 Septims when even your Daedric Underwear alone can buy their house ALONG WITH ITS OCCUPANTS AS YOUR INDENTURED SERVANTS.

      Delete
  8. Final score is a bit lower than I expected. But then I had different reactions in several cases. Especially I think it has the best replay value of all the games I played, simply because the fights are so much fun. I like to try different tactics against all the many foes, nowadays, without thinking too much about the overall story. E.g. trying to fight with different spells than usual etc. The only other game where I had this was PoR, where I had my fighter singlehandedly fight the giant guards near the end, with the other characters at the sideline only cheering him on. :)

    Many thanks for bringing back memories of one of my favourite computer games.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Would it be too anal to say this is actually a five-game series? Hillsfar doesn't use the same engine, but it's still something the characters go through, and you mentioned in your rating of the game that it's supposed to have some minor plot effects in Curse of the Azure Bonds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hillsfar was also not very good, per Chet's GIMLET for that game. Heck, even Dragon magazine gave Hillsfar 3 stars, and they give 5 stars to everything! As a result, it may be best to skip it if you were to play the entire series.

      I suppose you can still argue that it should be mentioned and therefore be a 5 game series, but I would probably call it a 4 game series based on the engine and lack of polish on Hillsfar.

      Delete
    2. It should be kept in mind, though, that Hillsfar really isn't an RPG, but rather a collection of arcade-ish minigames. I agree that's it's not great, but it probably wouldn't have done well on the GIMLET regardless.

      Delete
    3. No, it wouldn't be wrong to include Hillsfar in the series, but it's a dumb, forgettable game that has no lingering impact on the rest of the series, so I don't have any problem ignoring it.

      Delete
    4. IIRC they stopped trying to pretend Hillsfar was part of the series, in the marketing materials, around the time Secrets came out.

      It was essentially a failed experiment, and was developed under license, so it makes sense that it was "abandoned".

      Delete
    5. I've played through a couple of times from Pool to Pools in recent years and had to complete Hillsfar with each character type available just to get that extra level after CotAB. It's quite painful though.

      Delete
    6. I think a review long time a go summed it up nicely "Hillsfar; a good training camp, bad game".

      Delete
  10. A very small impression of tragedy that this series refused to evolve. Nowadays, we don't care that these games stayed the same between 1988 and 1992, as we now look back to them through nostalgia, or can safely classify them as "retro". But I guess if you played them as they were released, you might have been a little disappointed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I for myself can say no to that. The small engine improvements like fix command, auto memorizing etc. along with the higher levels were enough for me and I thoroughly enjoyed them back then. The next quantum leap for me was only the BG series and especially the party interactions there that really pushed the envelope.

      Delete
    2. I will also say that I bought all of them when they were released, and I never cared that they stayed the same. I found them fantastic (still do) and I was glad that they didn't destroy a working formula by trying to innovate too much.

      Delete
    3. Whaa? Tragedy? Refused to evolve? Where did that come from?

      We loved the Goldbox games specifically because you knew what you were going to get. That reflective foil on the box was your guarantee of quality.

      I think we forget today, with computing power not being an issue any more, that a lot of people back then didn't have great PCs. The Goldbox engine could play on most of them. I played through all of Starflight on a Hercules monochrome adapter and it didn't decrease my enjoyment one bit.

      Delete
    4. Personally I was disappointed by the AS&D games SSI released _after_ the GB games.
      I took me 20 years to appreciate the first Black Sun game, but I think it was inferior to the GB games.
      As mentioned above, the next step in the right direction was the Baldur's Gate games.

      Delete
    5. Well, keep in mind that the evolution was more along the lines of "PC speaker to Sound Blaster," "EGA to VGA graphics" and "play off a floppy to play off the hard drive" for PC owners, at least.

      Delete
    6. A good engine is a good engine, and I wish more series would stop changing things for change's sake. I'm still annoyed at the interface changes made for Ultima 6.

      Delete
    7. Heh, indeed. I think U6 was a clumsy evolutionary step towards the interface of U7. Maybe necessary, but it took me a long time to get used to it.

      Delete
    8. I hated it so much that I played the Dungeon Siege remake instead.

      Delete
    9. Heh, indeed. I think U6 was a clumsy evolutionary step towards the interface of U7. Maybe necessary, but it took me a long time to get used to it.

      Delete
    10. There've been a few projects updating Ultima games to modern engines. I'd prefer to see a project that recreates Ultima 6 through 9 using the Ultima 5 engine.

