Review by FinalExcalibur
"You cannot go wrong with this game!"
It's been a long while since I've enjoyed a Black Isle game, and thanks be to the D&D Gods, that this little gem could find it's way to me.
Icewind Dale 2 is a Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition RPG game. You pick (or create) a band of mercenaries to help defend the ten towns of Icewind Dale. Fans of the original Icewind Dale (and it's expansion, Heart of Winter) will be pleased to note that the deeds of the heroes in the first Icewind Dale were not forgotten. Players who have gone through the first game can, and probably will, notice subtle references to events in the original IWD. This added depth adds much to the atmosphere.
I am compelled to compare this game to Neverwinter Nights, and as it stands, I prefer Icewind Dale 2 over Neverwinter Nights anyday.
Let's take a look at graphics shall we? Well, the in-game graphical quality of IWD2 is much worse than that of NWN's, due to the fact the IWD2 runs on the (very) old Infinity engine. Everyone looks horribly generic, and the only way to tell one person from another in-game is to hold a cursor over them and see thier name. The good news is that the Infinity engine is efficient, and anyone with slower systems won't be encountering much, or any, lag at all during the game.
Looking at the Player Character portraits, as well as the other 2 dimensional artwork in the game, I would say that they are in fact better than NWN's. You will be stunned by the amazing skill of the artists that drew them, and I found that every character portrait enthralled me with it's amazing quality.
In terms of sounds, a remix of the opening music of the original IWD is there, and it's still as beautiful as ever. In-game music can be sparse, but the environmental effects, the ambience, is all rather nice to listen to. The ambience tends to have a very grand scale feelings, and is overall very enjoyable.
As for gameplay, you will appreciate the depth of character generation the Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition system will give you. You can choose from many different races (such as Human, Elf, and so on) and even sub races within those races (eg Humans have the Assimar, tiefling subraces) that each have their own pros and cons of usage. classes, such as fighter, druid and paladin, and configure your abilities (such as strength, dexterity and wisdom) to your liking. Considering that you make your own party, this gives you the opportunity to plan and structure your party to your liking, allowing for tactical maneuveres during battle.
To add even more customization, there are multiple 'feats' your character can choose from at the start and during the game, when they level up (killing monsters and completing quests garners your character(s) experience, which accumulates and after it hits certain amounts, you level up, increasing your health and abilities). There are many feats in the game, and no one character can have them all. 'Feats' is a broad term, and the selection of feats are very diverse, ranging from weapon proficiency to arcane lore, even others that boost theivery or travelling. After that, there are skills, which are actions that characters can do during the game, such as pickpocketing or taunting enemies.
This may be alot to absorb for the average player, so there are already made parties that you can choose from and jump start the game. It is most rewarding, however, when you use your own party and when you see them succeed at their tasks, you can ,and will, sit back and say ''I created those guys! Look at them now!''
In terms of gameplay, this is where it comes short somewhat. You are leading a band of mercenaries, supposed to go and kill and destroy things, but you end up doing alot of fetch quests at the start, which becomes annoying very soon. You'll soon get the chance to bash heads in though, so stick with the game, is all I can say.
The Non Player Characters (NPCs) arn't that memorable as other classics such as the great Baldur's gate games, but the dialouge and story is still much better done than NWN's official campaign. The thins you hear can very well make you laugh until you drop, heed this fair warning. It's indescribable, you have to play to understand.
To round it off, IWD2 is a good game, though not great, from a respected and loved company, Black Isle. If you're a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, or you want an RPG with story and depth, and won't slow down on your Pentium 2 700mhz, you can't go wrong with this game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 12/08/02, Updated 12/08/02
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