Jay Little
Ode to GoldBox RPGs

05/19/2015 02:33:03

As many of you know, I self identify as a retro and an indie gamer. That pretty much means that for the most part, I don't play many of the modern AAA games out there. Of course as a retro gamer, one must avoid going full hipster (otherwise known as asshole) by at least acknowledging that the retro games of today were once the AAA games of yesterday.

As I revealed in my Kryoflux article awhile back, I began collecting physical versions of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Goldbox games from SSI. Today that quest has finally come to an end as I have finally acquired the final game and completed my collection. Prior to obtaining a Kryoflux unit, I wasn't into collecting physical games with the exception of the original boxed edition of Planescape Torment that I acquired at one point. However once I started acquiring Goldbox games, I really wanted to complete the set. It didn't take too long to get most of them, though acquiring the final one not only took some time, but it also cost me more than all of the others combined.


As you can see, the vast majority of the games were shipped in a "gold box", which is where the nickname for the series originated. The last four were shipped in more traditional fullsize boxes, but since they use the same basic game engine, or some variation thereof, they count as part of the set as far as I'm concerned.

So why was I so interested in these games? That's easy. I spent a massive amount of my free time as a kid playing and failing to succeed at them. Specifically as a kid I had "Pool of Radiance", "Curse of the Azure Bonds" and "Secret of the Silver Blades". Later on I was given "Unlimited Adventures" as a Christmas or Birthday gift from my Uncle. That is of course the coolest one of all as it allows you to create your adventures using the Goldbox game engine. My buddy Lance and I spent hours dicking around with it and making adventures of all sorts.

As I grew older and acquired a better grasp of role playing game mechanics (a subject which despite all of the modern day advances in RPGs really hasn't changed much at all), I returned to these games and began completing them. I completed a lot of them multiple times, some I have yet to beat (e.g. Treasures of the Savage Frontier) and some have required years of effort to complete (e.g. Pools of Darkness). Like most classic RPGs, much of the mechanics in these games are insanely unfair. For instance in the final three battle sequence of "Pools of Darkness", you are not only swarmed with some of the most powerful creatures in the AD&D universe, but each successive battle introduces new and previously unheard of restrictions in an effort to up the ante (disabling all magic, final boss can one shot kill any character).

Nevertheless I love these games. These games were my first real introduction to the concept of a tactical battlefield. Sure my father taught me the basics of playing Chess, but that game never grabbed me like these did. I love the combat in these games, which is good because beyond the combat there isn't a whole hell of a lot to do. In any event being able to move individual characters around on a battlefield, taking advantage of battlefield structures, using party formations to force particular enemy behaviors and engaging in the use of short range and long range combat was almost unheard of at the time when the first Goldbox game "Pool of Radiance" was released in 1988.

If you've never played any of these games, I highly recommend them. The best place to start is probably with "Pool of Radiance" as it is quite story heavy compared to the rest of them. As for which one of these was the most expensive, that's easy. "Neverwinter Nights" cost me $163 on eBay and that's the one I received in the mail today. It is exceedingly rare as there were not many physical copies sold since it was primarily an online game. In fact it was the first graphical MMORPG. Sadly, it is virtually unplayable today as the servers as well as the required online service, which ran on top of AOL, no longer exists. Nevertheless it has historical value and its rarity along with the relative demand made acquiring it quite the task.

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