      And to get things vaguely back on topic, I'd enjoy Baldur's Gate a lot more if it had the Gold Box combat system.

      Delete
    11. My complaint about GB has never been that they didn't evolve. After all, we only had 3 years between 1988 and 1991. We should be grateful that we got so many games using such a good engine in such a short time frame. And as others have pointed out, there were incremental improvements.

      My complaint is rather that the series started off so strong with PoR and never quite lived up to those expectations again. In graphics, sound, and interface, sure, but not in content, story, and role-playing.

      Delete
  11. This is the first time you've given a 5 in the graphics/sound/interface category for a gold box game, was it noticeably worse than all the others? Apart from that the category where you have really hit it is Gameplay, which based on your posts seems entirely fair. Overall a fascinating series of posts though, keep it up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The jump to VGA is noticeable, particularly the revamped images of Priam and Vala, but Chet is right, the death scream is really grating. Docking a point for something so aggravating seems completely justified.

      Delete
    2. Sadly, it's not the last game we hear this scream in, Treasures of the Savage Frontier uses it too.

      Dark Queen has a new, deeper sound, which is also used in Pools' Amiga version. https://youtu.be/ZINGqTgwm5g?t=7m47s

      Curiously, 1992's Matrix Cubed reuses the old beepy effects heard in Curse. Maybe they thought they were more fitting for a sci-fi game?

      Delete
    3. The portion of those 10 points that goes to graphics basically works out to 0=none or awful; 1=blah; 2=good enough; 3=so good that the game is immersive. So the jump from EGA to VGA doesn't really budge the game out of a 2 for graphics.

      But the sound got noticeably worse in this edition and I gave a lower score for that.

      Delete
  12. Until you listed off the remaining Gold Box games I had never realised that Dark Sun: Shattered Lands was technically not a Gold Box game. I have fond memories of it though - no idea whether they are justified. Will look forward to it when you eventually reach it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Dark Sun series I consider a classic of my youth. Objectively there's a complex mix of positives and negatives in them but they'll always have a spot in my heart.

      Delete
    2. As is mine. The thing was riddled with loads of bugs though. The sequel was even worse. It was basically unwinnable because the damn thing kept crashing even after upping the version to 1.1.

      That said, I believe there is a fan-patch available that addresses all the problems. But I can't find it now.

      Delete
    3. Obdurate Hater of Rhythm gamesOctober 20, 2016 at 12:57 PM

      I played a little of Dark Sun, but I was annoyed that even on a modern computer I would get massive slowdown when I cast a large-scale spell.

      Delete
    4. I believe the coding was not packed well, thus causing a lot of needless subroutines running in the background once you do something that would affect multiple values; i.e. casting mass-effect (not that EA game) spells.

      Delete
  13. not sure if you needed to play on a HD on a c64, you certainly didn't have to on amiga, it was 3 disks. you did however need the 512k memory upgrade.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm pretty sure that Pools of Darkness never came out for c64.

      Delete
    2. That's correct. SSI transitioned away from the c64 sometime during 1991. Gateway to the Savage Frontier & Death Knights of Krynn were released on the Commodore, but starting with Pools it was only Amiga, Macs or DOS. I remember because I bugged my parents to get me a PC as a result!

      I think by the end SSI only supported DOS/Windows with no Mac releases, but I never got around to playing the last few Gold Box games.

      Delete
    3. Towards the end SSI only supported Windows, religiously so. They were approached in 1995 to see about them publishing 'Princess Maker 2' in the US, but SSI turned it down, partially due to it being a DOS game.

      Delete
  14. I also thought Pools might rate higher on the GIMLET, but I can't see any scores that seem out of line based on the Addict's posts. I guess I enjoyed it back in the day for its sense of scope, as the Moander level did feel epic in a way a lot of other games I had played had not.

    I wonder if the developers planned around players cheating their way around the item restrictions, and were therefore a little nonchalant about the resulting difficulty if you were to "play it straight". The Gold Box engine exploits were fairly well known by the time Pools came out, at least if you read any computer gaming magazine at the time. It definitely seems like they expected everyone to liberally use the attribute modification when rolling up characters.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I was enough of a geek to actually do the math, and yes, POD has the most monsters of any goldbox game excepting FRUA, if you count it.

    The hard drive also allows you to mix and match monsters to a greater degree--they couldn't have stuck any Bits of Moander in Zhentil Keep in Curse, because they weren't on the monster list on Disk 5. So the combats are a lot more varied.

