Fans of Baldurs Gate or Planescape: Torment should
find some familiarity with this one. A highly recommended
game to enjoy while you wait for Baldurs Gate II:
Shadows of Amn this fall.
Traditional RPG fans and those who play primarily pen
and paper D&D might want to give this one a try too.
Although the game puts a heavy emphasis on combat since
it is a dungeon crawl, there is a pretty decent story
tying it all together that is well worth at least one
ESRB Rating: T (teen)
Review By: Chris Johnson
Published On: July 2000 at GA-RPG
AD&D gamers rejoice, at least those who enjoy the campaign world
of the Forgotten Realms, for Black Isle Studios' latest RPG masterpiece
is upon you. In an attempt to offer up a more pen and paper feel
to their latest creation, the amount of combat has been increased
while the storyline is much more, how should we put it, to the point.
Things are definitely looking great for computer RPG fans that enjoy
D&D as well over the next year with a multitude of titles coming
Now if only we
could get someone to make a Dragonlance massively multiplayer online
role-playing game where I could be a black robed wizard, I will
rule the world!
Well having said all that, the game we are talking about here is
called Icewind Dale, that draws some influence from the highly acclaimed
fantasy works of R. A. Salvatore, aptly called the Icewind Dale
Trilogy. This is one of the first games that Ive had the oppurtunity
to cover here at the site from beginning to end. All I can say is
that Black Isle Studios delivered on the game they promised, as
you can find out in more detail in the paragraphs that follow.
Dale plays almost identical to previous offerings published under
the Black Isle Studios banner for their AD&D licensed games.
The difference is an obvious shift to a combat emphasis, while the
story really doesnt suffer that much except for its length.
While combat never was handled extremely well in Baldurs Gate,
it definitely is more enjoyable with this game. The use of the AD&D
ruleset is superb this go round, and the game pulls off that dungeon
crawl style the designers envisioned for the game.
the background during combat, the AD&D rules are definitely
in effect, so you will not have to worry about this facet of the
game if you are not a big AD&D player. Although there is some
deviation from the AD&D rules, the basics are still in place
when it comes to such things as the spells available at a certain
level, stat bonuses, and experience towards the next level. You
also have the choice to play as any of the standard races / classes
most CRPG players are all too familiar with, where certain class
/ race restrictions are in place, so I will not go into detail with
interface is easy to use, and far from clumsy. The available options
for your character can be found at the bottom of the screen, with
more information displayed on either side of the screen. Nothing
more complicated than a few clicks will accomplish anything in the
game, and the action can be paused at any point with relative ease
occurs in real-time, while each character does have a delay for
their next attack round. Through the correct use of the pause button,
players can effectively turn combat into a turn-based system. The
proper use of the pause feature is a definite requirement to make
it through the Icewind Dale campaign. The combat is definitely challenging
in this one. While we were told Projectile weapons would be toned
down in Icewind Dale, I found them to still be by far the best attack
in the game. Make sure all the members of your party have some form
of ranged attack.
Isle has definitely taken away a lot of the necessary note taking
with automatic journal and quest entries. These entries are triggered
by accepting / completing a quest or finding out something interesting
from a NPC. There is also a working map that gets put together as
you make it to more areas, which makes travel easier especially
later in the game. Speaking of maps, the running speed to get around
these has been increased from Baldurs Gate, and the path finding
AI is much better as well.
game can be saved at any moment in Icewind Dale as long as
there are no enemies within about a screen and a half from
your party, and the game has an auto save feature that kicks
in every 10 minutes or so. When we talk saves here at GA-RPG,
we also couple that in with the game's death system because
we normally are saving a lot when we die a bunch, and we did
find death early and often in this one. Death in Icewind Dale
is exactly the same as Baldurs Gate, which is still
a pain. Unless you have a cleric who can resurrect your dead
party member, you will have to make a journey back to the
local healer. Upon death, your character will dump all their
equipment on the ground, which is the biggest pain for dying
since you can travel to any destination on the map easily
enough. If the party leader is killed in Icewind Dale then
the game can continue, unlike Baldur's Gate.
Icewind Dale offers up the familiar 2D isometric 640 x 480
resolution of past Black Isle efforts , but the addition of
3D lighting effects using the OpenGL API is a welcome addition
for a little extra eye candy, primarily for spells. The 3D
additions are minor in comparison to the great artwork you
will find in the game, which includes quite a few dynamic
backgrounds. The interface from Baldurs Gate has been
given a new look with a more earthy tone to fit in with the
setting of Icewind Dale better, and a completely new set of
impressive looking portraits can be selected to represent
your characters. The cinematics used for the game are very
effective and fit well within the narrator telling the story
impression the developers were pushing for, although they
will probably garner little critical acclaim in the graphics
The overall sound quality of Icewind Dale is simply great. The sound
effects and background music both hit their respective marks, and
only add to the gaming experience. The character voiceovers for
the narrator and many of the major NPCs were nicely done, but the
voices used for your party were for the most part annoying. The
available option to tone down their bantering is an option many
will be using. Icewind Dale also features three-dimensional sound
quality support for those who own sound cards that support EAX.
