Icewind Dale, coming fast on the heels of Planescape-Torment and Baldurs Gate held little promise in my eyes. Torment was a major disappointment, and Baldurs Gate had potential, but I thought
it was poorly executed. With this track record and my personal high standards when it comes to RPG’s, I was hoping but not expecting much from Icewind Dale.
Thank goodness for small miracles! Icewind Dale is a wonderful game, fulfilling the promise they made in Baldurs Gate and effectively apologizing for the mess that was Planescape.
Now I have to be honest – the reason I loved Icewind Dale is that it, better than any other game in recent memory (I still get nostalgic for the Eye of the Beholder series) recaptures the spirit of D&D that I was weaned on, in a way that captures the imagination and made me want to see the quest finished through to the end.
The character customization is fairly standard, though the game does not suffer for
this. However, there are some very well represented artwork used in the
character portraits. Thus you enter the world of Icewind Dale with a fully customized set of adventurers, each given as much life as you want to instill in them. Not only this, but the NPC conversations give you options to deal with the NPCs harshly or reasonably, as you see fit. The speech options allow the player to actually role play, and while this role playing is very limited by virtue of the nature of stand alone games, Icewind Dale allows you more role playing than any other game I have seen before.
The quest you are on takes you across the frozen northlands of the Forgotten Realms novels, depicting nicely the feeling of desolation and wonder that the books offered so convincingly. The many smaller quests all relate to the bigger one, and none of them appeared to be a waste of time or extraneous.
What really caught my eye though were the wonderful spells and their effects! There was nothing like having my cleric summon three undead warriors to fight for her, or having my mage cast invisibility on my ranger and having him walk through the lair of the enemy, scouting and spying, unseen by enemy eyes! To see the spectral visions of my nightmares come to life on the screen was a joy, and to be able to cast
magic of great power to see those nightmares defeated was more fun with a computer game than I have had in a very long time.
As well, the diversity of magical items, weapons and armor to be found and identified, or sold for top dollar was a blast as well!
Now before I gush all over the place, there were some drawbacks. First of all, the over heard third person perspective was a little limiting. I could not see the trolls in all the glorious detail I would have liked,
nor could I watch as my sword separated an evil villain’s enthusiasm form the rest of him as graphically as I would have preferred. As well, only select few of the NPCs spoke with audio support. Most conversations were done in text form, and this did detract from the game play a bit. However, these drawbacks are minor and do pale in comparison to the over all effect of the game. Icewind Dale is simply the best RPG I have had the pleasure of playing in a very long time. Strong characters with a well written story line and wonderful execution makes this one a classic, and a must have for any hard core RPG fan!
Standing Ovation to TSR and Black Isle Studios! If this is what the future holds, my future gaming dollars are going to be well spent, and take it from me, for this game at least, so will yours.