Developer: Stormfront Studios
Publisher: UbiSoft (SSI)
Platform: PC (system requirements below)
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
The words “pool or radiance” serve as a kind of litmus test for hardcore computer role-playing gamers. Equally powerful is the phrase “gold box game.” If you remember when a badass machine had VGA graphics and a 286/16 processor, and are a fan of CRPGs, then you likely know of and probably played at least one of SSI’s legendary “gold-box games.” A series of games based on the popular Dungeons & Dragons pencil-and-paper game, the gold box games were a serious evolution of what role-playing meant on the PC. Along with the Bard’s Tale and early Might & Magic games, they set the standard for decent computer role-playing.
So naturally, when SSI stepped up and said they were going to bring the first computer game compatible with the spankin’ new D&D rules set, I was psyched. As were thousands of other gamers that remembered fondly the hours invested in the old gold-box series. It was going to be huge. However, as is increasingly the case with computer games today, the hype wrote checks that the software can’t cash. Buggy, sluggish, and tedious, the new Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor had a good chunk of the gamers that invested in it’s first-day release screaming for their money back, or worse, threatening legal action against UbiSoft.
[ad#longpost]The story, even for a CRPG, is anemic in the extreme. Basically, you build your party of adventurers, click a button to begin, and after a few moments of largely unimportant dialogue, are dropped onto a map to slay things. Right away, the problems become evident. Despite claiming a 233 MHz machine could handle this bad-boy, the frame rates sucked on my 650 MHz machine. That means only one thing: the choppiness isn’t the fault of the hardware, it’s all on the software side. Thinking perhaps there was some memory-eating bug that needed patching, I went on-line to grab a patch. That was when the real problems came crashing (no pun intended) home.
You see, apparently, the software in its pre-patched state can’t be safely uninstalled. Dozens of users lamented their totally shot systems, corrupted data, and re-formatted hard drives, and it all appeared to be the fault of the game. To the developers’ credit, they released a patch almost immediately alongside the game, but the fact that such a glaring problem made its way through whatever quality control team was responsible is unthinkable. Essentially, for $50, early adopters bought a virus on 2 CDs that could wreck their hard drive. Not pretty, and not encouraging for the rest of the game.
Having safely installed the patch, I continued my play, only to be constantly bothered and bored by combat animations that took forever to play out, really terrible sound quality (despite having the recommended DirectX compatible hardware and all the latest drivers), and a non-existent story. Sorry fellas, but if I just wanted to kill things with no hint of a storyline, I could’ve played Diablo II. And to top all of this off, if you’re the least bit conversant with the new D&D rules that the game is supposed to employ, you’ll immediately recognize the glaring holes and inconsistencies. Character creation is a limited affair, with some classes missing completely, and no ability to customize your characters’ abilities whatsoever, which basically chops the legs off the extremely flexible D&D rules.
In short, don’t bother. I consider myself a pretty hardcore CRPG player, having invested large amounts of time in really mediocre games just because it was all I had. But this one can’t keep me playing. My only consolation is that, by picking up the “Collector’s Edition,” I got a free D&D Player’s Handbook, adventure, novelization, and set of dice, so it wasn’t a complete waste of money.
Minimum System Reqirements:
- Pentium II 233 or faster
- 64 MB RAM
- 8x CD-ROM drive
- DirectX 7.0 compatible video and sound cards