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Curse of the Azure Bonds

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Curse of the Azure Bonds is a computer role-playing game developed and published by Strategic Simulations, Inc (SSI) in 1989. It is the second in a four-part series of Forgotten Realms Dungeons & Dragons Gold Box adventure computer games.

The story is a continuation of the events after Pool of Radiance.

The associated code for this module is FRC2. It was released as a regular module for the role-playing game and as a computer game based on the module and the AD&D game system.

There is also a novel titled Azure Bonds by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb, and is the first book of the Finder's Stone trilogy. The game is partially a sequel to the novel.

Gameplay

To play Curse of the Azure Bonds, one simply needs to create characters and form a party. The gameplay basics are identical to all games in the series.

Player characters from Pool of Radiance (POR) can be transferred to Curse of the Azure Bonds, although players need not have played POR to play this game.[1] Characters can likewise be transferred from Hillsfar.[2] The paladin and ranger are two new character classes available in this game.[3] A player can generate new characters, choosing from six races, nine alignments, two genders, and six basic character classes. Multi-class characters can be created for half-elf characters.[4] New characters begin at level 5, or level 4 for characters with two classes.[1] The player can modify any character's stats before the game begins.[1]

Curse of the Azure Bonds follows along the same style as Pool of Radiance, with the main adventuring action using a first person perspective.[5] The characters use the top left window for movement, with the status panel on the right and the commands along the bottom, similarly to Pool of Radiance. Through these commands, the player can select a wide range of actions and tasks including spell-casting, swapping weapons, or resting and memorizing spells.[4] The player makes up an icon for each character.[1] A character's icon can be physically changed to suit personal taste.[4]

When combat occurs, the screen display changes so that half the screen is taken up by the status panel and the left half shows an overhead view of the combat. Characters can use spells and ranged weapons by lining up targets.[4]

Game differences

Curse of the Azure Bonds contained new features compared to its predecessor Pool of Radiance.

  • The game primarily takes place in the Dalelands and the overworld map allows a player to select an adjacent location and automatically travel there. There are random encounters when travelling to locations.
  • The player may now choose the classes of Paladin and Ranger for characters in addition to Fighter, Thief, Mage, and Cleric.
  • The Fix command was added to the Encamp menu. Fix allows a party to be healed very quickly as long as a living and conscious cleric or paladin is in the party.
  • Graphics did improve slightly, though everything was still drawn in 16 colors. In an apparent error, the character of Alias is depicted as having red hair in packaging illustrations (taken directly from the Azure Bonds novel cover) but blonde hair in the game.

Plot

Setting

Curse of the Azure Bonds takes place in the Forgotten Realms setting. The city of Tilverton, where the adventure begins, is relatively small but contains all the essential shops and services to equip the party.[4] Although the characters begin the game with no equipment, each character does receive money at the start of the game with which to buy weapons and armor.[1] Outside the city of Tilverton, the characters may explore underground caverns, sewers, and outside in the wilds. Other locations include the Elven Forest, Zhentil Keep, the temple at Yulash, and the citadel at Hap.[4] Some towns, such as Ashabenford, Hap, Yulash, and Zhentil Keep, cannot be explored by the party, but the player can use a menu to select places to go within the town. Yulash is under siege by marauders, and characters entering the town are also in danger from crumbling walls and sinkholes.[1]

Plot summary

At the start of the game, the player characters are adventurers of great renown who wake up from a magic sleep to find themselves in a small inn in the city of Tilverton, with all of their possessions stolen and no memory of how it happened.[4] A passing landlord informs the characters that they have been unconscious for over a month after suffering an attack. Each of the player characters has five azure-colored tattoo-like markings called "bonds" on each sword arm.[5] The party had been ambushed while traveling on the road to Tilverton.[1] They were captured, and cursed with these magical bonds which can be seen embedded on their arms; the characters' quest is to get rid of them.[3] Characters can visit the sage Filani, who will give them information about the bonds.[1] Each bond represents a different evil group, and through the bonds these groups can control the actions of the characters.[5] These bonds are the result of a possession-like spell, and when they glow the characters must do their bidding.[5]

