in the Heart of Winter (Part I)
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hold your mouse over the thumbnail for a short description, and
click on it for a larger image