Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor
Windows - 2001
Description of Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor Windows
It's Been A Long Time
We've waited a long time for Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor. Old-timers like myself, who fondly remember the original Pool of Radiance and the rest of the classic SSI Gold Box Dungeons & Dragons games, have been sitting on their hands for 13 years in anticipation of a sequel. The younger set that knows of nothing prior to Baldur's Gate has been doing the same thing since the development of this alternative to Bioware's award-winning franchise was first announced in 1999.
The game released and the wait was finally over for those impatient fans. One short day later, those same formerly impatient fans were openly wishing that Ubi Soft had taken more time with Ruins of Myth Drannor. For despite taking well over two years on the development of the game, the designers at Stormfront Studios signed off on a product that was clearly rushed to stores by Ubi Soft before its completion. Newsgroups filled up with protests, dozens of people complaining about everything from an install program bug that could supposedly delete their Windows directory to the linear plot that was nothing like the expansive adventure that had originally been promised. Patches soon arrived, but the disappointment lingered.
Beginning the review process after the commotion had already started, I had acquired some very strong impressions of Ruins of Myth Drannor long before the game was installed. If anything, however, these negative notions reinforced the idea that I really needed to get into this one before submitting the review. It's probably just arrogance in action, but I approached this piece with something of a "Those other guys don't know what they're talking about!" attitude.
Well, they did. Two bug-fixing patches--the first to correct the install program problems and the second to repair a number of serious gameplay issues--have done nothing to change the unalterable fact that Ruins of Myth Drannor is a dull dungeon crawl with numerous core design flaws that no patch could clear up. While the game may be much more stable with the version 2.1 and 2.2 patches installed (we didn't experience any of the more serious reported bugs), it still isn't worth playing, for a number of reasons.
For starters, there's the lack of inspiration. Where the original Pool of Radiance was filled with groundbreaking innovations, this latter-day sequel is more of a slave to convention. Initial press releases openly promised that the game would begin a new era in RPGs, much like that started by the Gold Box line in the late 1980s, through all sorts of new ideas. The adventure would be vast, incorporating authentic material from the innumerable Forgotten Realms pen-and-paper supplements and the official Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. Combat would be turn-based and highly strategic, set in a living world where you could use tables for cover and barricade doors.
Aside from the turn-based combat system, none of these promises has been fully realized. Instead of the epic adventure supposed to span one of the most well-known locations on Faerun, Ruins of Myth Drannor is a linear trek through corridors and chambers with little or no distinctive elements. The plot involves the dreaded pool of radiance coming back to life and threatening New Phlan in pretty much exactly the same way as it did over a decade ago. Other than that, you are given no direction in the outset of the campaign; you're simply dumped at the gates of Myth Drannor and told to go to it. Perhaps some aspects of the pen-and-paper Forgotten Realms gazetteers were put to use in the maps of this fabled fallen city, but if so, they certainly didn't add any character to your explorations. Until you get well into the plot, every "new" room looks a lot like the last.
Although Stormfront based Ruins of Myth Drannoron the Third Edition D&D rules, the company was developing the game at the same time as TSR veterans were pondering those very same rules. As a result, Stormfront must have spent a good chunk of the design process unclear about what changes the Third Edition would bring to the table. The result is a muddled mess that follows the new rules in spirit alone. The movement rate, the new point pool system used to "roll up" characters, all of the new skills and feats, and much more can also be found in the new Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide.
A Stunning Feat
However, there are significant differences to the way that such things have been implemented. Character development is extremely limited, in direct opposition to the way that this aspect of D&D is enhanced in the Third Edition rules. Feats, introduced to allow the player to individualize his character with special attributes, are automatically selected for the player. Some of the more interesting feats from the pen-and-paper rules have been omitted, perhaps because they hadn't been written when Stormfront needed to establish the feature set for its game.
Virtually all of the advances to the mage and cleric classes have been tossed because of this rigidity. Where the Third Edition allows those playing such characters to spend points on developing skills with previously forbidden weapon types, Ruins of Myth Drannor keeps to the old standard. So don't expect to train your cleric to use a longsword here. Furthermore, the only mage subclass in the game is the sorcerer, which has been given the unique trait of being able to cast spells without prior memorization. If you favor other types of magic user, you're out of luck. Bards, druids, and gnomes aren't in the game at all. Not a huge loss from my human paladin-favoring perspective, but still.
