FIRSTLY, I must emphasise that Champions of Krynn is not the sequel to Curse of the Azure Bonds, even though it utilises an enhanced engine from the Forgotten Realms series. Krynn is, in fact, the first in the Dragonlance series.
The story starts after the War of the Lance has finished. The dragon armies are planning revenge for that defeat. Their aim is to quash the forces of good with the help of the Dark Queen thus making her, and evil, total rulers of Krynn.
Improvements and changes to the Forgotten Realms series are as follows. Firstly, the magic system has been changed. It is controlled by three moons, each representing a god (good, neutral and evil). You will need to choose carefully as each moon brings its own benefits due to the mage's power varying with the waxing and waning of the moons. That said, though, you are unable to choose an evil mage in Krynn.
So along with the need to memorise and study spells, the chances of mages dominating the game are reduced - a good thing as the AD&D system is particularly susceptible to this. The gods also influence clerics, who will need to choose a divinity to receive specialised deity powers.
Combat, although important, has been re-designed to a more balanced level. There are not as many random encounters; the numbers of monsters reach about 10 instead of the previous 30 to 40. In addition, the monster's hit points are reduced so they are easier to kill.
There are plenty of tough individuals though - do not think you have got off lightly.
An interesting wrinkle in this modified system is that certain characters produce new game elements. Kenders (a cheerful thief-type chappie) replace Halflings and Solamnic Knights replace Paladins. The former have the unique ability to taunt an opponent, while the latter have the unique personality trait of giving away a portion of their valuables - noble fellows that they are (stupid, but noble).
Then there are the Draconians. Surely this bunch of critters are the programmer's revenge, because when they are killed they either turn to stone (trapping your weapon), blow up(!) or turn into a pool of acid.
Fans of the books will be glad to see Dragonfear make an appearance. This morale killer emanates from mature dragons but is only really troublesome to low level characters.
Finally, your choice of characters makes a difference. For example, only if you have a Solamnic Knight in your party will you be allowed to play a particular sub-adventure (the prize being some fancy plate armour).
Krynn is a vast improvement over the earlier games which, in this fast development area, are now looking creaky. Pool of Radiance had boundless freedom and very little plot while Curse of the Azure Bonds had a good plot but little freedom. Krynn has both plus, unusually for an SSI game, no little intrigue.
There are a number of sub-plots to draw you into the game, there is even a romance in there!
The game is pretty big, coming on three disks along with a 60-page Adventurer's Journal, 12-page instruction book, reference pamphlet and poster - value for money or what?
The market of RPGs is split down the middle. There are those RPGs which concentrate on puzzles, interaction, etc (Ultima) and those RPGs that concentrate on hack 'n' slash and other action elements.
Champion of Krynn falls into the latter category - and as such offers the highest quality production and most professional game design yet see in its class.
Addictive, detailed, with a balanced combat/magic system that can be recommended to combat aficionados, Krynn is SSI's best yet. I cannot wait for the next!