As most of the gaming world knows, Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor, (hereafter: POR2) is a direct sequel to the old game Pool of Radiance which originally appeared in the late 80's on platforms like the Commodore 64 and the Apple IIE etc. I played that one to death on a Commodore 64 and it was an enjoyable dungeon romp.
For those who may not know, the two games are set in the Dungeon & Dragons Forgotten Realms milieu, and as such use the rule-sets of that gaming system. This game uses the 3rd Edition rule-set which does away with lot of the "artificial" limitations concerning magic use wearing armour, etc.
This game had issues with publishers and the release of it was much delayed. I'm not certain whether this added to the disappointing outcome of POR2 or not. As much as I usually enjoy games based in the Forgotten Realms world, such as the Icewind Dale and Baldur's Gate series, this game has a been there, done that feel to it. Like its predecessor, it is a major dungeon crawl; huge dungeon levels and a very linear progression.
Like those two prior mentioned games (which had different developers and publishers) POR2 uses an isometric viewpoint and a party-based setup. Inventory and character stat access is fairly simple, using a drag and drop method to equip items. It's cleanly laid out and doesn't deviate from logic too much.
Whereas the first game took place in Phlan, this one takes place in Myth Drannor. Myth Drannor is the ruins of old elven city and there has been multitudes of modules, stories and games based on it or around it. After an intro movie, you are deposited in Stillwater and the action starts, and there lies one of this game's problems.
It's combat heavy. People may differ, but the Dungeons & Dragons rule-set doesn't accommodate hordes of monsters being thrown at you. It was never really made for that, and it shows in this game. Keeping in mind the restrictions on how often you can cast magic, rules on initiative, needing to rest to recoup cast spells and the like, so quite often, you'll find yourself reloading that last saved game.
To use a favourite expression of mine: it gets old fast. Running around huge, but same-ish, looking dungeons back-tracking for keys also gets old fast. There's few puzzles or story-driven events in POR2. The characterization present in games like Baldur's Gate or Knights of the Old Republic simply doesn't exist here.
You can't create or play a bard. If you're unfamiliar with the 3rd Edition rule-set, then playing a sorcerer will come as a shock, as spell abilities and numbers are based off your charisma not intelligence. It's quite easy to bork a character this way. Battles can take a while to resolve as they're turn-based using the initiative system.
There seems to be some oddities in the number generating as well when it comes to combat. I found my cleric and my sorcerer could melee more reliably than my fighter or monk. They seemed to hit more often anyway, which was a source of frustration. This game also has a multiplayer mode which I've never tested. From accounts I've read, it doesn't particularly shine in that area.
POR2 is a reasonable game for those with a lot of patience and tolerance. Tolerance mainly for endless combat, cookie-cutter dungeons and frustrating game mechanics. It's a well made game with excellent animations and spell effects, and it is well-intentioned. But, POR2, essentially, is just nothing great.
- Gamebanshee Pictorial walkthrough. The maps of the immense dungeons are a great help.