Realms Beyond – A classic turn-based fantasy RPG

Source of Inspiration #1: SSI AD&D

Pool of Radiance

SSI’s Gold Box games, Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds may just be the single-most influential games for Realms Beyond. It may not be immediately evident since Realms Beyond looks a lot more like some  Baldur’s Gate or Temple of Elemental Evil variant with its top-down view. But once you dig deeper, you’ll notice that there are, in fact, a good number of features hearkening back to the Gold Box Series, such as the creation of not only a single character but that of an entire party. You will have to set aside some time to do this and chances are that after playing the game for a few of hours, you might want to go back and roll new characters. Perhaps you simply want to try something different to see how it feels, since there are so many options. Or maybe you figured out a few mechanics that work really well for you and you want to exploit them to the max by creating characters that take full advantage of these mechanics.

Character creation

There is another factor that comes into play when you allow the player to create their own party. Modern RPGs typically revolve around the fate of a single character, even if the game features an entire party. Dragon Age: Inquisition instantly comes to mind, along with its inherent focus on a central, player-controlled figure. Pool of Radiance was very different in that regard. Rather than focusing on cutscenes and dialogues, the game was much more about exploring the game world and changing its fate.

Kobold massacreAnd then, of course, there was the turn-based combat. It was your party of six against a dozen Kobolds. Moving your fighters, or tanks as you’d call them nowadays, to the front in order to protect your weaker magic users was standard practice then. In today’s RPGs, these magic users would be seen as nothing more than damage dealers but in classic computer RPGs, they had so many more options and were not simply relegated to picking the most powerful combat spell. They had plenty of spells that were just as useful outside of combat. As the combat progressed, one round at a time, you often would have to keep your fingers crossed, hoping that the kobolds miss. You would pray that your heroes would survive the round so that your magic users could nurse them back to health with a spell and fight another round. In other instances, you might want to cast a spell on one of the orcs and watch as it puts all the others around him to sleep—or better yet, burns them to a crisp. And occasionally, you may have to watch as your spell completely fizzles out.

Combat screenThe thing with the combat in these games was that with the AD&D system in place, one or two successful hits could be absolutely deadly. You always hoped that with the roll of a digital die your luck may win out, and with it the tide of the battle. If Lady Luck kissed you just this one time, you might kill one or two opponents during this turn and at the end of the day still have a chance to win, right?

Grid-based movementBeside its engaging combat, Pool of Radiance had a lot more to offer, though. There was always a sense of wonder that accompanied your every step, a possible surprise around every corner. Back then, every encounter seemed relevant and gave you the impression that it truly mattered.

Without the Internet, it wasn’t possible to verify the ravings of another player in the schoolyard. There was simply no way to be a 100% certain whether the claim was true or just some kind of hare-brained nonsense. Naturally, the other kid would cite magazines as sources for the revelation, or perhaps the knowledge of a bigger brother. Without the ability to research the facts easily, these games were always shrouded in some kind of undiscovered mystique. The gypsy you met yesterday… the one who offered to tell you your fortune… and you didn’t like it much? Well, in these games, there was always a good chance that the next day someone would tell you that that particular encounter had actually made all your combats in that area of the game so much harder. Maybe that’s why you were attacked by all those goblins after leaving her shop? And you best not have touched that switch in the dungeon… or did you? Aww… shucks!

But the most rewarding element of these games may have been the ability to import your adventurers from Pool of Radiance (those that made it through the adventure, that is…) into Curse of the Azure Bonds. Bringing across your entire party was like writing your own epic adventure story as your heroes continued to grow stronger and stronger. It created a sense of accomplishment and attachment that is somehow lost in today’s games altogether.


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