The follow-up to Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds continues the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventuring across the Forgotten Realms. After saving the city of Phlan, your party of six heroes decides to travel to Tilverton for some much needed rest and relaxation. Soon after you embark, however, you are ambushed and knocked unconscious. You awake in Tilverton, stripped of your equipment and left with five mysterious symbols displayed on your right arm. The azure colored symbols will periodically glow, leaving you powerless over your actions until the aura subsides. The bonds cannot be removed by conventional means or through magical spells, so you must discover who created the bonds in order to remove them.
Curse of the Azure Bonds features the same presentation and play mechanics found in SSI's best-selling Pool of Radiance. Once again the action is primarily viewed from a first-person perspective, with individual panels displaying a list of your party members as well as description of key areas. Combat switches the screen to an overhead, isometric perspective that involves alternating turns with characters as they move, attack, use items, or cast spells. Transfer existing characters from either Pool of Radiance or Hillsfar, or create a new party of heroes starting at level five. Choose from additional character classes, learn more than 24 new spells, travel across a full-screen overhead map, and slay an assortment of deadly new monsters.
Outside of the town of Tilverton, the party of heroes has been ambushed, captured and cursed with five azure markings called "bonds". These bonds have dangerous magical powers that can take control of the heroes at the most inopportune times. They must now search for the source of the bonds, and free themselves from the curse.
The second in the Gold Box series of role-playing games, Curse of the Azure Bonds is a sequel to Pool of Radiance. The gameplay is nearly identical to that of the predecessor and other Gold Box games. Following the AD&D rules of role-playing, the player creates a party of characters (up to the maximum of six). Two new character classes (Paladin and Ranger) are added to the four basic AD&D classes Fighter, Thief, Mage, and Cleric, which were available in Pool of Radiance. Exploration takes place in pseudo-3D environments, from first-person view. Battles (random as well as pre-set) take the player-controlled and enemy party to a top-down battle screen. Commands are issued in turn-based fashion, and the player-controlled characters can freely navigate the battle field. There is also an overview "world map" that allows instant traveling between cities.
In the annals of RPG gaming, few series can boast of being "pioneers" of the genre more than SSI with its "Gold Box" series, all based on AD&D mechanics and worlds licensed from TSR. Of these, four games set in the "Forgotten Realms" world stand out as the best of the bunch. Comprising four games released over four years, Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, Secret of the Silver Blades, and Pools of Darkness remain a lot of fun even today as some of the most addictive - albeit maddeningly combat-ridden - RPGs ever created. Pools of Radiance and Pools of Darkness are my most favorite of the series. Pool of Radiance because it was a great beginning to a solid RPG system, and Pools of Darkness because it gives you a chance to meet famous NPCs from AD&D world, marvel at the non-linear storyline, and develop your heroes to very high levels. All four games are must-haves for RPG fans everywhere, although Secret of the Silver Blades is a disappointment compared to the rest.
GameSpot's nice History of AD&D gives a good overview of Curse of Azure Bonds as follows: "Published in 1989, Curse of the Azure Bonds followed the story of Pool of Radiance with more monsters, treasure, character classes and level caps. Shortly after the defeat of Tyranthraxus the Flamed One and the destruction of the Pool of Radiance, the heroic party was waylaid, knocked out, and marked with the five mysterious azure bond images stamped just beneath the skin of each adventurer's arm. Your characters recovered consciousness in the town of Tilverton on the Dalelands. Before they could even begin to ascertain who or what had attacked them, they found themselves compelled beyond their will to attack the entourage of a false prince and were beset by the city guard. Fleeing to the thieves' guild beneath the sewers, the members of the party would then begin their arduous quest to hunt down the creators of each of the five magical bonds and ultimately free themselves of the curse.
In terms of gameplay and structure, Curse of the Azure Bonds followed its predecessor more or less directly, though it broadened the path considerably. The already solid game system of Pool of Radiance benefited greatly from material that had hitherto been conspicuously missing, including the ability to advance to tenth level for clerics and eleventh level for magic-users (which meant that spells of up to fifth level were available), the ability to enlist characters of the more esoteric AD&D Paladin and Ranger (and with the latter, the line of Druid spells) character classes, and the option for human characters to dual-class."
People who downloaded Curse of the Azure Bonds have also downloaded:
Pool of Radiance, Secret of the Silver Blades, Pools of Darkness, Dark Queen of Krynn, The, Champions of Krynn, Death Knights of Krynn, Treasures of the Savage Frontier, Gateway to the Savage Frontier
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