D&D Dark Sun, Ravenloft & Krynn Come To GOG

Dark Sun. Ravenloft. Krynn. All Dungeons & Dragons worlds, and all names I know so well from roleplaying games I never played. In my earliest years of PC gaming, I was limited to games I could beg, borrow or steal from classmates, but I pored through enough magazines to be aware of what was out there and what I didn’t have. I can see the Dark Sun advertisement in my mind even today – and my eyes haven’t seen it for at least 20 years. Lavish, lurid art suggesting fantastical, impossible adventures; adventures I could not have. I read the news that Dark Sun – plus the equally alluring, gothic-themed Ravenloft and the Dragonlance-set Krynn series – is now available digitally (via GOG) for the first time, and I genuinely started as memories of old hunger surged into my forebrain. “It’s there. Now it’s possible. A missing piece of my own history.”

Then I look at screenshots, and oh God. Crashed back to Earth. But that’s just the discombobulation of witnessing images unseen since the early 1990s with these technologically-spoiled 2015 eyes, memory and reality colliding hard.

Of the quality of the games themselves I can say nothing. I want to go in, but I’m held back by this fear that I will pointlessly destroy decades-old aspiration in the name of empty nostalgia. It is precious to believe that there is something Better out there, just waiting for me when the time is absolutely right.

That said, it’s fascinating to now see how comparatively experimental this triptych of Dungeons & Dragons-licensed PC games were, even if they are at the same quite basic. The rules of RPGs were not written then, so they find their own ways of showing stats and dealing with parties.

The three packs – 2 in Dark Sun, 2 in Ravenloft, 3 in Krynn – are £6.59 each, and come with manuals and cluebooks, as well as the GoG-traditional compatibility tweaks.

46 Comments

  1. Troubletcat says:

    I hate it when my eyes get spoiked.

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    MrPin says:

    Destroying aspiration is a serious risk. I have learned to think twice before buying a past favorite on GOG because there’s always a collision between how I remember/imagened the game feeling and how it actually feels to my present self. At the very least I make sure to lower my expectations before I play such games, especially concerning the quirky/abismal UI and control schemes. The stuff we used to put up with…

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      Risingson says:

      Well, I thought it was common sense to take a look at youtubes or replay the game in other means before buying it from GOG. Specially when you are talking about games from 20 years ago, and you are talking about the genre that suffers the most from horrible interfaces: crpgs.

      Now, Al-Qadim, that is one I play every year. But I wonder if I am so used to the interface now or if the game is that good after all.

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        MrPin says:

        “replay the game in other means”… huh? If I could do that, I wouldn’t need to buy it from GOG. And it’s not the money spent that bothers me, it’s mostly only a few dollars, but the disenchantment.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Hey at least you got to play them once, I’ve tried to play so many exalted CRPGs that friends have recommended me and been forced to put them down due to the terrible graphics and UIs that feel like they were designed to be deliberately inefficient

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      Perhaps I’m just a masochist but I don’t think destroying your rose tinted nostalgia is something to fear really.

      It’s almost like reading your old journal/diary or a letter addressed to yourself. Some introspection of revisiting old thoughts and how you were right, wrong or embarrassing and gain a bit of perspective.

      Sometimes you even stumble onto some enjoyable extinct mechanic, design or excellent little details lost in time.

      The tinted nostalgia is even a bit problematic with the 5-star GOG reviews of experiences from 25 years ago popping up immediately, or Steam’s page after page of glowing reviews with 0.1 hour play time on some old re-releases.

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    Arnvidr says:

    I thought the Dark Sun screens looked quite fab, considering getting that pack!

    • mft-dev says:

      I’ve been waiting 20 years for someone to put out Dark Sun, I’m definitely going to be getting that pack. Man, the hours I’ve wasted with that game.

    • qrter says:

      Yeah, I tend to look at the screenshots of these GOG AD&D re-releases and think “oh dear, that looks like a lot of work”, but Dark Sun‘s are the first that look pretty good to me.

