Monday, October 1, 2012

NES Replay: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Pool of Radiance

Developer: SSI
Publisher: SSI
Released: 1992
Joke About Cheeto Dust: Imminent
In NES Replay, we go through each NES game from A-Z to see if they're any good. Today: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Pool of Radiance.

You have to feel for D&D players.

In case you weren't around in the 80's, there was a huge scare about Dungeons & Dragons. If you played D&D, so the story goes, demons would attack your home and your offspring would be dragged down into the bowels of hell where Satan would torment them for eternity. Now, of course, we understand that the only torment that D&D players will get is looking for dates, but at the time, that meant that D&D players had to skulk around in the shadows, quietly hiding their hobby and only revealing it to others of a like mind.

Other hobbies-slash-geek-obsessions have gone mainstream, like comic books, videogames and fantasy sports, and yet D&D still has a stigma attached to it. Look how easily that joke about D&D players failing to get dates rolled out. Some of you reading along probably just laughed along with it, and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

The one place where D&D players could feel safe was on their computers, where they were able to play the Gold Box series of D&D games made by people who understood D&D. It was like a reassuring letter from people who could tell them, "Look, bro, we know how it feels. Here's an awesome computer game. Also, wipe the Cheeto dust off your fingers."

Way more exciting than it looks, I swear.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Pool of Radiance is the fourth D&D game we've played in this series, and it's really the only one that feels like D&D. When you start playing, you immediately get an urge to break out the graph paper, just as it should be.

Pool of Radiance demands that you pay attention. It demands that you check your characters stats, that you keep an eye on what they have equipped, that you select your spells and play the game just like you would play a typical game of D&D. It's incredibly deep and surprisingly fun.

There is a little problem, though. Within my brief playtime, I wandered into a tavern, got involved in a brawl with thieves, attempted to parley with orcs (they didn't want to), and started navigating the slums. Yet, I'm just scratching the surface and I really would love to dig into Pool of Radiance much further. Alas, I can't, but when this series is done (in ten years), I promise I'll come back.

Final Rating:

For the series of D&D games, here's how they rank from best to worst:
  1. Pool of Radiance
  2. Hillsfar
  3. Dragonstrike
  4. Someone else's wet fart in the shower that you happen to catch a whiff of
  5. Heroes of the Lance
Next week: Adventure Island

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