Thursday, March 24, 2016

Game #53: Pool of Radiance (NES) - Keeping My Head Above Water

Meet me at The Pit at midnight
Realizing I passed on The Pit on first pass, I made my way back, and I'm glad I did. As I entered, the party bumped into a buccaneer who demanded recompense for the transgression. Shor gave him the tip of his sword. I began the battle with a Mirror Image spell, and easily won the duel. My prize was a long sword +4 (still my best sword), and chain mail +2. I moved on to Cadorna's Textile House in search of his lost treasure.
The only required point for a thief as far as I know
My first find in the textile house was a well (with flashing a neon sign, "THIEVES HIDEOUT"). Selecting my thief to scale the walls down the well introduced the party to Restal, the guild leader. He offered to lead me to the treasure in exchange for a share of it. Being good and wholesome adventurers I regrettably declined his generous offer. I took the box out of the hands of an ogre and his men. I never did find Skullcrusher, but I wasn't in a hurry to scour the area as I kept running into ghouls, which paralyze on touch.
Not suspicious at all
The iron box was removed from the party, Cadorna family seal still intact, and I received a small reward in the morning via the clerk. I'm curious what was in the box, but not enough to reload. Given my run in with the ghouls, I didn't feel prepared to take on the Graveyard just yet. Instead, I started to branch out into the wilderness. The first location I found was a large cave with a friendly looking dragon flying around.
The plot is that way!
Diogenes helpfully pointed the party to the next location. Far to the east, and with a bit of back and forth searching, I found the kobold cave. There was an option to enter a small hidden cave, or a large exposed one. Just inside the small one was a pond that I tripped over a couple of times, and lost my necklace of missiles and a few potions. Of course, I didn't notice that until after I had saved and while in the middle of a battle with the kobold king's army.
I recruited a former prisoner named Fatima
Emboldened by the new addition to the party, I strolled right into the king's throne room. We interrupted a meeting between him and two envoys of the "The Boss." Three waves of kobolds paired with a troll attacked. After the first, the kobolds fired a volley of catapult fire (the cave really didn't look big enough to fire them), and I took heavy damage. Though with luck, and Stinking Cloud plus Hold Person, I managed to make it through with only my main line fighter fallen.
Facing off against the royal guard after dispatching the envoys; trapping trolls is really the best approach
Damage works a little different in Pool of Radiance compared to other RPGs. A character that falls to 0 is considered unconscious, and removed from combat, although easily revived by healing in camp. Dropping below zero slowly bleeds the character out at -1 HP per turn. At -10 HP, the character is slain and requires resurrection at a temple. Any conscious party member can bandage any fallen character at the cost of a turn by selecting guard, which will stabilize the bleeding character at 0 HP.
Ye... <efreet eyes turning angry> NO, no, not at all, love garlic
I found the way out to the larger cave by making my way past a Wyvern. I had to toss a number of potions, one of the dust of disappearances, and a few scrolls to make room for all the loot. In the end it wasn't worth it. Bidding adieu to Fatima (I never did get directions to her camp), I made my way to the nomad camp after checking in at Phlan to offload. I was greeted warmly, and quickly recruited in the wholesale slaughter of encroaching kobolds.
Fear the kobold hoard as they perfectly align themselves for 2 sleep spells
Hassad, the chief, rewarded me with a wand of paralysis, and promised not to join Phlan's enemies. The party was then ushered out as the nomads prepared to mourn their dead. I collected some items from battles in the wilderness, including another wand of paralysis. At some point I also picked up a long bow +2 (for my elf) and darts +3 (for my cleric/mage).
My next stop was the secret pyramid in the middle of the lake
The pyramid, occupied by Yarash, was dumping toxic waste into the river. Biologic experiment on various life-forms was the cause. Navigating the pyramid involved blindly jumping into various unmarked teleportation tiles. Some would trigger right away, and others gave the option of throwing stones into them before entering.
I... uh... ran into a bit of trouble
I met a whole slew of different enemies. Some were friendly looking elves, dwarfs, and humans either paid by or controlled by Yarash. Others were D&D creatures such as stirges, dryders, minotaurs. Lastly were the mutant lizardmen resulting from Yarash's experiments. While they were worth quite a bit of experience, they ground my party to near extinction. Luckily Arqtiq survived the final random encounter, and I was able to rest shortly after the above screen was captured. Fully healed after a couple days hanging about, I managed to find the source of the pollution and destroyed it. Yarash waited for me in his office beyond that room.
A strange message when using dispel magic to remove the paralysis affecting Shor (Yarash already dispatched)
Among Yarash's papers I found another letter of recruitment from the boss. On the back was a response from Yarash where he proclaimed to work alone. It's addressed to The Boss at Valjevo Castle. That confirms where I need to head towards to end the game. When I managed to get back to Phlan, I received enough experience to finally level up a magic-user to level 5, gaining access to level 3 spells (a.k.a. fireball).
Decisions, decisions... FIREBALL
At this point, my commissions are to prevent lizardmen from joining the enemy, find and rescue the son of the Bivant family (no direction for where to look), deliver a letter to Zhentil Keep for Cadorna (how do we still trust this guy), and continue to ignore the Valhingen Graveyard. Ghouls and level drains are the number one reason I reset in this game. I've tried to play the battles out, but they take so long to resolve. I've managed to survive some, but when my main fighter loses 20,000 experience I'd rather just load my save.
18 Str? Why am I not getting a damage bonus for thrown weapons?
Having finished the game already, I have to say I would rather have played the computer version. The differences only detract from the game, and don't enhance the experience at all. The convenience of console doesn't outweigh the cons. Join me next post for the thrilling conclusion and review.

Elapsed Time: 8h16m (Total Time: 23h28m)


  1. I remember renting Pool of Radiance after having experienced the PC version. Being a kid I did not get far with either, but the gameplay felt much more "natural" on the PC as opposed to the NES, which is the same problem I had with the Wizardry ports. I vaguely remember the NES port of Might & Magic faring far better, but its been years since I've fired it up.

    1. That's some good news. I don't remember getting very far in Might & Magic, so it'll mostly be a new experience for me. I don't think Wizardry fared badly in the port, but Pool of Radiance is definitely worse for wear. I'm going to go through Chet's account of the game, and note differences as I come across them.

  2. I think Might & Magic III was ported to the SNES, but for some reason none of the subsequent Might & Magic RPGs appeared on consoles after that. Just some console-exclusive, action-RPG spinoff games (and much later, the puzzle-RPG spinoff Might & Magic Clash of Heroes).

    Also, I believe there were a great many Gold Box games that were never ported to consoles.

    I can't help but wonder if porting Western CRPGs to consoles was eventually declared a failure by all but a very few developers, such as the makers of the Elder Scrolls series.

    1. M&M3 was released on the TG-CD first, so I'm playing it based on the release date, but will be playing the SNES version because it's cheaper. A lot of the classic computer RPGs from the 90s are missing from consoles. Hillsfar did have a release though, so we'll get to that eventually (I think it's the last NES RPG as well).