SSI Gold Box/Silver Box Series Retrospectives

The nostalgic fellows at World 1-1 have been busy cranking out retrospectives for many of the AD&D-based titles that SSI developed during the late 80s and early 90s, and while the list isn't entirely complete, they've definitely shone a spotlight on most of them. A quick alphabetical list of the articles and the relevant links:
- Champions of Krynn
- Curse of the Azure Bonds
- Death Knights of Krynn
- Dragons of Flame
- DragonStrike
- Eye of the Beholder
- Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon
- Eye of the Beholder III: Assault on Myth Drannor
- Heroes of the Lance
- Hillsfar
- Pool of Radiance
- Pools of Darkness
- Secret of the Silver Blades
- Shadow Sorcerer
- The Dark Queen of Krynn

And here are a few choice quotes:
SSI's license alliance with TSR pulled AD&D from tabletops to PC screens everywhere while at the same time, creating some of the nicest looking ads and box art for the games thanks to the access that they also had to their art vaults. Though renowned for the Gold Box series of hardcore CRPGs that dove right into the AD&D worlds of the Forgotten Realms, for example, they also dabbled in arcade action type derivatives for TSR's Dragonlance setting. The first of those would be 1988'²s Heroes of the Lance developed by U.S. Gold.

Heroes takes after the Dragonlance module (Dragons of Despair) which came out in 1984. It was also the first chapter kicking off the famous saga which would go on into novels, more modules, and epic arcs in the following years.


The story behind Death Knights pits your party against a new threat a year after the events in Champions. An undead hero, Sir Karl whom Champions veterans might remember as giving his life as a Solamnic Knight to help them, suddenly invades the festivities celebrating your heroism a year ago. Riding on the back of an undead dragon, he snatches the dragonlance on display during the party and flies off, his former lover, Maya, changing form and flying after him as a silver dragon. In their chase for the lance, the players discover that Lord Soth, an incredibly powerful undead Solamnic Knight, has returned and brings with him an army of the undead to lay siege against the fragile peace won in the last game.

For the most part, the game was largely a hack '˜n slash with plenty of combat and a linear progression from one end of the game to the climax with Soth. Villages and towns along the way had the option for players to clear them out of any nasties as well as provide opportunities for experience and valuable loot. Undead also saw heavy use in the game, especially the level-draining kind which even a seasoned veteran like CGW's Scorpia had to take careful stock even after dropping the battle difficulty a notch. It was made especially more tough as not all of the undead in the game could be turned, even by a battle-tested cleric, meaning that it was up to sheer attrition to save the day in many cases.


Secret of the Silver Blades was also a far more linear game than its predecessors were based as it was around a '˜hub' design. There was no overworld map here, just a series of dungeons set up around a '˜base'. At New Verdigris, players could call on free heals and gear up by spending their treasures, train up if they had enough experience, and feed the Well of Knowledge precious gems for answers that it might have in solving the riddles facing them. Teleporters linked the area to various dungeons as long as players located the other end of those allowing for easy access back and forth, though players can still camp out in the midst of all of that danger if they needed to rest up and recover on the fly.

The game ends with a traditional bad guy battle, or as CGW's Scorpia has often referred to it as, a Foozle fight. The game doesn't end when players defeat the evil at the heart of this monster mash, though there's not a lot else to do at that point when the party have become walking juggernauts.
Big hat tip to RPG Codex for spotting these articles.