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Icewind Dale

by Mish.

So here I am again pushing the mouse around trying desperately to not hurt someone in anger. My party has died again. Let me make one thing clear: I have little or no patience for things that do not go my way. I do not have the patience to sit a watch a child cry or some numbskull try to swipe my demagnetized visa card over and over again after being told three times that the damned thing is demagnetized. I feel like asking : Are you stupid?
Nonetheless, I found myself sitting in front of my electronic companion anticipating a wicked game. I got Icewind Dale instead. Do not get me wrong, I like the game…I was expecting something a little different and think many others were too...

I waited for this game with bated breath. I could barely trust myself to hold it for fear that I might do some damage to the cellophane wrap! I remember the day…..I remember what I wore! So I popped this bad boy in. Man, was my heart pounding...I was so happy I was in tears. The excitement was mounting as I began to create my characters. I defiantly pushed the bitter taste of disappointment down as I looked at the not-so-great character portraits of the oh-so-damned-many circus elves...

Finally, I took my crew into the field of adventure. I wandered around the town talking to all the townspeople, as I am wont to do in an RPG. Why is it that so many of them said the same things? Who had written this script? Jacob two-two and the stutter gang?

So I wasted my time there-obviously forgetting that this was supposed to be more of a hack and slash RPG and not plot-heavy...yay. Thus, I trudged my way through the town and did the usual: asked questions, looked for things to steal. Do not worry about your lockpicking percentage...it is rare to find anything of real excitement to steal in my opinion.

Let me put things into perspective here. Icewind Dale comes from the Black Isle/Bioware crew-the same crew that did Baldur's Gate. They are also coming out with Baldur's Gate 2 this fall/late summer. So, if you are expecting Icewind Dale to be like BG or even just a mini version of it to tide you over, save yourself the disappointment and wait for BG 2.

The game is not ugly by any stretch though. The pre-rendered background scenaries are absolutely gorgeous. Like big bold painted murals from years long past. The characters are a bit pixilated but hell, as long as I can tell them apart, I am not that concerned.

Let me talk a bit about character creation. Besides the fact that this game is using the Infinity engine by Bioware, it is understandable that a lot of the game is like BG. Character creation is one of the commonalties. You choose the sex of your character, class (fighter, paladin, mage, druid, etc), alignment (good, neutral, evil, etc), race (elf, half-elf, troll, human etc) and you get to choose their weapon specialty and their strengths. Last but not least you have to name your character. I can tell you from experience, this is the biggest hassle of the game. If you are anything like me, then only the most original, cool-sounding name will do. I have spent something to the effect of 10 minutes on the name part alone per character. Once you get over this hump, fighting NPC is nothing but cake on your birthday. Here, you can create up to 6 characters- no solo hero in this game like BG.

This game has definitely added a really great feature that was not available in BG. Before you start every game, you have the opportunity to delete an old character and create a new character. Is that chaotic good paladin throwing a wrench in your plans to rule the world? Easy, delete him!

Now, the sound is great. There is an abundance of background noises…you know, the usual ones that pertain to each scene and the footsteps etc.. Also, the music is wicked as we all knew it would be from the pre-release MP3 samples. The music is easily impressive. And to add to your character, there is a wide selection of voices to choose from. There are both male and female voices and also selections of mages, fighters and thieves to choose from. My favourite male voice is the male fighter voice. He grunts, groans, growls, belches and spits...ok maybe he is not that bad but he is damned close to being a 'real' man (heheheheheheh...just teasing guys).

The plot is pretty decent too-the usual RPG stuff-but of course, telling you any of it would disappoint those who want a perfect and fresh game start.

So, what do I think of Icewind Dale? This part I cannot avoid. I like the concepts in the game, but I think that the parts that are not like Baldur's Gate should not have been used here. That is a harsh statement, I know, but the game doesn't seem to know what it wanted to do. It is not a pure hack and slash like many said it would be-too much an attempt at RPG interaction and not enough efficient battling. Diablo II is obviously a perfect example of a pure hack and slash. But Icewind Dale is also not a full-fledged RPG either. Too much emphasis on boring fights that are far too tough especially at the game's start and the lack of interaction doesn't make this game compete as a full RPG either-which is what Baldur's Gate was in its purest form. It is some form of odd hybrid that isn't completely successful at attracting a player to either of the elements contained within. At least this player anyway.

Also, I just hope that BG fans are proficient at ignoring what BG did better and what ID did not do. I hope that they can see that this is the problem with having such a great game looming over the shoulder of another. (I have my theory for why this game was put out with its timing and such, but it holds no water as of yet). To be honest, I was expecting a little more of a dolled-up version of BG with cooler characters. I got pretty cool characters all right but mostly elves and trolls. Makes one want to ask, 'Planescape didn't really disappoint, why did this?'.
When you play this game, play it as if you have never played BG before. It is a bonus for those who have not played BG or Torment; that way there is nothing to compare to. Once you can do that, you will start enjoying the game.

Yes I liked the game but as you can see, I was disappointed. A main beef is that there is little or no difference between easy mode and normal mode. You are killed just the same. I played one quest about 4-5 times because my party members were just ripped apart! They also tend to stand around checking out their dayplanners while an animal is gnawing on their legs-the player AI is often dumb and slow and that never seems to be the same for the enemy AI. You have to very aware of what your party is doing at all times or they could find themselves in trouble. I hate to be a sore loser but how am I to enjoy the game if cannot finish a really simple quest in less than three tries or without me losing almost all my party members? I do not like comparing BG and Icewind Dale because they are two different ends of the same general genre and not sequels BUT they did use the same engine and in this case, familiarity breeds disappointment. I bestow upon this game a 74%. Good, but not at all great.


FINAL MARK

graphically beautiful as usual although they need to start making the characters a little less pixilated AI felt unimpressive.

music is also beautiful, but gameplay is unfulfilling. Feels like the game itself didn't know exactly what it wanted to be sometimes.

This is no Baldur's Gate OR PS:Torment...but a lot of devotees will still adore this title for simply being 'Baldur's Gate-esque'.

74%

 

That good old feeling...kinda...

One of the first architectural wonders you get to experience is the nifty Temple of Tempos...If there is one thing that Icewind Dale keeps with in terms of the Baldur's Gate engine tradition it's the sweet sights one can see in the game...

 

And yes....you can still raid houses in the game, but for some reason, the lockpicking finds don't really ever get that exciting-for the most part anyway. There are still some decent finds though on occasion...

 

Alright, just check out that texturing....the pre-rendered backgrounds rock as usual....enough said.

 

When this shot was taken near the game's beginning, there was something interesting to be noticed-we always walked around with HALF our party intact (as shown here) because frankly, despite how many times a party was re-balanced, the enemy AI always managed to outnumber/outdamage us and the party AI would attack slowly and defend poorly for some reason. A bummer indeed.