  4. Menthalion says:

    From a site big on indie pixel art games I’m slightly baffled by this article and comments. So contemporary pixels good, old pixels bad ?

    • Nevard says:

      Not all pixel art is created equal, nor did the article actually say what you are trying to say it did. It was a criticism of this art, not that period’s art.
      Pixel art these days is usually an intentional choice, picked for aesthetic purposes. If your pixel art isn’t going to look good, you’d pick another art style (pixel art is “easy”, but there are plenty of comparably easy 2d art options).

      Pixel art in the past however, was often a consequence of limited ability to use anything else. It isn’t necessarily actually that nice to look at, just as there are plenty of bad looking 3D games these days.
      Games in particular that really wanted to do a realistic art style but couldn’t due to technological limitations often look quite messy.
      That Dark Sun screenshot has messy colours, characters blending with the background, and unpleasant furnishings. I haven’t played the Dark Sun game, but that screenshot is not an example of good pixel art.

      • Nevard says:

        TL;DR: If you’re making pixel art now, it’s with the power of a machine that could do 3D if it wanted to, and with decades of experience in what works and what doesn’t to draw upon if you choose.

        If you were doing it then, you were doing it out of necessity and don’t have quite the wealth of resources to build your aesthetic from.

        Both could and have produced masterpieces and travesties, but it’s much easier to do good art now in imitation than it was then when it was necessary.

    • Reapy says:

      I prefer what I like to think of as modern pixel art, meaning there are sprites, but still things like 60 frames and larger sprite sizes, more animation transitions, more colors, etc.

      This also goes hand in hand with a modern game design, smoothing out all the sorts of awkward UI and things you’d find in older games. Things like shovel knight are perfect examples of this, it looks and feels like a NES game but certainly doesn’t behave like one. Another example of this is volgarr the viking.

      That all said I have many memories of joy in Dark Sun but would probably never go back to it, however the setting is a pretty awesome one and needs to be revisited!

    • neotribe says:

      There’s a difference between ‘pixel art’ and the CGA/EGA graphics and sprites of the early Gold Box era. ANSI art would be closer.

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    Risingson says:

    As for the games, please, take the nostalgia thing and throw it off the window. The Dark Sun games were buggy and end up being a bit shallow, but the setting and the things it tried and achieve are quite unique. The Krynn ones are Gold Box, beloved by many, but they really need to be put in context. As for Ravenloft, I never liked any Dreamforge game except Anvil of Dawn. The trick they did with the resolution was fine, but this one, menzoberranzan, veil of darkness, the summonner… really boring, stale, clunky.

    • tomimt says:

      I bought the first Gold Box collection with Pool of Radiance and boy, was it an experience. I must have had far more patience as a kid, as I don’t remember having huge issues with the UI and what not, but now playing PoR feels so ackward. The whole leveling up has been made oddly trying task, with the need to swap enough money from one charater to an another, all done via clunky keyboard driven interface.

      The combat is fairly good still though.

    • Shazbut says:

      And then you go on GOG and everything is:

      A Real Masterpiece
      “I have confused this product with the happiness I felt I felt as a child.
      5 STARS

    • neotribe says:

      The graphics may be painful, but the Gold Box implementation of 2nd Edition AD&D has basically everything that Sword Coast Legends is being criticized for omitting or changing. In fact, it may have too much of it for who learned more recent MMO-influenced editions and don’t understand THAC0 etc.

  6. Sian says:

    Good lord, Death Knights of Krynn was my very first CRPG. Considering how little my dad liked video game violence, I have no idea how we ended up with a game with a title like that. I remember pouring over the story snippets that were basically used as copy protection (y’know, enter word X from page Y of the book) when I wasn’t allowed to play. One hour of gaming per day, no more, was the rule in our family back then.

    I have no illusions as to the graphical fidelity of those games. The images are burned into my mind’s eye quite clearly. I don’t mind them. I actually want to see that again. Dunno about the UI, but it was all keyboard driven, I think, which I don’t mind. Keyboard controls are one of the reasons why I play Duskers, after all.

