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Icewind Dale By John "Award" Del Percio, August 6, 2000
Developer :Black Isle Studios
Publisher :Interplay
Release Date :Early July 2000
Demo Available : No
Table of Contents

· Introduction
· Closer Look
· Facts
· Final

Once More Unto the Breach

For those of you returning to the Realms, much has changed in Faerun, yet much has stayed the same.

The primary difference between Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale is in the very essence of the gameplay. In Baldur's Gate, it took a more traditional AD&D approach of exploring the lands and buildings, speaking to everyone you can. Icewind Dale only has specific points of speaking to important characters, but for the most part goes more the way of the classic dungeon crawl. Perhaps to be more like the Action RPG's. There is one central town as opposed to many towns across the land. While you will run across a few other merchants across the land that you can trade with, they are often specialized and you can't accomplish everything you would want to run to town for. Thus, you must make frequent runs to town to stock up on arrows, bullets, and bolts, which can be annoying with no way to instantly arrive there. Fortunately, I have managed to fair well with just running on melee and magic until I complete a dungeon. Don't worry about only one town, though, there is still plenty of story line to go around, and you still have six long chapters.

Icewind Dale still uses the Infinity engine, but fortunately does not look outdated in the slightest. With the same well organized interface as Baldur's Gate with a few improvements, and even more beautiful 32bit graphics in the pre-rendered world where no two screens are alike, it couldn't look more real, using a few improvements over Baldur's Gate. One unfortunate thing that did not work out was OpenGL support for hardware acceleration. Unfortunately, it is unsupported, and it shows. Even with the latest drivers for my TNT, it kept trying to ignore my video card, and use the CPU resulting in unplayable slowdown. Fortunately; however, it looks magnificent in 2D as well, in fact, one of the artists on the game commented on the Interplay forums that he thought it looked better in 2D anyway.

Big cess pools...yum!
More crypts
The inn at Kuldahar

Another major tweak that appears to have been given an overhaul is character sleeping. Anyone who played Baldur's Gate probably had their fists through three or more keyboards having punched through them in frustration that every time you went to sleep to recharge a spell, you ended up ambushed, after waiting for that darn movie to play. Being far more combat oriented, you'll find Icewind Dale's sleeping to more times than not, be successful. Also, the respawning of enemies does not occur in most places. The game is far more linear than the non-linear Baldur's Gate. In BG, you could pretty much go anywhere, and keep beating on the respawning monsters in the wilderness aside from a few places that were only available after certain chapters. In IwD, you can only go to each area as it is added to your map after completing the last location.

Also, you will notice party formation to be rather different. Where Baldur's Gate focused around a single character who met other adventurers along the way and incorporated them into your party. In IwD, you get to create your own entire party. The experience system has also been tweaked, and you can level up much quicker. With a total of 18 levels (for all you non AD&D'ers, that is a high level in AD&D) and eight spell levels (the last two can not be memorized) you end up with one very powerful party. Another thing that adds to your parties power is the rather non-AD&D-like feature of being able to always roll the maximum amount for hit points on levelup.

The temple of Kuldahar
Desolate caverns
Casting Magic Missile in a cave

The nicest element of BG is still there: the strategic battles. Far more than just hack and slash, you can pause the action and plan your attacks. Just be sure to save before every battle. You'll be doing a lot of saving and loading in this game until you get the strategy right. Not only that, but unlike many other games, the monsters are not just there for the sake of being there, all sent to kill you from the supernatural forces. They are there for their own motives, and kill you merely because you mettled in their plans. While their plans are sometimes evil, and sometimes for survival, nevertheless they are existing in the world, and are there for a reason. While BG focussed around attacking human enemies who were bent on power, money, and other causes, IwD focusses mostly on monsters and undead, but even monsters have motives.

One downfall to some people of the BIS games is the fact that they fall short in multiplayer, due to being bound to the same location as everyone else, the same dialogs, and overall, no freedom in a completely linear game. This is not really a flaw of the game though. They did the best they could, but there isn't too much you can do with multiplayer for this type of game. The focus is entirely on the single player. Even the re-play value suffers. Once you've beaten it, you've seen everything, and to play again is just to do it all over again. It is not too great a loss; however, as it is a very long game. Not quite as long as Baldur's Gate, but almost, and the multiplayer trade off is worth it, because it is unlike any experience you've ever had, and the story will stay with you for a while.

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