The first bond forces the characters to attack the royal carriage as it goes past, resulting in a fight with some royal guards.[5] The characters begin searching for the first evil group controlling them: the band of assassins called the Fire Knives. After defeating the Fire Knives and ridding themselves of that bond, the characters are banished from Tilverton for trying to kill the King. The characters may then journey to Shadowdale or Ashabenford. The player then spends the rest of the game deciding where to go next to remove another bond.[1] As the story continues, the adventurers confront the King of Cormyr and his princess, rescue Dimswart the Sage, locate three artifacts, and explore Dagger Falls.[4] Princess Nacacia of Cormyr went missing a year ago, when she fled to escape a marriage arranged by her father, and it is up to the party to find her.[6] The game combines mini-adventures with major adventures in the quest to remove the Azure Bonds. In the game's climactic battle, the adventurers take on an old foe back from the dead.[4]

The remaining four bonds are controlled by Mogion of the cult of Moander, Dracandros, Fzoul and his beholder allies, and Tyranthraxus, who was the main antagonist from Pool of Radiance. The cult of Moander is based in Yulash, where the characters will also encounter Alias and Dragonbait, who can join the party. After defeating the cult the party is immediately attacked by three "Bits O'Moander", which are extra powerful shambling mounds. Dracandros is found in the Red Tower in Haptooth, and the characters will face a beholder in Zhentil Keep along with a troop of minotaurs and a medusa.[1]

After removing two bonds, characters may use the Search command on the wilderness map to locate mini-dungeons under certain towns; these caverns are dangerous, but the party can gain both experience and treasure in them. When four of the bonds have been removed, the characters go on to the final showdown with Tyranthraxus in the form of a storm giant, in the ruins of Myth Drannor. After defeating Tyranthraxus, the game ends.[1]

Story

After the defeat of Tyranthraxus, the party heads out on a journey and is ambushed along the road. The members of the New Alliance have placed a curse on the party by imprinting five azure tattoos, known as sigils or bonds, on their arms, each symbolizing a master of evil. These bonds allow the masters to override the will of the party and to carry out the will of the New Alliance. The party discovers these bonds when they awaken in the town of Tilverton, stripped of their equipment.

File:CurseOTAB-Intro.png

The five symbols on the party's arms are arranged in the following order top to bottom:

  • Symbol of Moander: A hand with a mouth in its palm.
  • Symbol of the Fire Knives: A knife surrounded by flame.
  • Symbol of Dracandros: An inverse arc with a sort of "plus sign" above it. This symbol bears a similarity to Elminster's symbol.
  • Symbol of Tyranthraxus: An ornate, inverse flame with the letter "T" written in Dethek in it.
  • Symbol of Zhentil Keep: A letter "Z" surrounded by a circle and the circle surrounded by a triangle pointing downward.

The goal of the game is to eliminate their overlords one by one and free themselves from the curse, eventually meeting with the famed servant of Bane, Tyranthraxus.

Plot overview

File:CurseOTAB-FinalEncounter.png

The party's objective is to defeat the creators of the five sigils and free themselves of the curse. The party will face off against a large group of rogues called the Fire Knives, a red mage of Thay called Dracandros, a priestess of Moander called Mogion, a cleric of Zhentil Keep called Fzoul Chembryl, and finally against Tyranthraxus (assuming the form of a Storm Giant) in Myth Drannor. Along the way, the party will meet some characters from the Azure Bonds novel including Akabar Bel Akash, Alias, Dragonbait, and Olive Ruskettle.

The bonds the party possesses can determine the friendliness or hostility of some people in-game. For instance, having the Zhentil symbol will cause citizens from the town of Hillsfar to dislike the party and charge outrageous prices.

Development

The game comes with a manual explaining game play, and an Adventurer's Journal which contains little paragraphs to read at designated points in the game. The game also includes a rune code-wheel for piracy protection; from time to time during play, the player will be asked to enter a letter from the wheel before the characters can journey on.[1]

The game was distributed in the UK by U.S. Gold.[3][5]

Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989) was the first of three sequels to Pool of Radiance (1988), and was followed by Secret of the Silver Blades (1990) and Pools of Darkness (1991).[7] New adventures for Secret of the Silver Blades may be started by using characters generated in Curse of the Azure Bonds.[8]

This game is closely tied to an AD&D game module and a Forgotten Realms novel by the same name.[9] Curse of the Azure Bonds was released on the Apple II, Commodore 64, and DOS in 1989, the Amiga and Macintosh in 1990, and the Atari ST in 1991.[10]

Novel

Main article: Azure Bonds

The novel Azure Bonds, and is a Forgotten Realms fantasy adventure book, written by Jeff Grubb and Kate Novak and published by TSR. The story begins with an adventurer named Alias awakening in an inn with amnesia and a set of blue, highly magical sigils on her arm. She soon learns that the sigils represent five evil masters that can control her mind, forcing her to do their owners' will. With the aid of a mysterious lizard-creature named Dragonbait, a southern mage called Akabar Bel Akash, and a halfling "bard" named Olive Ruskettle she sets out to learn more about the sigils' creators, and become free of them.[11]

Reception

 Reception
Review scores
Publication Score
Amiga Action 72%[6]
CU Amiga-64 89%[5]
Dragon Star fullStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg[11]
.info Star fullStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg[2]
The Games Machine 90%[3]
Zzap 86%[4]

Tony Dillon reviewed the game for CU Amiga-64, scoring it with an overall score of 89%. He commented on the game, stating "The graphics are more or less the same as PoR, which is no bad thing, and thankfully the game is still as entertaining and involving as the original."[5] He noted that the game's first-person perspective is similar to that of Bard's Tale, and also features an overhead view similar to that of Gauntlet. He concluded the review by stating, "I've said it before [...] but this is brilliant."[5]

Paul Rigby of the British magazine The Games Machine previewed the game, noting that he was not happy with Pool of Radiance (POR), which he felt was more like basic D&D due to certain classes, spells, and other elements being unavailable. Rigby said that Curse of the Azure Bonds (CAB) allayed his criticism, as "Six extra character classes, 20 extra high-level spells and a bunch of new monsters make CAB a very promising product."[12] In the following issue of The Games Machine, Rigby scored Curse of the Azure Bonds with an overall score of 90%. It was considered to be a dramatic improvement to Pool of Radiance with introduction of new classes, better storylines and improved combat engine. Rigby stated that "Overall, CAB is an excellent RPG, much improved and polished over POR." and "With a good storyline and excellent graphics, CAB is recommended whatever version you have."[3]

Scorpia reviewed the IBM version of Curse of the Azure Bonds in Computer Gaming World #63 (September 1989). The review noted that transferring characters from Pool of Radiance is a good idea, as this "will give you a headstart in the game."[1] Scorpia found the ending disappointing, as once Tyranthraxus is defeated the game ends. Scorpia also notes that the random number generator seemed to be weighted towards the low end for characters and towards the high end for monsters. She noted that the graphics and animations were improved over the first game, but felt the game speed was still a problem. She was also disappointed that that nothing much new had been added to the game except for the ranger and paladin class, and that the emphasis was still on hack-and-slash as opposed to puzzle-solving and genuine role-playing. Scorpia concluded the review by calling the game a "standard follow-up", noting that it was "better than POR in some ways, but combat still predominates".[1]

Zzap reviewed the Commodore 64 version of Curse of the Azure Bonds, giving the game an overall score of 86%. The reviewer felt that the addition of more character classes "allows the player more choice and a lot more scope to create a truly mixed band of adventurers, mirroring the original RPG well".[4] The reviewer felt the monsters were better drawn and the game's plot had more depth than previous RPGs from SSI, although some innovation was lost because the game is a sequel and that the price could be regarded as high as the game is similar to a previous game. However, the reviewer stated "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."[4] The reviewer concluded by saying "Curse certainly proves a worthy sequel to one of the better RPGs around".[4]

