Review by Jimbob with 2 heads
"Third Edition... brought to life in a fantastice new game!"
This game is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best i have played. I do D and D normally as a random hobby, and the only game that beats this one (in this category at least) is Baldurs Gate 2 and its expansion, Throne of Bhaal.
Throughout my review, i will likely be doing a lot of comparisons to other games and although this is self-concsious on my part, i will try and explain deeper about what i blabber on about.
Now, because it seems like i have already started blabbering, i shall get on with the review...
In all RPGs, you expect a decent amount of gameplay, be it the world map trudging and turn based fighting of Final Fantasy, or the simple point, click, kill of D and D related games. Icewind Dale 2 has a huge amount of gameplay in it, from the sheer amount of choice for your starting party to the amount of monsters that you fight on your journey.
It is an extremely fun game to play, there are always elements that leave you reeling with joy and the occasional shock as that ''nice and friendly illithid'' just thought it might be fun to eat your brains... You can always find something to do in it to stop you from getting bored. There are plenty of mini-quests and humourous tid-bits in the game and therefore, it should never be considered a linear game. In fact, if you were to just go through the game, only doing what you had to, the odds are that you would die easily somewhere around the middle part of it.
The game's difficulty level can be altered (from Easy (half monster hp) to Insane (double the hp)) and even after that, you still have Heart of Fury mode which is insanely hard, even for a part that has completed the game once! The reccomended difficulty setting (Core Rules) makes a moderately hard game, with the starting parts being difficult, leading to a relatively easy center and a hard ending, just as you start to think you're overpowered in the game and that its gonna be ridiculously easy, you are surprised by the amount of enemies round the next corner that can cast fireball at you... The difficulty settings have appeared in all the D&D related games, but the Heart of Fury mode is unique to Icewind Dale 1 and 2, although it may seem pointless to go through the game again for no reason... the challenge is there and there are even new items to have fun with.
If you have played any of the other D&D games, then the game will be easy to control (theres only a little difference that can easily be found out) and probably quite familiar. But when you get to certain parts in your game, you start to think things like ''Hey... that wasn't in Baldurs Gate...'' or ''What is the point of a feat?''. Ok... so you may not be wondering the last one, but the point is there and there are definately new rules into this game (Its actually 3rd Edition D and D rules, which are rather easy to understand). The same rules appeared in Neverwinter Nights and Pool of Radiance, but Neverwinter Nights didn't allow much diversity as you only had one character and Pool of Radiance was extremely persuasive in the way you were supposed to do things. Most people will be boggled by the sheer amount of depth each character has, people try to make their brains double in size as they wonder what feats, skills and equipment to take (even D and D veterans will be startled at the amount of new stuff they can drool over). But the truth is that the amount of stuff you can find makes choosing feats relatively easy. (E.g. Theres a suit of armour that is useful for rogues, but they need a proficiency in armour to be able to use it. Or fighters will probably start by specialising in Longswords, but later on they might find a decent Mace or Bastard Sword to use instead). Also, quite a lot of the weapons have storys that are interesting to read, if not slightly funny. But anyway... the only reason i give the Gameplay a 9 as opposed to a 10, is mainly because you don't have much depth on how you attack. For an example of this i will use a D&D session to explain it (bear with me)
Me: Right! im gonna attack him in the back of the leg to make him slower!
DM: Sorry, you need to be a thief with the Hamstring feat for that
Me: uh... okay... in that case, im gonna hack at his neck to deal more damage!
DM: Nope, that would take improved Critical
Me: ... Can i at least blind him by slashing at his eyes?
Me: ... *knife*
Get the point? No? Damnit...
Well... for one thing the storyline is probably one of the most average ive seen for this kind of game. The deal is that you get hired by some rich Mayor type to defend a town from Goblins, so you go round beating up Goblins, Orcs and the like for a while. This is actually quite hard and requires no small amount of strategy to have a fighting chance.
Then, a little after you've eliminated the Goblin threat, you get told to go help this place called Kuldahar, so you go, get ambushed, kick butt, then carry on.
Finally, when you reach Kuldahar, you have to go take out the big bad.
So as you can see, the story is quite simple, but there are definately some decent parts to it and they all link together pretty nicely too. The story is much longer and more detailed than what i said, and of course i had to leave out too many spoilers, but you get the gist...
Although i say the storyline on its own is a 5, the bits added in to make it believable, easily confer the abilities of an 8 onto it.
Ah... probably the one downfall of the game... Hold on before you start to beat me up and ill explain:
The audios for the game (music wise) are completely unoriginal, the tracks last about ten minutes each and then you have to wait an hour before the next one starts. The sound effects you get are montonous after the first chapter, and the environmental audio is a cute little novelty for all of ten seconds. The voice tracks seem to exist of two or three actors and, apart from a few, aren't much too be proud of. Some of the voices for your characters are ok (like the fighter who continuosly grunts or the rogue whos a bit hyper) but on the whole, they are nothing really to be worth of a 6... so the game should feel proud of what it does have left. This includes the screams of death and clangs of swords and various other effects in battle, some of the wizards chantings are pretty good too...
As for the videos... there are about three or four in the game, with the Narrators voice talking about a few random things. These vid's involve a book changing pages and a voice, nothing much at all...
Other than that, you get the ocasional cut scenes which aren't much but are required in places. So i think personally a 4 is a bit generous for this category.
Now to get on with the good stuff:
Yes! This game can be replayed so many times!
You can have each level of hardness played through (i think there are five of them) and after that you can play through Heart of Fury mode and get your ass kicked in it!
Also you can have a group of just one character or a group of unorthodox characters (like six bards or a group of wizards).
You can also try your hand at internet gaming, although it can be slow, the fun is always there.
There is plenty of replay value as you can see, and no end of new stuff to find. The only problem is that its the same storyline each time (which is why i only gave it a 9) and that can get boring easily.
You should definately buy this game given the chance, you could always rent it and be happy with handing it back when you've completed it, knowing that you've done it.
However, there will always be the yearning for the game and you will eventually buy it... Mwahahaha
Overall rating: 7
The rating is definately brought down by the sounds quality, but nonetheless, it gives what it promises, a good game filled with excitement.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/18/03, Updated 03/18/03
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