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 Pools of Darkness as follows: "The fourth and final installment of the Forgotten Realms gold box series, Pools of Darkness, set the stage for your party's adventure into the lair of an evil god. New Phlan was magically ripped from its foundations and dragged underground to the city of dark elves. The peaceful residents of Phlan, the Dalelands, and the surrounding areas of the Moonsea were forcibly kidnapped and pressed into slavery in service of Kalistes, the spider-priestess of the god of evil, Bane. It was up to the player to defeat the dark elves and their arachnoid allies, free the slaves, restore Phlan to its natural state, and eventually defeat Bane himself. Pools of Darkness followed its predecessors closely in terms of structure; players formed a party of six adventurers (with two extra slots for NPCs), that had the ability to advance to the lofty heights of level 20 (with access to spells of tenth level). However, the scope of the game was decidedly different from its predecessor. Combat in the game, especially later on, differed greatly from the encounters of the previous games. Your characters faced some of the toughest creatures in the AD&D universe, in addition to a number of new and formidable critters created specifically for the game, including the venomous Pets of Kalistes and the terrifying Minions of Bane (which had the magic resistances of demons and the breath weapons of dragons)."