Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter
Far north in the icy tundra, the battle drums roll forth the call of war. During the harshest winter in decades, the barbarian tribes have united under a new chieftain and are threatening their neighbors. The barbarian shaman Hjollder has approached your adventurers and asked them to come to the far north to prevent the war between the Ten-Towns and the Tribes of the North. Hjollder beseeches you to uncover the true motivation of their new leader. It seems that the recently deceased chieftain Wylfdene has risen from the grave, claiming to have merged with the spirit of the great shaman Jerrod. This Wylfdene/Jerrod creature is determined to reclaim the barbarians' ancestral lands from civilized hands. To investigate these strange events, your party must travel with Hjollder to the little town of Lonelywood; once there, as you start to uncover the truth behind Wylfdene's resurrection, your adventures begin…
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Heart of Winter is an expansion pack -- you must have Icewind Dale installed in order to play. The events in Heart of Winter may take place either before or after the events in Icewind Dale. Keep in mind, though, that if you choose to start the expansion and use the same characters you will not be able to return to Icewind Dale and complete the quests. In some cases, items you collect in Icewind Dale will benefit you greatly in this new adventure. I recommend that you complete Icewind Dale before starting Heart of Winter.
Before playing, be sure to download the most recent patch for Heart of Winter from blackisle.com. This patch corrects numerous bugs. Please view the readme file for the current list of game fixes.
It's only fair to warn you that Heart of Winter is a pretty heavy-handed roleplaying game. Only those who are AD&D-savvy and have experience playing the other Black Isle games (Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate II, Tales of the Sword Coast) will be able to claw their way through this tough RPG. Since this is an expansion of Icewind Dale, you can count on the same high attention to detail found in the original, with monsters, weapons and other Dungeons & Dragons-related items. The game's storyline is almost an adventure/mystery, since your group of adventurers must uncover the plans of the newly-risen Wylfdene and find out exactly why he wants the Northern tribes to violently retake the lands to the South. Missions include making a reconnaissance trip to an island of the undead, investigating the strange murders occurring in town, and locating an ancient seer (psychic) who will provide many important clues.
Again, since this is an expansion, you can opt either to create new characters or import the ones you created in Icewind Dale. Because this game is so tough, you must have at least a ninth level characters even to start the expansion (if you've already beaten Icewind Dale you will be in a perfect position to play). When creating new characters, bear in mind that you will be facing new monsters and scores of undead creatures. Your new characters will start at level nine, but will not have any items or weapons. Not only that, but to me playing an expansion game without the original characters is like watching a movie sequel where all the original actors were replaced. Therefore, if you wish to jump right in I strongly suggest keeping the characters you had in Icewind Dale. However, if you do choose new characters and want a real challenge, Heart of Winter offers a new feature: the Heart of Fury mode. Heart of Fury mode increases monster difficulty and experience points, but be forewarned -- the Heart of Fury mode makes this tough game almost unbeatable. If you are up to the challenge, however, it can be very rewarding. Finally, the experience point cap has been raised to allow your characters to reach about 30th level.
Heart of Winter offers some new and friendlier features such as the drop-away interface. The gameplay interface to the right, left and bottom of the screen often interferes with the view, and the drop-away interface feature allows you to hide this interface and view more of the background at once. This in turn allows you to see and find more items. Aside from the typical RPG items, you can find gem bags, potion bags and scroll cases that allow your characters to carry more items in their limited inventory. This is a big improvement over the old system, where a single scroll took up the same amount of space in the pack as a sword. There is also a new hot key (Alt) to locate items on the ground and highlight normal doors. Considering the amount of carnage that is usually piled at your party's feet after a battle, this hot key makes for a nice addition to gameplay.
The backgrounds are still luscious and lovely to look at, much like those of Icewind Dale. The new drop-away interface really drives this home, allowing you to view more of the backgrounds at one time. The new areas really accentuate the feelings of cold and ice, much like the original. Unfortunately the new areas are not as varied as those in Icewind Dale. However, after a while of crawling around ice caves, you actually begin to think you might have cold toes before you finish playing. The overhead three-quarter view of your party's movement is very effective and works well with the new drop-away interface. There are new character portraits, and they seem like they are truly portraits of adventurers. Again, the art style is rather impressionist and wonderfully rendered. Overall, the graphics are still very impressive -- however, no one deserves to see an old naked wise woman (the seer), and you are unfortunately treated to her presence more than once.
Sadly, David Ogden Stiers, whose narration was so effective in the original Icewind Dale, is gone. The only real voice acting in the game is done by an unidentified woman who plays the seer -- her accurate elderly voice crackles with age and wisdom. The music is dynamic, tailoring itself to what is happening on screen. During fight scenes the music is warlike, and during travel it is rather soothing. As in all Black Isle games, the attention to gothic and period music is dead-on -- a definite highlight of the game.
There is a multiplayer option in the game, but since Heart of Winter is so short in terms of gameplay, this game functions best as a single-person game. If you do decide to play a multiplayer game, try to identify other players who take multiplaying seriously. Finding enough players who complement your personal playing style on GameSpy or another Internet server can be challenging at best. This reviewer found it difficult to locate other players. It was evident to me that most players were looking for the single player aspects of the game. However, once I joined a group, I experienced no lag on my DSL line and had a pretty good time adventuring with my new online teammates.
Icewind Dale must be installed in order to play.
Windows 95/98 with DirectX 7.0 or higher, Pentium II 233 or faster, 32 MB RAM, 300 MB hard drive space for installation, 4X CD-ROM drive, DirectX-certified sound card, 4 MB DirectX-certified video card, 100% Microsoft-compatible keyboard, and a mouse
The manual has complete details of the new priest, wizard and druid spells. It also explains the new expanded abilities of the paladin, ranger and thief classes. Players who wish to use these character types will want to become familiar with this part of the manual.
Overall, the expansion is well done, but it will appeal mostly to rabid D&D players and those who have played the original game as it is entrenched in the world of Icewind Dale. The storyline is entertaining and builds on the original, but it only offers about 15-20 hours of play on its own. One can only fight so many undead creatures before getting tired of it. This is not a game for the casual RPG player, which is why I gave it a score of 72.
Download Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP