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Curse of the Azure Bonds Underdogs Hot

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Written by Underdogs     March 21, 2009    
 
7.5 (2)
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In the annals of RPG gaming, few series can boast of being "pioneers" of the genre more than SSI with its "Gold Box" series, all based on AD&D mechanics and worlds licensed from TSR. Of these, four games set in the "Forgotten Realms" world stand out as the best of the bunch. Comprising four games released over four years, Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, Secret of the Silver Blades, and Pools of Darkness remain a lot of fun even today as some of the most addictive - albeit maddeningly combat-ridden - RPGs ever created. Pools of Radiance and Pools of Darkness are my most favorite of the series. Pool of Radiance because it was a great beginning to a solid RPG system, and Pools of Darkness because it gives you a chance to meet famous NPCs from AD&D world, marvel at the non-linear storyline, and develop your heroes to very high levels. All four games are must-haves for RPG fans everywhere, although Secret of the Silver Blades is a disappointment compared to the rest.

GameSpot's nice History of AD&D gives a good overview of Curse of Azure Bonds as follows: "Published in 1989, Curse of the Azure Bonds followed the story of Pool of Radiance with more monsters, treasure, character classes and level caps. Shortly after the defeat of Tyranthraxus the Flamed One and the destruction of the Pool of Radiance, the heroic party was waylaid, knocked out, and marked with the five mysterious azure bond images stamped just beneath the skin of each adventurer's arm. Your characters recovered consciousness in the town of Tilverton on the Dalelands. Before they could even begin to ascertain who or what had attacked them, they found themselves compelled beyond their will to attack the entourage of a false prince and were beset by the city guard. Fleeing to the thieves' guild beneath the sewers, the members of the party would then begin their arduous quest to hunt down the creators of each of the five magical bonds and ultimately free themselves of the curse.

In terms of gameplay and structure, Curse of the Azure Bonds followed its predecessor more or less directly, though it broadened the path considerably. The already solid game system of Pool of Radiance benefited greatly from material that had hitherto been conspicuously missing, including the ability to advance to tenth level for clerics and eleventh level for magic-users (which meant that spells of up to fifth level were available), the ability to enlist characters of the more esoteric AD&D Paladin and Ranger (and with the latter, the line of Druid spells) character classes, and the option for human characters to dual-class."

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7.5  (2)
Curse of the Azure Bonds, the second in SSI's gold-box D&D series, has the same game engine as its predecessor, Pool of Radiance. It has marginally better graphics, though is still limited to 16 colours. However it looks like SSI hurriedly rushed to get a sequel out, as the content is much slimmer. They abandoned PoR's wonderful outdoor map for a simple overview screen. Travelling from area to area is done by menu. Outdoor exploring is choosing "Search the area". Most of the different towns are simply menus as well. Most of the mini-dungeons have only random encounters, with scripted scenarios in only a handful of areas. Another annoyance is that the area overview is disabled for almost the entire game, making finding your way around dungeon and city areas just painful without taking the time to hand-draw a map on graph paper. Luckily in these days of online walkthroughs, this isn't necessary any more. It certainly was when the game was released, though. The whole purpose of D&D on a computer is to handle the tedious things like drawing a map automatically.

So while SSI did increase the level caps and add new spells, those don't really add much new to the game play. A sleep spell cast by level two characters on low level appropriate opponents is no different than ice storm cast by level 9 characters on higher level opponents. The game play is no different, so the added level caps and spells do nothing to make the game more fun. It is nice to be able to bring in characters from Pool of Radiance, but the game summarily strips them of all their gear. This is the cheap, unimaginative way for SSI to play balance the game. It's not so hard to lose your money, because there is absolutely nothing to spend it on in the game anyway. The economy got no update from the earlier game. The same array of mundane equipment is for sale, and a very small handful of magic gear that is useless by the time you get to a store that sells it. What kind of economy is it, anyway, where it takes literally two tons of gold (40,000gp) to buy a wand of magic missile? Gems (10gp - 1000gp) and jewelry (10gp - 10000gp) are handed out like candy, and become just a number because there isn't anything worthwhile to spend it on. Even those wands at two tons of gold a pop aren't hard to buy by the pack-full with the amount of money you get.

A nice game to play, just to carry on the adventure, but unfortunately it's a big step back in playability.
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6.0
Kurt Reviewed by Kurt August 10, 2010
Top 100 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (2)

Step forward in character advancement, step backward in playability

Curse of the Azure Bonds, the second in SSI's gold-box D&D series, has the same game engine as its predecessor, Pool of Radiance. It has marginally better graphics, though is still limited to 16 colours. However it looks like SSI hurriedly rushed to get a sequel out, as the content is much slimmer. They abandoned PoR's wonderful outdoor map for a simple overview screen. Travelling from area to area is done by menu. Outdoor exploring is choosing "Search the area". Most of the different towns are simply menus as well. Most of the mini-dungeons have only random encounters, with scripted scenarios in only a handful of areas. Another annoyance is that the area overview is disabled for almost the entire game, making finding your way around dungeon and city areas just painful without taking the time to hand-draw a map on graph paper. Luckily in these days of online walkthroughs, this isn't necessary any more. It certainly was when the game was released, though. The whole purpose of D&D on a computer is to handle the tedious things like drawing a map automatically.

So while SSI did increase the level caps and add new spells, those don't really add much new to the game play. A sleep spell cast by level two characters on low level appropriate opponents is no different than ice storm cast by level 9 characters on higher level opponents. The game play is no different, so the added level caps and spells do nothing to make the game more fun. It is nice to be able to bring in characters from Pool of Radiance, but the game summarily strips them of all their gear. This is the cheap, unimaginative way for SSI to play balance the game. It's not so hard to lose your money, because there is absolutely nothing to spend it on in the game anyway. The economy got no update from the earlier game. The same array of mundane equipment is for sale, and a very small handful of magic gear that is useless by the time you get to a store that sells it. What kind of economy is it, anyway, where it takes literally two tons of gold (40,000gp) to buy a wand of magic missile? Gems (10gp - 1000gp) and jewelry (10gp - 10000gp) are handed out like candy, and become just a number because there isn't anything worthwhile to spend it on. Even those wands at two tons of gold a pop aren't hard to buy by the pack-full with the amount of money you get.

A nice game to play, just to carry on the adventure, but unfortunately it's a big step back in playability.

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This is the second in the series, after Pool of Radiance. Very hard and fun AD&D based RPG, which uses the actual AD&D xp rules, meaning alot of restarts at low levels, and long periods without going up in levels. The unabashed difficulty is one of my favorite parts of the game, along with the monsters actually dropping everything they needed for the fight(each goblin, for instance, carries leather armor and a short sword). It is this strict adherence to the rules that make this such a great game for those of us who were playing AD&D on the weekends and the gold box games on the weekdays.
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9.0
hackenslay Reviewed by hackenslay April 12, 2009
Top 50 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (4)

Forgotten Realms Gold Box series

This is the second in the series, after Pool of Radiance. Very hard and fun AD&D based RPG, which uses the actual AD&D xp rules, meaning alot of restarts at low levels, and long periods without going up in levels. The unabashed difficulty is one of my favorite parts of the game, along with the monsters actually dropping everything they needed for the fight(each goblin, for instance, carries leather armor and a short sword). It is this strict adherence to the rules that make this such a great game for those of us who were playing AD&D on the weekends and the gold box games on the weekdays.

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