As with our previous
review for Diablo II, I couldnt really find anything wrong
with this aspect of the game, and therefore we gave it a perfect
score for that very reason. I could have harped a bit more about
the character voices for your party, but by simply toning them down
they were acceptable. The sound quality of games released this year
has definitely improved, and we may have to become a bit more critical
on future games. For now though, you will not be disappointed with
Icewind Dale in this regard.
Icewind Dale shines in the single player game, with a variety of
settings to adventure through. The settings are broken out into
the various chapters of the game, and the use of a narrator setting
up these chapters is quite effective. The few puzzles in the game
arent too high on the difficulty level, and the what you need
to do next is pretty straightforward for the most part.
The story is fairly
good, but not as in-depth as previous Black Isle releases in order
to appeal to wider audience who might not enjoy reading a book when
they play a game. The only real problem with the story was the length,
where it seemed to come to an abrupt ending about five hours shorter
than I would have liked. The combat while fun and challenging, was
pretty difficult at times. You almost get the impression that you
need to cheat to get through a few of these encounters. Strategy
plays a key role in all these fights, so make sure you develop yours
early in this one.
Dale comes with full multiplayer support that allows for up to six
different people to join a game, i.e. the six members of your party
in the single player game. Supported connections include LAN, the
Internet via a TCP/IP connection, and direct connections (two players,
head-to-head, cooperative mode) via modems or serial cables. It
should be noted that there is no difference in the single and multiplayer
versions of the game. The person that begins the game must stay
logged in for the session to continue.
to the linear gameplay and smaller size of the game world in Icewind,
I figured that it would be easier for players to jump in and out
of multiplayer games without trying to figure out just where everyone
is or what needs to be done. However, I still cant get that
much enjoyment out of this facet of the game. You can tell the game
is primarily a single player adventure, with multiplayer tacked
on. I gave the game about four hours worth of play in multiplayer,
and switched back to single. The experience is much better playing
solo. For those that enjoyed the multiplayer experience with Baldurs
Gate; this one is more of the same in that regard. It would be nice
to see a proprietery system like Blizzard Entertainments Battle.Net
used for Black Isle Studios AD&D games, but this is highly doubtful
with BioWares Neverwinter Nights being the publisher's multiplayer
focus at the moment.
Icewind Dale should be able to keep a wider audience of gamers entertained
than past Black Isle Studios efforts. The AD&D 2.0 rule-set
coupled with a lot of challenging combat seems to mix well in this
one. A large variety of creatures and settings keep the game from
getting too mundane and repetitive. While the story is very linear
in nature, it is well written and enjoyable. Your characters level
at an accelerated pace from previous AD&D computer role-playing
games, and there are scores of magical items of all types to be
Having said this
about the game, it should be noted that the game is a bit hard.
You will find yourself saving the game early and often. Almost every
major fight within the game will require you to rethink your strategy
a few times after reloading. If youre not really into a heavy
dose of strategy in your role-playing game then you should probably
take a pass on this one.
- Does it advance
the genre? No, it doesn't break any new ground.
- Does it offer
anything new? Yes. A more pen and paper feeling than past Black
Isle AD&D titles.
- Does it offer
a decent amount of gameplay? On the borderline here.
- Is the product
relatively bug free? Yes, the latest patch fixed many of the
issues I experienced while playing.
- Does the documentation
thoroughly explain the game? Yes, great manual.
- Does this game
have any features to keep it from getting outdated? No,
the next generation of AD&D titles are coming, so this one's
time in the spotlight will be short.
- Is the game
worth the retail price? Absolutely.
- Is the game
Great artwork, attractive spell effects, nice soundtrack / sound
effects, a lot of challenging combat, a multitude of magical
items to found, great use of the AD&D 2nd Edition rule-set,
and an entertaining storyline to boot.
A few game crashing bugs, party member voice selection, game
length, combat difficulty, and low resolution graphics.
Dale is a surprising title that should keep the more traditional
RPG fans happy with the multitude of hybrid RPGs released
this summer. Although the game has an emphasis on combat,
the character development and storyline are both handled extremely
well with this one. The promise to deliver a pen and paper
dungeon crawl with Icewind Dale is apparent, and Black Isle
Studios has delivered. Although the game doesnt revolutionize
the CRPG, it does offer one of the better gaming experiences
of the summer. If youre a fan of single player games
or dont mind the mutliplayer you found with Baldurs
Gate, then you should grab this one.
only real problems the game suffers from are the difficulty
level and the low-resolution graphics. Being put on store
shelves the same day as Diablo II was an interesting move
on Black Isle Studios part, but depending on the type of gamer
you are then you cant go wrong with either title. If
I were to pick up one of them then Id take Icewind Dale
without a doubt because I actually like a story.