Icewind Dale II
|a game by
|Interplay Entertainment Corp.
|8/10, based on 1 review, 2 reviews are shown
|9.0/10 - 2 votes
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|RPGs, Games Like Trials in Tainted Space, Games Like Baldur's Gate, Games Like Champions of Norrath, Icewind Dale Series
Hopes were high for this one before it even arrived in the office. Given the huge success of Baldur's Gate II we fully expected the second Icewind Dale game to be similar at least in terms of the sheer depth of gameplay. What we were afraid of was another relentless combat-heavy trudge through countless boring dungeons that all look similar (as was the case with the first Icewind Dale). In truth, Black Isle appears to have learned its lesson to an extent. ID2 is still very combat heavy, but character interaction plays a far larger role this time round. Right from the outset, when you find yourself in the town of Targos, there are many people to question and glean information from. This is streets ahead of the NPCs in the first game, who would mutter a single sentence before offering you a quest which sent you off to kill, kill and then kill some more. NPCs in ID2 are a lot more interesting, and the game feels less of a chore as a result.
The main storyline centres around a goblin invasion of the Ten Towns. Your first hint of this is when they invade the one you're in at the time, Targos. Throughout the game you'll be taken to different locations in the Ten Towns in an attempt to repel the goblin invasion and once more bring peace to the Spine of the World. It's as good a reason as any to go bashing goblin bonces, and that's exactly what you'll be doing for the entirety of the game. The story progresses mainly through talking to NPCs. which may be an unspectacular way of doing it, but at least it makes a change from watching endless cut-scenes and FMVs.
The core of Icewind Dale II is centred around combat, but thanks to the excellent NPCs, the battles have a lot more meaning, as there is a strong storyline behind the endless hacking and slashing that ensues everywhere you go. Once you negotiate the less than action-packed opening stages, that is.
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You might be more than a little unamused with your early quests. Fetching and returning mundane items, collecting wheels and buying arrows for soldiers are just a few of the spectacularly unchallenging tasks you'll face when you first start out. It seems Black Isle wants you to get to know the entire town before actually sending you into combat. Fine if you're a beginner, but a bit of a chore when you're an expert dungeoneer, chomping at the bit to get stuck into some toe-to-toe carnage. But fear not, toe-to-toe you will be soon enough, and when you are, depending on your gameplay preferences, combat will be either reassuringly familiar or depressingly old fashioned. Yes, the action is still turn-based. However, you can play in realtime if you wish. If you wish to die that is. Spells still have to be memorised and you still have to rest every time you use them in order to relearn them (see the Some Things Never Change panel for more details). Combat is pretty hard on all your casters when you first start out, since they have very few spells at their disposal, but as they grow in strength you'll find yourself almost wholly reliant on magic, with your melee characters being thrown to the front of your group to keep enemies occupied while your spellcasters wave their wands about and cast Stun and Sleep spells to make the fights manageable. In terms of combat then, nothing much has changed from the first title.
Visually, Icewind Dale II is nothing to write home about, but it does the job well enough. You won't find the beautiful and wildly varied environments of BG2, but the graphics are clear and detailed, though playing in high resolutions reduces your group members to tiny little dots on the screen. We recommend 800x600 if you want to have any clue where your characters are at any given point. Despite the seemingly neverending sheets of white snow that blanket the land, at least the environments are more varied than in the first game, with noticeable landmarks marking your route from one place to the next. The characters in your party are clearly portrayed as well, despite their shortcomings in the size department at higher resolutions.
Icewind Dale II is a highly playable RPG that's addictive if not terribly compelling, and the only real downer is the antiquated spell system and the inexplicable necessity to rest after every fight. It's not the BG2 killer we had all hoped for and neither does it stack up to Neverwinter Nights.
However, there are some very well designed areas if you persevere a little, particularly the Ice Temple in Andora. Here you'll find some particularly fiendish puzzles and interesting NPCs. All of whom have a lot to say for themselves, and most of whom contribute to the development of the main plot, which although initially concentrates on the siege at Targos, eventually exposes a far greater and more sinister threat to the Ten Towns.
Anyone will admit Icewind Dale II is not the most original RPG you will come across. It's derivative by its very nature, but a good plot, interesting NPCs and solid combat mechanics place it head and shoulders k above the lion's share of its predecessors and make - it an essential purchase for all fans of the superb Black Isle RPGs.
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Icewind Dale II is easily Black Isle's finest creation to date. Utilizing a tried and true GUI interface which adheres rather faithfully to the 'paper and pencil'? AD&D 3rd Edition rules, along with one of the most solid and popular gaming engines available, Icewind Dale II offers a solid, engrossing gaming experience. Novice RPG gamers and hardcore enthusiasts alike will find this sequel title in many ways superior to the original Icewind Dale.
The Baldur's Gate engine has gone through even more refining, as has an updated and more intuitive GUI interface. Fans of the earlier series will notice several improvements, including configurable character screens, more race, class, and multiclassing opportunities as well as a whole slew of new weapons, items, and spells at your disposal. Those of you who like to tweak your characters and parties to the nth degree will have a field day with this one. The game is designed with nVIDIA in mind, and the graphics don't fail in that regard. Audio is excellent, and the music, while in my opinion not quite as good as Baldur's Gate II, is still excellent and well recorded. My only gripe was that Icewind Dale II does not allow importation of characters from earlier titles.
Multiplay was just what you'd expect from the Baldur's Gate engine. On a local LAN, gameplay was excellent, if a bit slow due to the need for pausing quite often. Relatively lag-free and enjoyable, Icewind Dale II offers a solid experience.
Enemy AI is still problematic, as well as group character movement. I did notice a bit of problems with 'mousework'? as well, in that often items or spells were not cast correctly due to extreme mouse sensitivity, but that may be more a setting issue than a flaw in the engine.
This aside, Icewind Dale II offers what is quite possibly the most entertaining Forgotten Realms adventure yet. Well designed, fully realized and with all the bells and whistles, this title offers something to every gamer looking for a solid, engrossing RPG. I simply can't stop playing! A must buy.