Retro Mini Review: AD&D Pool of Radiance (part 1)

“You arrive at the city of Phlan by boat. A man approaches…” The title does not lie; this game is D&D complete with DM-like naration. The first thing I noticed is that making characters takes a really long time. It’s not the choices that prolongs the process. You only make 3 choices: class/race, alignment and then whether the randomly rolls stats are acceptable. The race/class options come in pairs, it was surprisingly thorough but didn’t have all the choices(couldn’t be a female Halfing D:).

When you get around to rolling stats you really need patience. Every stat is randomized, which makes sense because it’s D&D, but this makes you end up with the perfect stats for a mage, on your fighter, so you have to keep re-rolling until you get good stats. It takes so much time that I made my characters and then saved and took a break.


The game itself is played in the first person but you can only move a step at a time similar to Dungeon Master or any game like it but combat is completely different than what I expected. I assumed it would be first-person turn based combat but the game switches to third person for turn based strategy style combat almost like having miniatures on a grid for actual D&D.

Your first quest is to clear out the slums of monsters and it is not an easy task. Even though my characters were pretty decent for starting characters and I geared them up as well as I could, I was unable to win more than a couple fights before having to return to town to heal. It took me a couple trips before I realized my characters didn’t start with spells memorized so I had to do that. It can be very tedious running back and forth like that.

The game really starts to take off once you get some gear, which doesn’t take long. It seems like every time I found weapons or armor it was at least a +1. Although, you have to identify it to tell the difference between it and normal gear. Once you start surviving a few more fights it is not long before your characters start to level up. That first level can be a major game changer. Your HP can double and you get new spells on casters.

I really started to have fun around when I had my first character reach 20 HP (2nd level fighter) and my Cleric got a -1 AC. Killing things without dying so easily is pretty satisfying. After that the game is more about exploring instead of grinding. You’re fighting for your city now, instead of fighting for your life. The game becomes good old fashioned AD&D dungeon crawling, with some other neat stuff thrown in there.

Despite some tedious moments, this game is a solid, and massive D&D game. I didn’t have time to finish it during my week, even with a few long play sessions I didn’t even come close. This is both good and means that I will be spending more time on it and possibly discussing it some more as I finish it.


Next week I will be playing:

Psycho Fox (Sega Master System, 1989)


6 responses to “Retro Mini Review: AD&D Pool of Radiance (part 1)

  1. No female halfling? Dang. That sucks when games don’t allow you to do some of the more interesting race/class/sex combos. I got annoyed when Elder Scrolls: Battlespire wouldn’t even let me be an Argonian or a Khajit, but they had like four different elf types and three human types.

    How is the storytelling in this game? I always like RPGs that try to flesh out the world and make it feel real, rather than throwing endless stats at you to grind (although I’ve heard that’s basically why Gary Gygax created D&D). Especially when the monsters you fight are really weird– “wait? Was that a giant eyeball with wings? What is that?!! Tell me more about that thing! And what’s up with the bartender’s emerald eyepatch? I must know!”

    • Yeah, I was pretty disappointed since halfling is my favorite race from D&D.

      The story telling is alright, but it’s a bit brief. There’s a lot of old fashioned dungeon crawling. and that takes up most of your time. But what story is there, is presented well.

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