Combat is almost as strategic as promised. As the game engine is turn-based, battles are more of a thinking-man's challenge, especially in regards to how you move. Movement rules are strictly applied and seem to be identical to that in the tabletop game. Meaning that you have to go through initiative checks and then maneuver your party toward the enemy carefully once you enter the combat phase. You have to be extremely cautious with how you move, because one false step can get you backstabbed.
The end result is something that plays a lot like the old Gold Box games. Unfortunately, those Gold Box games, along with turn-based gaming in general, have largely been supplanted over the past decade by quicker-moving, more modern alternatives. It's hard to imagine veterans of Baldur's Gate and the like having much patience with this deathly slow system, which forces you to directly manage even inconsequential battles with orcs as if they were struggles with demigods. Perhaps the biggest movement annoyance is being unable to scroll the screen past the supposed sight limitations of your party. First of all, I'll bet that my paladin can see more than forty feet in front of his nose on a clear day outdoors. Second, it's maddening to be prevented from glancing back at something that the party just passed. Such unquestioning devotion to pen-and-paper rules in a completely different format is nonsensical.
Sleeping Through the Swordfight
Battles are incredibly tedious in the beginning. They slowly improve as the might of your opposition grows, though they never achieve the drama of even the lowliest kobold free-for-all in the first Baldur's Gate. Much of this is because the game seems completely off-balance. From the very start, you can wander into battles with creatures that are too powerful for your puny party. This out-of-place difficulty continues throughout the game, with you often feeling that you shouldn't be in your present location because the enemies are simply overwhelming. The dark elves, for example, are insanely strong. Fleeing seems to be impossible. Yes, you can run away, but you remain in combat mode as long as the foe that triggered such a state is still alive. So you either inch forward by turns or try to find and slay the creature you're supposed to be fighting.
Also, the living battlefield concept was jettisoned somewhere between the first PR information and the day that the game went gold, though. You can't use items found in the game world for real strategic purposes--though you can smash (some) doors, furniture, and crates. This actually turns into a real negative, because you'll soon feel a compulsion to demolish every table, chair, and barrel encountered in search of items vital to your progression, such as keys. As if the designers needed to slow you down even more...
One good thing about the, um, relaxed pace is that you'll have plenty of time to appreciate the artwork and animation. The graphics engine on display here is far more advanced than what D&D; fans have become used to in the Bioware titles. Party members are highly detailed, with accurate armor and weaponry, and move in a realistic fashion. Spell effects are often beautiful, though some of the standards that you'll be using much of the time--such as Magic Missile--are rather pedestrian. Monsters are also very well drawn and animated, although there seems to be a limited number of monster types in the game. Even the more boring tunnels come to some life thanks to good artwork. Certain objects seem to almost protrude from the screen due a winning use of color, texture, and shadows.
Other successful elements include a musical score packed with nuances. Where games of this type tend to favor bombast over subtlety in their music, this one goes in the other direction and blends sweeping tones with minor notes that hint at a sense of humor and wonderment. Perhaps the most enjoyable frill, however, is the personalized Dungeon Master who describes your travels. His scene-setting gives Ruins of Myth Drannor a pen-and-paper feel that makes one a little misty-eyed for the real thing.
A Tremendous Mistake
Overall, though, Ruins of Myth Drannor looks like a tremendous mistake. Choosing to be the first computer game to present the Third Edition rules seems to have been the most serious error made by Stormfront Studios. Much of the basic design is confused and unwieldy, likely because the designers were trying to create a game at the very same time as those new rules were being drawn up. In this regard, the game was truly ahead of its time... though that certainly wouldn't be considered a good thing in this instance. One has to wonder who thought this to be an astute idea in the first place. Even at the time that this decision was first announced, I thought that it was more than a little foolish to be basing a game upon rules that had yet to be finalized. The potential for trouble was obvious right from the start.
That initial poor judgment seems to have prevented the game design from ever developing a real identity. Yes, Ruins of Myth Drannor is the first and only Third Edition D&D computer game. But even after playing the game, I'm still not sure what that means. Neither are the designers, as far as I can tell.
Review By GamesDomain
Comments and reviews
KVOTHE 2020-01-31 0 point
I have a problem with the installation of the second disc.
I use DEAMON Tools and for the first disc there is no problem. When i try to run the second disc nothing happens and the message to insert the second disc still remain on the screen. So the installation of the game is blocked. What can i do ?
Alyfox 2019-12-15 -2 points
This is one of just two games I ever literally took the disks and threw them into the garbage. Utter trash, time and money I will never get back.
HiZZZZ 2019-11-12 0 point
I have the same problem as Classico, game is running fine but cant engage enemies while in combat.
