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Pool of Radiance 2 Review

From my Commodore 64 days, I remember SSI and the D&D games sucking away plenty of my teen years. Sometimes, I wish I could go back and enjoy those game play moments again. Pool of Radiance RoDM, the old name that it is, released on the PC in September of 2001. Needless to say, 13 years of computing did little for this game. Even though the graphics are well done for the only (seemingly low) resolution the game supports, the rest of the game needed a little more development time before release.

CRPG’s have been wasting my time for many moons now and I so desperately need another to do so. I do enjoy endless hours of non-thinking slashing and hacking my way through dungeons upon dungeons slaying the best of the best monsters the genre can throw at me. Pool of Radiance RoDM promised to deliver this fix for me. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, I was unable to enjoy a minute with this game.

First impressions are everything. The first thing I usually do is go to the options screen and crank up all details. Hm.

Where are they? There is no resolution selection (fixed 800×600) no gamma, particle effects sliders, detail texture settings, or anything else of value. Wait! I can change the shadows! Even though some of the armor textures gave me a headache like a checkerboard suit on a TV screen at close range, most of the environments do look good as well as the spell effects. That alone does not impress me much. I can get “technology demo’s” much cheaper than $50. Also, do not go looking for a custom key configuration option. You will be searching a long time. If you are needing keyboard shortcuts, you are stuck
with the insane defaults that are placed in game. For example, “/” to bring up your character sheet. Wow. I think I would rather have, maybe: “C”!?

I wanted a multiplayer game to take hold of my G-fri and I and whisk us away, instead, I got 3 days of trouble shooting to find out that the game is severely flawed in the way it handles multiplayer connections. Mainly, it does not allow a “dot-zero-dot” in the IP address of server, nor client computers. For those of you that use ICS for your internet needs, “” is not an option in playing the game. It pretends to work, but the client is unable to join the game. After releasing control from DHCP and creating a static IP address of and x.x.10.10, the game worked fine, until after playing for two hours we decided on creating new characters from mistakes made right off the bat. Upon doing so and selecting our new six characters (and having no choice but using a full party of 6) the game was created and a full eight characters were in the game! Each system displayed them differently, whether one system had two monks and another had two mages was not the point, but the fact that you would essentially be required to delete your old characters to create a new game was preposterous. Not only that, but even if you get a 10th level character in a multiplayer game and wish to (heaven forbid) want to play in a different game with different people, the character is “deleted” from the multiplayer “roster” and reset back to Level 1. What a waste. On top of all that, the multiplayer characters can only walk five feet away from the “leader” of the party before being warned. It gets crowded really fast.

I must be desperate if, even after the weekend of troubleshooting this software, I still want to play. I attempted to create a “single” player character. You may select up to four party member to use on your adventure. Unfortunately, going along with the new AD&D rules, experience point gain is slow at best, and the turn-based combat style, even though well implemented, takes a huge chunk of time. Picture six zombies lumbering along, you swing ax, miss, six zombies lumbering along… So I opted to create a “single” character party to avoid having to split the experience point gain with multiple characters. Bad idea. One of the character classes that is selectable, a Barbarian, was a prime candidate for “single” player action. Strong, can attack twice in one round using one of the Barbarian’s special “feats” and fighters are normally well suited for such a mission. He was, only for a short time. Upon entering the first dungeon and encountering a wraith, the Barbarian idea turned out to no longer be feasible. The wraith is immune to physical damage.

If you are looking to customize the look of your character, please do not look here. The only options available are limited differences between each selectable paper doll in the selection screen. These are totally useless the moment you put on any armor due to everyone looking about the same afterwards. Thankfully, the Half-Orc is large and the “Halfling” model is small, but that can also be a problem. Trying to position all your characters on screen without doing something that would be not be considered a “smart” move is difficult. Do not even think of running. Everything within melee range gets a free, and often fatal attack. Even if you survive that, the creatures will hunt you down and fight to the death. The computer does not have to go by those rules, though. Lizard men can just turn around and “disappear.”

The sound and music is a totally different issue. Hearing the first music score, I had severe flashbacks from my C-64 days. It sounded as if they took the three voice track and put it right on the CD! The voice acting is not only laughable, but the quality frequently was not optimum.

After sighting all of its shortfalls, I still think that a few more months of refining would have helped put this game at the tip top of the genre, instead it has left me empty and wanting to fire up my C-64 all over again. Random dungeon generation in multiplayer is a plus, if there was more than, say, three tiles per set to use.

Even though I have such a need for a new CRPG like a Crack Whore on a street corner, I will not be revisiting this game for a long time. Until it becomes stable, multiplayer connectivity issues are resolved and above all, the ability to be able to install the damn game in a different directory than the default, I am not even going to bother putting it back in my computer.

It just hurts too much.

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