Pool of Radiance: Navigation mode

The navigation mode in Pool of Radiance is Wizardry-style, but not too Wizardry-style. The biggest difference is that you can’t see as far ahead: where Wizardry and Might and Magic let you see three map tiles in front of you (in addition to the tile you’re on), PoR lets you see only two. As a result, the perspective is stretched out in a way that I found rather confusing at first, having come straight off those other games: walls that are right in front of my nose look like they’re one space away. At the same time, it corrects Wizardry‘s chief deficiency, its tunnel vision. Walls are rendered to the full width of the view pane (which takes up a rather small portion of the screen).

Like Might and Magic, PoR uses the first-person navigation mode even in the city. (In fact, the basic premise of PoR is that you’re helping to reclaim an abandoned city that’s become infested with monsters.) Unlike M&M, it actually tries to make it look like a city. Buildings are largely freestanding structures, with different wall textures than their neighbors, all rendered in 16-color EGA and very much looking it. (Finally, we’ve got a game where the PC version isn’t a port of the Apple II version. PoR seems to have been developed on multiple platforms simultaneously, fully using the graphics capabilities of each platform, which, given the time period, means that the Amiga version looks the best.) And instead of inky blackness wherever there isn’t a wall (as was the case even in the wilderness areas of M&M), there’s a sky, which changes color with the time of day. The very concept of “time of day” isn’t found in those previous games; to the extent that time passes in them, it passes whenever you choose to rest. I don’t yet know the full extent of how time of day affects things in PoR, but at the very least it seems like the town guard comes out at night in the civilized areas to hassle adventurers trying to sleep on the street.

Both Wizardry and Might and Magic had a spell that revealed your current map coordinates. This was crucial for effective mapping (particularly after you got teleported or fell down a chute or something), and my first impulse was to look for such a spell here as well. But it doesn’t exist — how could it? This is an official Dungeons & Dragons game, and D&D doesn’t have such a spell, or even the underlying concepts to support one. Instead, your grid reference is simply displayed on the screen in navigation mode, right under the party roster. Clearly we’re not going to be seeing Wizardry-style interference with navigation: like Pratchett’s elves, our heroes always know exactly where they are. But even the coordinates are a little confusing at first, when coming off of Wizardry and Might and Magic, because those both put the origin in the southwest corner, and PoR puts it in the northwest. Seriously, if there’s one thing this game reveals to me, it’s just how closely Might and Magic imitated Wizardry.

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