    Since I’ve never played the entire series, this is a must buy for me as soon as I get home. Never thought I’d see that game again. /content_sigh

  7. JiminyJickers says:

    I want them all but I have too many games and not enough time. Woe is me!

  8. ansionnach says:

    Didn’t play Dark Sun too much but it seemed an obvious inspiration to Baldur’s Gate looking at how it handled conversation wandering and combat.

    Completed Champions and Death Knights of Krynn around ten years ago and I loved them. Didn’t get on with the mouse interface in Dark Queen, though – it was a backward step that slowed gameplay down. Early mouse interfaces weren’t always an improvement (also see: Ultima VI-engined games).

    • Yglorba says:

      Dark Sun was basically a proto-Baldur’s Gate, yeah, including not just the conversation system but the general attitude of giving you many ways to solve things and a quest-filled open world with a broad goal. It had a more interesting setting, but the system was buggy (especially Wake of the Ravager; Shattered Lands wasn’t that bad.)

  9. acoff001 says:

    I haven’t played the others, but Dark Sun Shattered Lands is really cool, the setting and a lot of the quests are very interesting. Even though the graphics are definitely dated they have a certain artistic charm due to all the details included in the artwork.

  10. gsvelto says:

    I can’t speak for the Dark Sun / Ravenloft games but the Krynn series was pretty good, those were sandbox cRPGs before the term was invented (although with the limitations of the era). The UI is quite clunky by modern standards with the only saving grace that you can control it entirely from the keyboard if you feel so inclined. Level progression is also rather slow compared to modern cRPGs, but those games were trying to be as faithful as possible to the AD&D 2e rules, which obviously introduced some weird elements for a computer game.

    • neotribe says:

      Part of why the Krynn game were better had to do with the richer Dragonlance source material it had to draw on (not unlike the Forgotten Realms w/Icewind Dale and Baldur’s Gate).

  11. Turkey says:

    It’s too bad there weren’t more CRPGs set in the different D&D scenarios. Would have loved to see how Black Isle, Troika or classic Bioware would’ve handled a Ravenloft game.

  12. Bahoxu says:

    First reaction? Squeeeee?

    This weekend will be devoted to darksun and krynn.

  13. Michael Fogg says:

    The Ultma-ish look of Dark Sun is somewhat appealing, the two other blobbers – no thanks.

  14. Vesperan says:

    This will be the third time I’ve owned Champions of Krynn. First on Commodore 64, then on PC as a part of the 9 in 1 Gold Box Collection for PC about 18 years ago – and now. Good times.

    Looking forward to Buck Rogers.

  15. welverin says:

    Dark Suns is my favorite RPG setting ever, though Dark Matter is a close second.

    Needless to say the DS set was an instant buy.

    I played Shattered Lands way back when, but I experience some bugginess which i believe prevented me from finishing it.

  16. neotribe says:

    These have been a long time coming and I’m very pleased to see them. Original NWN is probably forever out of reach, can’t imagine GOG would bother overhauling it for singleplayer, but it looks like they’ve got everything else. Woo!

    It’s worth noting that the GOG Forgotten Realms Pack 2 is the one that contains FRUA — the ‘creation kit’.

  17. neotribe says:

    That said, it’s fascinating to now see how comparatively experimental this triptych of Dungeons & Dragons-licensed PC games were, even if they are at the same quite basic. The rules of RPGs were not written then, so they find their own ways of showing stats and dealing with parties.

    This is kind of an odd statement. Showing ‘stats’ was done with a character sheet and bog standard AD&D values (STR/DEX/CON/INT/WIS/CHA, HP, XP) and a combat log. Similarly, equipment. ‘Dealing with parties’ worked the same way as tabletop too: turns, rounds and initiative.

  18. vito says:

    This game is full of character, it had some pleasant variation in gameplay after loading a save once I decided I’d screwed up a battle. The game basically punched me in the mouth for thinking it was too old and outdated for my game library. Great recommendation.

  19. Josh W says:

    “but that’s just a rumour. Nice talking to you. Goodbye.”

    Heh, that could really do with some

    Manga pauses,

    Goodbye.