Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds may be the two most influential games for Chaos Chronicles. It might be hard to tell at first since Chaos Chronicles looks more like another Baldur’s Gate or Dragon Age with its top down perspective.

One of the first differences is that you do not only create a single character but a whole party. You have to take some time doing this and chances are that after playing the game for a couple of hours you might want to go back and roll new characters. Maybe because you want to try something different since there are many options. Maybe because you figured out a few mechanics that work really well and you want to exploit them to the max.

With creating your own party comes another thing: If you remember the story from more recent party RPGs like Dragon Age 2 it revolves around the fate of very specific characters. Pool of Radiance was very different in that regard. It was about exploring the world and changing its fate much more than about cutscenes or dialogues. It left you room for your own imagination.

And then there was the turn based combat. Your party of six against a dozen Kobolds. Moving your fighters (nowadays you would call them ‘tanks’) up front to protect your weaker magic users (that nowadays would simply be seen as damage dealers but back then did so much more than just that with a ton of different spells that were useful outside of combat). And then keeping both thumps pressed on every enemy attack that the Kobold would miss so you may be able to save your healing for another fight. And then casting a spell and watching its effect resolve. You target the right Orc in the center and then see how it puts the others around him to sleep – or burns them down depending on the type of spell.

The thing was: With the AD&D system in place one or two hits could be deadly. So there was always hope with every digital die roll that the tides of battle might turn around. If you got lucky to kill one or two opponents this turn you might still have a chance, right?

 

 

 

Outside of combat the game still had a lot to offer. Actually there was a sense of wonder around every corner. Back then every encounter seemed to have an effect that mattered. And with no internet around there to prove the ravings of another player on the schoolyard right or wrong there was no way to be a 100% sure is something was just some kind of nonsense made up by the flowering imagination of another kid at school (who would of course cite sources as magazines or older brothers to undermine his claims) or actually something to consider. So you killed a gypsy that offered you to tell you your fortune and didn’t like what she told you. And then the next day someone tells you that this decision makes the combat encounters in that area much harder. Maybe that’s why you were attacked by all those goblins after leaving her shop?

But the most rewarding thing may have been to import the adventurers from Pool of Radiance (those that made it through the adventure that is…) into Curse of the Azure Bonds. Carrying over your party was pretty much writing your own epic adventure story as your heroes continued to grow stronger and stronger.

Our company Coreplay is a German studio and although we do have some team members from other countries most of us did learn English as a foreign language. And the way we actually learned it was through playing games on our home computers.

Imagine the following: You have a C64 and your uncle buys you a game for your birthday. The game is called Curse of the Azure Bonds. The year is 1989 and you are 9 years old. You do not know one word of English. Imagine the learning curve of the experience! Even with your uncle helping you out now and then.
Another scenario: You are a teenager. You know Lord of the Rings inside out. On your shelf you have those expensive books from the fantasy shop in the big city that is a bus ride of nearly two hours away labeled Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. And then there is that game coming out for your C64: Pool of Radiance. AD&D rules in a computer game. You don’t even have to get your friends come over to play!

The Gold Box games were for some of us among the first games we ever really had to sink our teeth into. Character creation alone was something that you could spend hours with. If you were not already an expert on AD&D you went to seek out the knowledge of the one geek in your school you could explain to you how that THAC0 worked. You would spend each break on the schoolyard discussion with others how to build the most efficient party and you would start the game over and over again going through different combinations of classes.

Those were the days long before there was an internet connection in every house. Actually there wasn’t even an internet to connect to. Puzzles could stop you from progressing through the game for days or even weeks. Still everyday you could exchange the experiences of your ventures into the unknown on the schoolyard. What loot did you get fighting those goblins? How did a poison cloud save your whole party from wiping out.
It’s hard to capture that feeling today. Too many things have changed. First of all there is the internet which offers an endless resource of information. You got stuck? Google will help you out. Then there is the development of games over the last decades that resolves around making things if not pick up & play so at least frustration proof. Your party wiped? Reload and try again.

A lot of the design of Chaos Chronicles revolves around finding a way to include some of the elements mentioned above in a game that is released today into a world where people may not enjoy creating a whole party worth of different characters or might not accept that losing a party member might be part of the experience. A world were even the slightest irritation might make you pick up one of the million other games in the same genre.