    Personally it was my fave, but I played the series over and over again because I was a teenager and my parents wouldn't buy me a lot of computer games. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  16. I just started this game, and I too am playing it without sound. I don't understand how they thought they were improving on the original sound effects. Ugh.

    ReplyDelete
  17. For the record original bg had only 6 levels with expansions giving you 8 while bg 2 had 16 or 18 lvls with ToB giving all the way to 40.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay, but was achieving 40 in TOB functionally possible? I thought I remembered maxing at around 25 and just needing way too much experience to go any higher.

      Delete
    2. I'd have to dig out my saved games for exact numbers, but I'm sure I got an entire party of six to at least level 30 (except for maybe my fighter/thief/mage) and maybe upwards of 40-something. But then, I did use BGT so I might have been over level 8 when I beat BG1; however, I doubt I could have leveled enough with BG1's low-level enemies to have gotten significantly over the limit.

      Delete
    3. SoA had a bit less than 3 mio XP as level cap which could relatively easily be reached even with a full party. ToB is 8 mio which corresponds to level 40 for fast advancing classes and low 30s for slow ones like mages. IIRC you get between 6-7 mio XP with a full party depending on how many side quests you do. So depending on your class even on a normal full party run you will probably cross 30.

      Spells are capped at level 20 effect in any case though so you mostly get additional usage of the high level abilities but they don't become stronger aby more.

      Of course with a small party or a solo run you can quite easily reach the ToB level cap even in SoA, hence the need of level cap remover patches. :)

      Delete
    4. If you play like i do whoch do every single quest in BG II there is and then head to tob you are about lvl 21 or so and 40 is easily achievable in TOB.

      Too bad that the game more or less cheats though my blade had -46 AC he still got regularly hit by summoned monsters such as beholders or glabrezu in melee at end battle ...

      Delete
    5. Hmm, that's a shame, I didn't realise it cheated.

      I hate it when you come up with a cheese, and rather than balance it, the devs just lazily secretly nerf it.

      Delete
    6. Not even cheese just good dex, fully maxed blade singer chain and a lvl 40 defensive stance which is one of 'blade' special powers.

      Caveat is that you cannot move from a spot when defensive stance is active.

      Oh well at least my bard managed to literally screw Aerie, the height of my BG II experience. :P

      Delete
    7. I should read the dialogue for the Anomen romance sometime.

      Delete
    8. "Okay, but was achieving 40 in TOB functionally possible?"

      Depends on how you define "functionally possible." Nothing stops you from parking your main character on the walls of Saradush with the Gesen Bow (or the Sling of Everard, depending on class) with the AI turned on when you go to bed. (No, I haven't done this myself, but I generally dislike all forms of grinding.)

      Note, however, that ToB doesn't have a level cap but rather an 8 million XP cap. If you're a single-classed thief, that translates to level 40, but for most classes it's somewhere in the 30s, and for all multiclassed characters (and dualclassed characters unless they dualclassed really early), it's in the 30s or even lower.

      Delete
    9. Wow. I have no idea what you're talking about. That means I'm forgetting things about BGII. It will be nice if I've forgotten it completely by the time I go to play.

      Delete
    10. It may well be you simply never came up against the limit before. Unmodded ToB was entirely completable with a party anywhere in the 20-30 range even with restricted use of cheese tactics; this means even without any grinding and without a 100% exploration run to perfectly optimize your gear you might have been challenged, but I doubt you'd have hit any serious walls.

      Delete
    11. A literally endlessly respawning fire giant. Keep shooting him, and you'll get infinite XP. I spell this out because there's a real possibility you never noticed you can actually shoot back at the giant who's bombarding Saradush. Good luck with forgetting!

      Delete
  18. I love that line:
    "The final chapter in the greatest AD&D computer fantasy role playing ever"
    That's a so wonderfully calibrated slogan that it must have been a lawyer's work for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  19. "I think of the final battle, where you can have your evil party members join Tyranthraxus"


    I did not know this!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. BTW, on the Amiga version at least, it also worked for good and neutral characters.
      The game simply asks everyone if one wants to join him and on yes, he's on Tyranthraxus side (controlled as a NPC).

      Delete
    2. Yeah, I think all versions give you the choice for all characters. I said "evil" above just because I can't imagine any role-playing reason you'd have good characters join him.

      Delete
    3. Given that Genheeris joins your party to attack Tyranthraxus, I can't see even evil characters joining him.

