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Platform

PC

 

Genre

RPG

 

Publisher

Interplay

 

Developer

Black Isle Studios

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q3 2002

 

- A refined RPG experience

- Truly epic tale

- Jump right in with familiar controls

- 3rd Edition D&D rules

 

 

- Those expecting a groundbreaking experience will go away disappointed

- Menus haven't been streamlined

- Starts slowly

 

 

Review: Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal (PC)

Review: Diablo II: Lord of Destruction (PC)

Review: Planescape: Torment (PC)

 

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Icewind Dale II

Score: 7.0 / 10

 

The appearance of Dungeons & Dragons titles on the PC was spurned by the critically acclaimed Baldur’s Gate with succeeding titles re-iterating the now trademark format: party-based adventuring, authentic D&D mechanics and real-time, RTS-style battles. Icewind Dale 2 does little to change this formula but offers a more refined, concise adventure for the RPG enthusiast.  

 

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Six companions arrive by sea at the town of Targos, which is besieged by goblins. After gaining employment as mercenaries from Lord Ulbrec Dinnsmore, the adventure begins.

 

You’re given the choice of using pre-existing characters or creating your own party from scratch. Like pen and paper versions, character generation involves gender, race, class, skills and attributes. There’s a good deal of customization available and I was pleasantly surprised with the ability to play more exotic races such as the Tiefling, Deep Gnome and Drow Elf.

 

The game begins sluggishly with awkward fetch-quests, but develops magnificently over the next few chapters. While Baldur’s Gate 2 flooded the player with optional side quests, IWD2 chooses to flesh out the main plot thread. The result is a truly

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epic tale complete with the triumphs and pitfalls you’d expect from a good fantasy novel.

 

Like Neverwinter Nights, the gameplay mechanics are based on the new Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition ruleset. It’s a wise choice as 3rd Ed. sees the removal of obscure conventions like THAC0 and negative Armour Classes. There are also less restrictions with characters allowed to assume any class regardless of race or 

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attributes and equip any weapon or armor piece. The simpler, relaxed nature of the ruleset make it ideal for solitary gaming and it’s a much smoother experience overall.

 

Combat is real-time with a pause button to issue commands in the heat of battle. The spell selection is typically exhaustive with over 300 to choose from. In a thoughtful gesture, the possibility of spell failure due to physical attacks is lessened. Thus, wizards are encouraged to hurl magical ordnance in the thick of combat with little concern for disruption.

 

Yet without the adoption of 3rd Edition rules, IWD2 is essentially the same D&D game released years ago. No effort is made to streamline its pedantic, drag-and-drop interface. Path finding is weak as ever. Loading times are reduced, but remain frequent enough to disrupt game flow.  

 

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Presentation suffers from an outdated game engine but remains impressive on some levels. Tiny character models and jerky animations are balanced by the astounding artwork on the character portraits. The 2D backgrounds are superbly drawn, capturing the stark beauty of the region – you can almost feel the cold. The soundtrack is similarly impressive with the haunting melodies of the Fell Wood a stand out. Which, along with the strong narrative, saves the game from being mere rehash.

 

Those wanting to experience Dungeons & Dragons for the first time will be the most satisfied: Icewind Dale 2 is a good example as any. Advocates of change will want to give this second trip to the Dale a miss.

 

- Justin Liew

(December 4, 2002)

 

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