its origins in 1977, Dungeons and Dragons has become
an institution in itself. Curse Of The Azure Bonds
is the next chapter in the Forgotten Realms computer
game saga, taking the heroes of the Pool Of Radiance
and Hillsfar scenarios into ever deeper perils
and adventure-filled lands.
scenario for Curse is a mysterious one -- the
adventurers of great renown are awaken from a magic
sleep only to find themselves in a small inn in the
city of Tilverton, not prisoners, but devoid of any
memory of recent events.
the Elf prepares for combat
their possessions have been taken but in return the
party find themselves branded with an image of five
strange bonds on their sword arms. The bonds have been
created with very powerful magic and are strong enough
to at times command your actions, often with dangerous
results. Unless you find the source of the bonds and
the reason behind them, you will forever be subject
to their strange power.
much the same way as Pool, the adventurers begin
their quest with very little information about the situation
to hand. The city of Tilverton is relatively small,
but contains all the essential shops and services to
get your party on the road.
a motley collection of characters!
players lacking characters from the previous games must
first work their way through the involved character
generation system, with six races, nine alignments,
two genders (how many were you expecting?!) and six
basic character classes to choose from. Multi-class
characters can also be created if you select cross-breed
races -- the Half-Elf has a weighty 12 character classes
to choose from (including the complex Fighter/Magic-User/Thief
class). The addition of not only multi-class but new
single class characters (such as the Paladin and Ranger)
opens the game up and allows the player more choice
and a lot more scope to create a truly mixed band of
adventurers, mirroring the original RPG well and giving
the players more scope for playing new characters.
the party is created it's out into Tilverton to start
exploring. Curse plays much like Pool
(if not in an identical manner), with the adventurers
using the top left window for movement with the status
panel on the right and the commands along the bottom.
these commands the adventurers can perform a wide range
of actions and tasks from spell casting to swapping
weapons in mid combat. Characters can rest or memorize
new spells, the icons of each adventurer can even be
physically changed to suit personal taste. The player
is given more than enough options to use, in keeping
with the, immensely complex role playing game, and an
involved storyline to match.
combat inevitably occurs the screen display changes,
with half the screen taken up by the status panel, the
left half showing the combat in pseudo 3-D form. Spells
can be cast and ranged weapons used by lining up targets
and unleashing the firepower -- men move into close
combat and the battle begins. Not much in the way of
change from Pool in this section, although the monsters
are generally a lot better drawn and animated, with
Salamanders, Hunting Dogs, dreaded Beholders and very
large Black Dragons to roast your halflings!
are obviously limitations as to what the adventurers
can do but like Pool, SSI make maximum use of
the 64's memory to squeeze in a mass of locations to
explore, people to meet, spells and weapons to use,
missions to undertake and foes to defeat.
ongoing story sees the adventurers take on the mysterious
(and very lethal) Fire Knives tribe, confront the King
of Cormyr and his princess, rescue Dinswart the Sage,
locate three artefacts and explore Dagger falls in the
process. The depth of the game is considerably more
than previous SSI RPGs, with mini-adventures combining
with major adventures, all together under ihe one big
quest to remove the Azure Bonds.
inevitable climactic battle sees the adventurers take
on an old foe literally back from the dead, but in the
guise of another person -- (Cryptic Hint: Make friends
but beware, one of them isn't what they seem, you'll
find out in the end).
city of Tilverton is only a very small part of Curse,
there are underground caverns, sewers and outside in
the wilds; the Elven Forest, the Keep of Zenthil, Yulash,
the citadel at Hap, the Temple of Yulash beckons and
many other lethal locations await.
its intricate plot and superb player interaction, Curse
creates a very strong atmosphere with authenticity lent
to the proceedings by the mass of options and the well
executed tactical combat display.
a little of the innovation is lost as the game is a
sequel, and £25 could be regarded as quite a high price
to pay for something that is remarkably similar in style
and technique to a previous game, even with the demo
and neat animated scenes. But when you consider what's
to be found within it (and not all of it is at all friendly),
Curse certainly proves a worthy sequel to one
of the better RPGs around.