      One of the things that strikes me about Pool of Radiance is that Tyranthraxus has already made all the moves he is going to make. It's up to the party to push him back. I remember how some of the guards at the Stojanow gate comment on being eager for a final assault. Yet it never happens (Program difficulties). You can sit in Phlan for months with no consequence, aside from boredom.

      Given the copious amount of gold you find in the game, I cannot see why any one might sign with T. I can only justify it in racial/species terms. The monsters support T because he accepts them, unlike the government of New Phlan.

      I still like Chet's suggestion the best. It would have been great if Sasha was really behind it. They went that way a bit in Curse of the Azure Bonds.

      Delete
    4. Regarding in-game time, it is really poorly implemented. You can rest for 10 years, for example, and all characters still have the same age as before.
      The Might & Magic series did a way better job at this. Resting one year meant permament aging one year.
      Also timing is rather strange sometimes in Gold Box. A single combat round lasts a whole complete minute! As if striking one / two times with a sword takes a minute...

      Delete
    5. Obdurate Hater of Rhythm gamesOctober 20, 2016 at 12:55 PM

      I never liked that in Might and Magic: It was filled with enemies that could age you and after a few battles it was quite possible to have characters who were about to die of age. This is one of the many reasons I hate that series.

      Delete
    6. Obdurate Hater of Rhythm gamesOctober 20, 2016 at 1:00 PM

      Can you import characters that joined Tyranthraxus's side to later games, and if so does that affect anything?

      Delete
    7. The aging caused by monsters in Might & Magic is temporary and can be fixed at the fountain of youth.
      Characters that join Tyranthraxus become NPCs which turned hostile to you. If you win, after the combat, they're removed from the party, just like any NPC who joins the party who you attack during combat like in Champions of Krynn and Pools of Radiance.
      If they win or all characters join Tyranthraxus, you just get the "The monsters rejoice for the party has been destroyed..." screen.
      An alternative adventure becoming orders now from Tyranthraxus would be a neat feature, if evil wins. At least an alternative ending screen would be nice!

      Delete
    8. First order of Tyranthraxus: "Capture Sasha!"
      :-)

      Delete
    9. The final offer of a job is really funny from Sasha, as if we didn't collect enough Jewelry, Gems, etc. yet.
      You have the choice:
      Work 1 month for Sasha and earn 1.000, or go out kill some enemies and earn 1.000.000...as an almost level 40 party. How you will decide? ;-)

      Delete
    10. Like any high level party, buy out a city (what Nasher and his group did with Neverwinter)... hmm... maybe Phlan?

      Then have someone fix up the wall.

      Hmm... who should do it?

      Preferably an ungrateful and top-heavy chick with green eyes who narrowly married an evil minion.

      Oh, look who we have here?

      Delete
    11. Regarding a combat round taking a whole minute, that's from the AD&D rules. The idea is that combat is highly abstracted, and an attack roll doesn't just represent a single strike but a series of feints, parries and blows, one of which might be successful. It doesn't really work with other aspects of combat, though: you can really abstract missile weapons in that way, and movement is painfully slow. Later versions of D&D lowered the time of a combat round significantly.

      Delete
    12. Then there is GURPS which abstracts as little as possible and has each round be 1 second.

      Delete
    13. Which makes way much more sense rather than having all these Fist Of North Star moments (way too much posturing and talking for over 5 minutes and then unleashing a single move to end everything in 1 second; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UmEch1eRXo) in D&D combats.

      Delete
  20. "Dragon gave it 5 stars on its usual scale of 5-5."

    WHOLLY INCORRECT.

    They technically used a 5 star scale, but they rated the original Wing Commander as 6 stars.

    So their scale went from 5 stars to 6 :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Dragon gave Wing Commander six stars, out of a five-star system"

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wing_Commander_(video_game)

      Delete
    2. Did Dragon just love any video games? Wing Commander isn't remotely an RPG, is it?

      Delete
    3. I like to imagine that TSR hired some kids from 80s Radio Shack commercials to review games for them. That'd actually explain a lot...

      I was going to say something about citing wikipedia itself as a source, but I checked the issue and it turns out Dragon did formally use a five-star system and Wing Commander was the first game to get six. I think their habit of rating mediocre games at 5 caught up to them and they had to rate it 6 just to introduce some sort of ratings curve.

      Delete
    4. My reading between the lines impression is that they were paid to be wholly positive, whenever possible. Especially in the case of games that advertised in Dragon.

