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Adventure in the Heart of Winter (Part I)
by Taluntain

Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter is the expansion pack to the award-winning Icewind Dale computer role-playing game. It contains many enhancements, including many of the new features from Bioware's Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn.
The story takes place even further north, between the Sea of Moving Ice and the small logging town of Lonelywood, the northernmost of the Ten Towns. The barbarian tribes of Icewind Dale are gathering an army to sweep across the North, razing each of the Ten Towns in their passing. Guided by a series of strange visions, one of the shamans of the barbarian tribes asks the party's help in stopping what he believes is a grave mistake. Behind the facade of barbarian tribal custom and honor is a story that stretches back hundreds of years and plummets into the depths of evil. Whether driven by justice or gold, it's up to the party to stop the coming war.

The player can start the Heart of Winter expansion pack at almost any point within the original game, provided the party has reached an average of 9th level. Hjollder, a barbarian shaman from the north, greets the party in Kuldahar and enlists their aid. Should the party accept, he takes them to Lonelywood, where their new adventure begins.

There is much more to Heart of Winter than that, of course. But since I have been regularly updating our HoW features list, I will point you there to learn more details about this exciting expansion. The official FAQ will also answer many of the questions you might have.

Now, a few of my impressions about Heart of Winter.
As was said above, you can start playing the expansion at just about any point in the game, or import your characters from Icewind Dale and play only the new areas the expansion adds. For this short review I chose the latter, while taking one shot only from inside the Crystal Tower, just to give you an idea how areas from the original game now look in 800x600 resolution. Stunning, to say the least.

Also note the items on the floor of the first screenshot, see how they are all highlighted? That is one feature I know EVERYBODY will love. Simply press the ALT key and all items on the floor, containers, doors triggers etc. become easily visible.

Heart of Winter really adds much more value to your original Icewind Dale. Not only the game-wide shift in the resolution, which is a huge improvement in itself, but many other changes and new implementations that push the Infinity Engine to its limits.
Drop away interfaces, containers for items (even a potion bag) and full screen mode all upgrade the original Icewind Dale to the same level Baldur's Gate II is at.

But technical improvements aside, there are many other things you can look forward to. First and foremost, new items.
I was pleasantly surprised to see some new weapons and spells which really caught my eye, despite the fact that Icewind Dale was littered with cool weaponry in it's original release. I didn't go on a spending spree and equip all my characters anew, but there were certainly many items worth buying. In case you have a thief in your party still trudging along with a measly +1 short bow (as I did), fear not.
You'll find an excellent replacement in Heart of Winter.

OK, so weapons are fine, you say. But what about magic?

That too, my friend. A plethora of new spells for the worshipers of Mystra in your party, plus a handful of new ones for your clerics, gratis. Druids also get many cool new spells (Beast Claw, Moonblade, Smashing Wave, Wall of Moonlight, Whirlwind, Earthquake to list a few) which improve their usefulness in the game a great deal. Aside from that, druids now have the ability to shape change, transform into elemental form and more.

Well, this leaves us with only one more thing to discuss. Monsters!

To say the least, there are plenty of them. Tough ones. Smart ones. Funny bloated ones. Skeletal ones. Ghostly ones. Take your pick. And as you might have heard, your ultimate foe is of a draconic persuasion.

Fights are numerous and well placed, though your computer might buckle somewhat under the strain of showing a few spellcasters and about 20 characters fighting each other. A good addition to the information displayed during battle is the TYPE of damage you do to your foes, and how much of it they resist. Good for improving tactics of veterans and novices alike, especially when faced with foes that respond rather merrily to the attacks that do little damage to them.

Heart of Winter is available in stores worldwide (and ours too), and a double pack where both the original and the expansion are included has been released as well.

After you take a look at the screenshots below, head over to the second part of the Adventure in Heart of Winter.
There I put on display a number of official screenshots that came with my review copy (a bit more spoiling than mine below, but not commented, so less fun ;). Another feature I expect you will also like is some of the concept art (sans portraits) Jason Manley did for the expansion. I downsized and converted the originals, but they are still the largest and best-looking you will find on the net.
Wallpaper material? You bet.

Tip: Hold your mouse over the thumbnail for a short description, and click on it for a larger image


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Part II

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