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Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!

Curse of the Azure Bonds
1989 Strategic Simulations, Inc.
By Paul Murray, Keith Brors & Jim Jennings

 
Most text of the present article comes from the C64 review published in the fifty third issue of the British magazine ZZAP!64 (Street date: August 17th, 1989) and the Amiga review published in the sixty ninth issue (Street date: December 13th, 1990).
 

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CURSE OF THE AZURE BONDS
SSI, C64 24.99

 

ince 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.

The 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.

Janice the Elf prepares for combat

All 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.

In 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.

What a motley collection of characters!

Novice 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.

Once 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.

Through 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.

When 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!

There 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.

The 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.

The 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).

The 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.

With 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.

Admittedly 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.

 
Atmosphere 89%
Playability 83%
Lastability 86%

Overall

86%

CURSE OF THE AZURE BONDS
SSI/US Gold, Amiga (1 MEG ONLY!) 29.99

 

SI are slowly filling in the holes of their AD&D releases by producing Amiga conversions of their much heralded, but rather aged, Forgotten Realms series.

Improved over Pool of Radiance, Curse introduces two new classes, Paladin and Ranger, high level spells which include 'raise dead' and a greater variety of monsters which mean that, as far as I'm concerned, this was the first AD&D product to appear from SSl -- Pools being basic D&D, due to its dearth of AD&D features.

Another big change regards the actual plot. Basically, your team awake to find that they have been ambushed, captured and cursed with five magical bonds which can be seen embedded on one chap's arm at the start of the game. The bonds have powers to take control of your characters' actions. Your quest? Get rid of them! The actual storyline is an immense improvement over Pools which just presented a set of missions for you to complete. Curse has a deeper, more involved plot which moves at a good pace.

Magic still has to be learned and scrolls read which is okay with me as this system is more realistic and prevents the magic users taking a complete hold on the game -- as tended to happen in Bards Tale, for example.

The combat system is very good, with the game allowing the player to deal in tactical manoeuvring. A 'Quick' feature allows you to turn a character over to computer control to speed up the combat routine.

Curse is not perfect, though. A feature to enable the combat to finish in seconds would be an attraction to players who have no real interest to combat. Even with the 'Quick' feature, combat can drag on for 30-45 minutes -- you have been warned! The parser could have been improved to allow more freedom to interact with NPCs. As it is, you must decide on your general approach to a character, such as 'haughty'. The computer takes it from there. Although much improved over Pools, Curse is still a game that has fallen victim to the steady trudge of progress.

Even with enhanced graphics and sound, Curse is dated. Amiga AD&D devotees should buy it to add to their collection, but I cannot help but wonder why SSI have bothered to release this conversion when they should be concentrating on bringing prompt Amiga conversions of their newer titles.

 
Atmosphere 68%
Puzzle Factor 67%
Interaction 72%
Lastability 90%

Overall

71%
 


If you want a walkthrough, visit
Jacob Gunness
' Classic Adventures Solution Archive or
Martin Brunner's C64 Adventure Game Solutions Site

Pool of Radiance Demonstration Sequence

Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (28 Feb 2010)
Only the first 2 screenshots existed in the original C64 review. There were no screenshots in the original Amiga review.

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