      They would occasionally give lower scores. Usually on stuff that did not advertise in Dragon.

      In a few cases it was due to legitimate problems; Knights of Legend was apparently unplayable on their initial review platform, and they *slammed* it.

      Of course they then reversed course and gave it a really good review on PC.

      As someone that bought that game, at 12 or 13, in a bargain bin based on their review....and as you know by yours....it's not that great of a game.

      My take on Wing Commander was...yeah...they were paid to give out these 5 star reviews on games that weren't perfect. So when they found a game they felt was fairly close to perfect they couldn't find an appropriate rating without breaking the system.

      In all fairness Wing Commander was HUGE when it came out. Honestly don't know if this is still common knowledge but that game was popular in a way that very few other PC games of its time were.

      So, at the time it kind of made sense....it felt like the PC game equivalent of the first Star Wars movie, so an exemplary rating made sense to my teenaged brain....

      Delete
    5. Oh, and yeah, the Lessers review parameters, in terms of genres, were really ad hoc.

      They reviewed CRPGs primarily, but would in fact review anything from PC shooters, to console platformers.

      In retrospect one wonders if they simply reviewed whatever they were playing, and whatever samples happened to be provided, without really confining themselves to any more specific criteria.

      Delete
    6. Obdurate Hater of Rhythm GamesOctober 24, 2016 at 1:29 PM

      Every Wing Commander gam3e deserves a 6/5

      Delete
  21. Honestly, I'd have to agree that this seems fair.

    When you *really* break this game down, it seems like 80+% of the combats are made for people that have extensive Gold Box game experience. Not AD&D gameplay experience, not CRPG gameplay experience, Gold Box specific experience.

    All of the new monsters are built to negate the most common play style (e.g. fireball them all from a safe distance.)

    It's overall difficulty level is commensurate with the 4th or later entry in a series, that assumes prior experience.

    As someone that fit that demographic when it was released, it really was one of my favorites at the time. But...since....honestly....I've absolutely replayed Curse, PoR and Secrets more in the interim.

    In today's market this game is really the equivalent of a DLC expansion for hard core fans. So a score lower than PoR makes sense to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everyone needs to keep in mind that it is simply a "lower score." Some of the comments above make it sound like I absolutely slammed it. Only about 10% of games get a rating as high as 50.

      Delete
    2. If you mean my comments, then I would like to state for the record that any "slamming" is wholly on my end =)

      Again, when it was new I *loved* this game. But I find that now I start with some of the ones you rate higher, when I want a Gold Box fix, and never really work my way up to it.

      Delete
    3. Also, and this is purely for my curiosity:

      "How would you have rated this game if the baiting tactic didn't exist?"

      I'm personally asking as I found myself torn similarly to you, the last few times I played PoD.

      I'd start a game and decide I don't want to use that tactic, but then I get to a more difficult combat, generally around Kalistes, or in Throne's realm, and it would become mandatory.

      It feels like the tuned the game knowing you would use that tactic. Regardless though, how would it be rated if you didn't know that tactic existed at all?

      Delete
    4. Interesting. Baiting was like door closing in DM you think?

      And PoD outscored Gateway To The Frontier You Didn't Really Want To Go To

      Delete
    5. Chet's comments and ratings seem fair to me. If you disagree and I do sometimes disagree, mentally add or subtract points as you want. In the end, it is about how much fun you can have with the game in question. Last night I had a great time cleaning out a Hith temple in New Aurim. Tactics against skeleton warriors and clerics never gets old.

      Delete
  22. Obdurate Hater of Rhythm gamesOctober 20, 2016 at 1:13 PM

    Have you guys seen the new Nintendo Switch? it looks cool, it might have a new Elder Scrolls games--I prefer the older games like Arena, Daggerfall and Redguard, but Skyrim was great--and Bethesda is one of the many third party publishers for CRPG fans. It is a nice system and a change from the disappointing mini NES with only 30 games.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree that it is another Nintendo product that shows off their imaginative engineering, but I think it'll tank.

      It won't be powerful enough to support the dedicated gamer titles, and the mobile console market has been gobbled up by android and apple. I don't know which demographic this is supposed to appeal to.

      Delete
    2. > It won't be powerful enough to support the dedicated gamer titles

      Keep in mind it's been three years since the Xbox One and PS4 were released, and the mobile portion is actually a millimeter or two thicker than a new MacBook (although smaller in dimensions). I don't see why it can't be close to the same performance as those, and really, that's a lot of power.