The game was reviewed in 1989 in Dragon #149 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 5 out of 5 stars.[11]

Doug Johns and Alex Simmons reviewed the Amiga version of Curse of the Azure Bonds for Amiga Action magazine in 1991, giving it a 72% overall rating. Johns felt that it was a very good RPG worth getting hold of, although he felt it was a bit too similar to other AD&D computer games and less polished than Champions of Krynn. Simmons found the game less appealing to previous releases such as Champions of Krynn and decidedly average, but felt that RPG fanatics who enjoyed SSI's other titles should consider purchasing it.[6] Judith Kilbury-Cobb also reviewed the Amiga version for .info magazine #37 (March 1991), giving the game four out of five stars. She felt that the graphics and animation were noticeably improved, and the combat encounters were still emphasized but made more manageable. She concluded by stating that "Azure Bonds is the most playable AD&D game yet."[2] Zzap reviewed the Amiga version as well, noting that this version of Curse is "a game that has fallen victim to the steady trudge of progress" rating it only 71% overall. The reviewer felt that the game was so dated by 1991 that Amiga AD&D devotees might want to but the game to add it to their collections, but the reviewer could not "help but wonder why SSI have bothered to release this conversion when they should be concentrating on bringing prompt Amiga versions of their newer titles".[13]

According to GameSpot, "In terms of gameplay and structure, Curse of the Azure Bonds followed its predecessor more or less directly, though it broadened the path considerably."[14] They felt that the game system benefited from material that had been missing from Pool of Radiance, such as the ability for clerics and magic-users to attain higher character levels, the ability to enlist characters of paladin and ranger character classes, and the option for human characters to become dual-class characters.[14]

According to the book, High Score!: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games, SSI ran into a play balance dilemma by allowing players to import experienced characters from Pool of Radiance. In order to make the game playable for both beginners and players with built-up characters, the designers had most of the characters' weapons and equipment stolen at the beginning of the game. SSI received criticism for this decision, and had to come up with new solutions to balance play in future games.[15]

See also

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 Scorpia (September 1989). "Curse of The Azure Bonds". Computer Gaming World (63): 8–9, 46. http://cgw.vintagegaming.org/galleries/index.php?year=1989&pub=2&id=63. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Kilbury-Cobb, Judith (March 1991). "New Diversions". .info: 40. http://amr.abime.net/issue_1673_pages. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Rigby, Paul (September 1989). "The Adventure Strategy Roleplay Column". The Games Machine (22): 80. http://amr.abime.net/issue_835_pages. 
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 Pool of Radiance 22–23. Zzap (September 1989). Retrieved on 1 September 2009.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 Dillon, Tony (August 1989). "Curse of the Azure Bonds". CU Amiga-64: 33. http://amr.abime.net/issue_705_pages. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Johns, Doug, and Alex Simmons (January 1991). "Curse of the Azure Bonds". Amiga Action (16): 72. 
  7. Barton, Matt (2007-02-23). Part 2: The Golden Age (1985-1993). The History of Computer Role-Playing Games. Gamasutra. Retrieved on 2009-03-26.
  8. Lesser, Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk (October 1990). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (162): 47–51. 
  9. Ward, James M. (May 1988). "The Game Wizards". Dragon (133): 42–44. 
  10. Curse of the Azure Bonds. MobyGames. Retrieved on 2009-09-11.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Lesser, Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk (September 1989). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (149): 76–82. 
  12. Rigby, Paul (August 1989). "The Adventure Strategy Roleplay Column". The Games Machine (21): 85. http://amr.abime.net/issue_834_pages. 
  13. Curse of the Azure Bonds 41, 43. Zzap (January 1991). Retrieved on 11 September 2009.
  14. 14.0 14.1 GameSpot's History of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. GameSpot. Retrieved on 1 September 2009.
  15. DeMaria, Rusel; Johnny L. Wilson (2003). High Score!: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games. McGraw-Hill Osborne Media. pp. 161. ISBN 9780072231724. http://books.google.com/?id=HJNvZLvpCEQC&pg=PA161#v=onepage&q=. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
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