Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Gateway to the Savage Frontier takes place in the Sword Coast, situated in the northwest of the Forgotten Realms game world, and is the first SSI gold box title to use 256-color VGA graphics. The RPG adventure centers on a sinister plot by a cabal of evil wizards and priests to take control over the region. You must develop a party of up to six characters with the task of avenging not only its own plight at the hands of robbers but also one capable of stopping the cabal.
Gateway to the Savage Frontier characters begin with a small sum of cash and 3000 experience points each, enough to take most to level two, with advancement possible in most cases to levels six to eight. Exploration and character interaction is seen through a first-person perspective, while turn-based combat employs an isometric view. The isometric viewpoint allows for an element of strategy, as players must move and position characters to take advantage of their abilities.
The upgrade in graphics from previous games in the series made Gateway to the Savage Frontier the best looking gold box game released at the time, but were actually fairly unimpressive compared to other VGA games released around the same era (early 1990s). The graphics were essentially the same 16-bit graphics seen in older gold box games, but with slightly bigger and more detailed character sprites and a bit more color.
The game offers a better sense of freedom for players than previous titles in the series, but the storyline fails to match the epic proportions of previous efforts. Nonetheless, Gateway to the Savage Frontier is a good introduction for newcomers to the series, while gold box veterans will still find much to like.
OVERALL RATING: 5
Overhead view RPG based on the paper-based Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms. First in the "Savage Frontier" series, but follows other AD&D/SSI products. Story line requires you to stop marauding invaders "from afar."
Gateway to the Savage Frontier and Treasures of the Savage Frontier are the last two releases in SSI's famous but by-now-overused "Gold Box" engine. Both games take place in the world of "Savage Frontier," a welcome change from the worlds of Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance used in most other Gold Box games. Gateway starts with your party drugged and robbed blind of all possessions. Soon, you get involved in a brewing political plot, and assigned the monumental task of defeating the evil wizard Vaalgamon. In the sequel Treasures of the Savage Frontier, the action starts after the first game leaves off: you are summoned to help the dwarves in their battle against the evil forces of Zhentil Keep.
If you have played Gold Box games, you'll know exactly what to expect here: a solid blend of real-time first-person perspective and turn-based isometric combat. Similar to other Gold Box games (and especially the Krynn series), there is a LOT of fighting in Gateway and Treasures: so much so that anyone who dislikes AD&D mechanics will likely feel frustrated. Fortunately, the mostly interesting stories help keep things interesting. The best thing about these two games in my opinion is the character-specific side-quests: in Gateway, there are two NPCs that give you access to optional side quests, as well as different endings to the game. As befits the final Gold Box game, Treasures adds two welcome features: the effect of weather in battles, and the ability to call in reinforcements. Die-hard AD&D fans might complain about the low level caps (for example, eighth is the highest fighters can reach), but in a way, this serves as a nice throwback to the classic Pool of Radiance. All in all, two worthy additions to every RPG's library, although the engine is clearly "long in the tooth," showing its age, and you still have to slog through far too many battles.
People who downloaded Gateway to the Savage Frontier have also downloaded:
Treasures of the Savage Frontier, Dark Queen of Krynn, The, Curse of the Azure Bonds, Secret of the Silver Blades, Death Knights of Krynn, Pools of Darkness, Champions of Krynn, Pool of Radiance
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