Zwix 2019-11-12 0 point
Installed on a different laptop, and I am able to target enemies and play the game. However, I now get the crazy triangle video that others have talked about. It is only in certain areas and goes away, but is quite distracting when I can't see walls, doors, etc. Can't make heads or tails of DxWnd, and Chrome won't let me download DGVoodoo2 because it says the site is known to have malware. Downloading it to a third computer now, if it doesn't work I'll just use my physical copy on my Win98 machine.
Zwix 2019-11-09 0 point
@Classico: I am having the same issue right now. Did you ever resolve it?
Classico 2019-11-06 1 point
I was able to install the game no problem and it seems to run fine, but in combat I can't select an enemy. I can move around, access menus and switch gear, but I can't attack or move to an enemy. I've tried adjusting the compatibility settings to Windows XP Service Pack 3, but still no joy. Any thoughts?
Blue 2019-09-26 1 point
HELP! I've got these colored flashing triangles all over the place, and sometimes my people become stick figures or disappear all together! What do I do?
ErikMalkavian 2019-09-14 0 point
Turns out that since I was only in the Tutorial that the Quest Log is not available and only flashes for a second. Once I started playing, the Quest Log is available so "Problem Solved"
ErikMalkavian 2019-09-13 0 point
Quest log doesn't stay open. It just flashes and then is gone, does anyone know a solution (And No I am NOT playing on a Potato or Toaster PC :-D
Also, if you are getting non-viewable or pixelated text with dgvoodoo Uncheck "BiLinear bit stretch" under the DirectX tab...Solved that problem and I can play it with Anthrosopic Filter at 16x and Max Resolution...Looks GREAT (except for the quest log problem)
L0rdV1ct0r 2019-08-22 0 point
Thanks. But the mouse acceleration is hurting my hands hard. Any way to turn it off?
HealwSteel 2019-08-17 1 point
Thanks miserupix. Got it running with dgvoodoo2. I tried dxwin but either i got lost in all the options or it didnt work.
For those having disc issues, i use PowerIso and love it. When you install, dont mount both discs. Keep Poweriso open and mount cd 1. After it asks for the 2nd one, unmount 1st and mount 2nd. Some games mounting both works. Not for me on this one.
Jebus 2019-08-06 -3 points
So far whenever I've been downloading this it has been telling me that the ISO is corrupt. Any ideas here?
Miserupix 2019-08-02 -2 points
Right, so download dgVooDoo2 and you'll play PoR2 smoothly and with no glitches, hope this helps people.
Miserupix 2019-07-28 0 point
Someone has mentioned being able to run it smoothly using DxWnd, I've got it running but the mouse doesn't work... does anyone know how to fix this?
Rob Koontz 2019-05-13 1 point
Telling me to insert disc 2. I've used WinCDEmu to mount the discs but I can't get past it not recognizing disc 2. Any ideas?
Max 2018-12-27 -5 points
I use WinCDemu to mount the disc, but i get an error saying the setup.exe is not a valid win32 application. What do i do?
psimon_key 2018-11-09 -2 points
i am having issues mounting the disks. im am getting a message the image is corrupt
Jay 2018-11-03 -3 points
Install works and game run, but even in xp mode game runs slowly. Anyone know a solution?
Rightie 2018-11-03 1 point
I followed DriftedBarley's advice and things went smooth. Make sure you load the second disc to the same drive you installed the first one on.
Azari 2018-09-10 -1 point
I can get as far as the setup on disc one, but then it prompts me to enter disc 2, and none of files work. Any ideas?
atle 2018-08-19 -3 points
Tip: use DXWnd to run this game in window mode. Max FPS. Really enjoy this now.
Trcky Dcky 2018-08-05 1 point
I have been looking for this game for years. Thanks! Cant beat free!!!
DriftedBarley 2018-06-19 4 points
I got this to run by the following:
Unpack the ISO files.
Mount CD1 using for example WinCDemu.
Choose Autorun or Setup from the CD and follow the on-screen install instructions.
When setup is complete, navigate to the install directory. Right-click "Pool II" and choose Properties - Compatability - Windows XP and press OK.
The game should now run, no problem.
Ingame you might have to fiddle with a few settings (like Shadows) to keep wierd colors and black-spots from appearing.
Hope this helps you enjoy a good old game.
Mudgrubber1 2018-06-10 -1 point
Don't know if you are still checking, but if you got it to work on either Launchbox or D-Fend, please let me know.
Joshua 2018-06-09 0 point
Have you tried running a windows virtual machine? I'll try it tonight, but cant promise I'll remember to message back on here if it works.
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