      Delete
    3. Still doesn't seem powerful enough from the specs...

      *N-Switch*
      Four ARM Cortex-A57 cores, max 2GHz
      Nvidia second-generation Maxwell architecture
      256 CUDA cores, max 1GHz, 1024 FLOPS/cycle
      4GB RAM (25.6 GB/s, VRAM shared)
      32 GB storage (Max transfer 400 MB/s)
      USB 2.0 and 3.0
      1280 x 720 6.2-inch IPS LCD
      1080p at 60 fps or 4k at 30 fps max video output
      Capcitance method, 10-point multi-touch

      *PS4*
      CUH-2000 series
      Single-chip custom processor[x86-64 AMD “Jaguar”, 8 cores GPU : 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD Radeon™ based graphics engine
      GDDR5 8GB
      500GB, 1TB

      Delete
    4. Sure, but you can't carry a PS4 with you. It would be great to be able to play Skyrim on a plane or your morning commute. Sure a laptop CAN do this, but it rests battery life, and isn't a good form factor for it. I think there MIGHT be an opening here, and Nintendo has always done handhelds well. Plus it will cost a lot less them any other console based on Nintendo's history.

      Delete
    5. It'll be launching with Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which should drive plenty of sales. Will it do Wii numbers? I doubt it, but I don't think it will tank as hard as the WiiU did.

      Delete
    6. So, based on the specs Kenny posted, it looks to be fairly close to an Nvidia 830M, but with faster RAM. Given that the PS4 is supposed to be using a "modified" AMD HD 7870, it doesn't quite make it just based on the parts[1], but that's before taking into account any newer tech the Nvidia part going into the Switch might have. It has less RAM as well. That said, I'm not sure how accurate those specs are. Also, the PS4 is supposed to be more powerful than the Xbox One, and if games are targeting both of them, them you probably only need to his Xbox One specs.

      1: http://gpuboss.com/gpus/Radeon-HD-7870-vs-GeForce-830M

      Delete
    7. @Canageek
      Playing hours of Skyrim on a laptop? If you're planning to do that with the laptop while it's on... er... your lap, I'd strongly advise against that as it will... erm... fry your eggs and um... cook your sausage.

      Delete
  23. Wait, I'm caught up? I was hoping this would last me until the end of the day at least. I just found I've had built up on my sample and I have to remeasure a bunch of things.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Friendly reminder there's always The Realm "megacampaign" that also embeds redone, faithful and improved versions of both Pool of radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds.

    It's built by 46 modules for more than 250 hours of content.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Forgot the link:
      https://forum.quartertothree.com/t/goldbox-megacampaign-all-classic-ad-d-and-d-d-modules/69534

      Delete
    2. The Realm versions don't adapt to party size the way Pool does (there's no way to do this in FRUA). However, they don't have silly level caps--you can cast Confusion on Tyranthraxus's 8th Level Fighters if you get the XP.

      Delete
  25. Obdurate Hater of Rhythm GamesOctober 24, 2016 at 1:36 PM

    I am at the final boss of another game tht falls apart at the end: Final Fantasy 6. Most of the game is an interesting RPG with great characters, humor and action, but then the world ends. Everything after that is just regaining party members and searching for items; and though there is a bit of characterization, it is really pointless, because all the water has dried up and what little remains is poisoned, crops are barely existent and most of the land has turned to rock and desert, so everyone will be dead soon. It goes from one of my favorites to a tedious slog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. FFVI has a proper PC port now, so it should be on the list. Probably best not to mention much in the way of details.

      Delete
    2. I've checked: This is a true port. Not an emulated one. It has the Gameboy Advance ROM inside of it, but it just uses it as a weird archive before running its own code on it. Which apparently makes modding it pretty easy.

      "“So far from what we've seen, the ROM file is basically being used as a superdatabase,” Lang said. “All of the relationships between items and characters and maps, all of that actual data of the game, the executable just reads the data from the ROM file and applies it to its new graphics. That guarantees the integrity of the data. You're never going to have human error where you put the wrong item in a chest or something like that. You're using the exact same data as the GBA version.”"

      From http://www.pcgamer.com/the-secret-that-makes-final-fantasy-vi-pc-perfect-for-modding/

      Delete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) THIS ALSO INCLUDES USER NAMES THAT LINK TO ADVERTISING.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

NOTE: Spam has gotten so bad lately that I've had to turn on comment moderation for posts older than 10 days. I apologize if it takes a little while for your comment to appear.