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Platform

PC

 

Genre

RPG

 

Publisher

Interplay

 

Developer

Black Isle Studios

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q3 2000

 

- Nice story

- Very good graphics

- Great battle system

- Very good music

 

 

- Some may not like the linearity of the story

- Pathfinding problems

- Occasional poor voice acting

 

 

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

Review: Planescape: Torment (PC)

 

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Icewind Dale

Score: 8.2 / 10

 

While most PC RPGs encourage players to wonder off every which way, carving their own path to that big final battle against whomever, or whatever, is causing a ruckus in the kingdom/star system/post apocalyptic wasteland, Icewind Dale has gone a different route. The linear route. Yes, Black Isle has gone off in that oft dreaded direction, slapping players on the rails and guiding them from Point A to Point B to Point C and so on. However, unlike so many other role-playing games that have gone with this type of structure, Icewind Dale is actually quite entertaining. The questing is meant to be a relatively short jaunt through the Spine of the World, the frozen north of the Forgotten Realms. Keeping the game short and sweet gives players a nice, cohesive adventure that doesn’t go meandering off to Who Knows Where for no good reason, instead allowing players to bash beasts over the head to their hearts content, while getting a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that they’re making the world a better place. And with it being the Spine of the World they’ll need all of the warm, fuzzy feelings that they can get.

 

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The plot has players trying to figure out why there have been so many disturbances of late in the Ten Towns region of the Forgotten Realms. Seems that the orcs, goblins, and other trouble makers have been taking real pride in their work and have been putting a little extra elbow grease into it as of late, as caravans have been getting ambushed and towns aren’t the bastion of safety that they once were. Of course as the adventure continues things start to get more complicated and you learn that there is a mastermind behind all the commotion that has been stirring of late. As the quest progresses it the overall gist of the evil plan becomes clear and guess what, you have to fight the aforementioned mastermind. The premise is quite familiar but the tale itself is an entertaining toe-tapper nonetheless.

One of the nice things about Icewind Dale is that it lets you make your party of six right from the get-go. Unlike Baldur’s Gate where you started with two characters and had to be real careful where you put your foot down for fear of a royal butt kicking due to being hopelessly outnumbered, in this game you have a solid party of six to take on large forces with. Character selection is respectable with fighters, rangers, paladins, clerics, thieves, mages (which can specialize in a particular magical field if the player is so inclined), et cetera.

 

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The engine that the game runs on is a mild improvement on the one found in Baldur’s Gate, more or less adding refinement to it. The battle system is the same, going for that cross between real-time and turn-based combat, but now when you hold your mouse over the enemies you find out how close to death they are, not just their name. Fighting hordes of enemies at once is nice and straightforward too. It isn’t hard to setup a wall with your melee 

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characters to hold off the enemy advance, then having magic-users and party members equipped with ranged weapons firing into the bottlenecked enemy charge. Those who like to have a couple of versatile sorcerers in their party will also be happy to know that there are far more spells available in Icewind Dale than there were in Baldur’s Gate. So, if you like frying your orcs, or zapping your ogres there are plenty of spells here to keep you busy. But bare in mind that this is still the Balrdur’s Gate engine, so the problematic pathfinding for party members is still there, so micro-management of characters while traveling will definitely take place here.

Looking at these spells in action also goes to show that the visuals in this game are easy on the eyes. There is a lot of detail in all of the environments from the shrubbery to the town structures to the ancient ruins scattered throughout the realm. Characters too look quite nice with noticeable differences in the weapons that they’re equipped with and whatnot. Monster-wise there are plenty of beasts to bash and they mostly look unique, with some that are only marginally different because of being in a closely related species, but whatever the case they look good, and often plenty imposing. There are even new pictures for the character profiles, which look like very nice oil paintings, full of detail. One other nice thing about the game’s visuals is that there is no slowdown to be seen (at least on the machine used to review the game). Even with every monster in the dungeon and their mothers attacking your party at once you won’t see the action on-screen suddenly slowdown to an intolerable chugging.

 

Standing equally tall next to the game’s visuals is Icewind Dale’s aural presentation. The sound effects are very realistic from the major sounds like the clatter of weapons to the sound of your party’s footfalls. There is still plenty of positional sound being used as well, though sometimes it feels off the mark, as if it isn’t quite coming from the area that it should. Voice acting is generally quite good, though from time to time you can expect to come across some truly awful actors portraying some of the characters. The real crown jewel of Icewind Dale’s audio experience comes from its music though. The tunes in this game really do a good job of taking the player to a far off place while also giving a very good sense of being in a magical, mythical world. The music in Icewind Dale has to be some of the best to come along in a game on any platform in a long time. The composer of the soundtrack, Jeremy Soule, has really outdone himself here.

By and large Icewind Dale makes for a very fun role-playing romp. It isn’t the grandest, most epic quest ever, but it isn’t trying to accomplish this. If you’re looking for a quick dungeon crawling, hack-and-slash trek through the frozen north with a peppy little story and some great combat then this is definitely a title to get.

Reviewed by Mr. Nash

(September 1, 2000)

 

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