Review by Guildwriter

"Black Isle's First Bust"

To date, there have been four different games made with the infinity engine: BG, BG2, IWD, and Planescape:Torment. Now rounding out the pack with a solid five, Black Isle has presented us with Icewind Dale 2. And with this new presentation, Black Isle has created their first let down.

Story - The storyline is very important to a rpg. In order for one to successfully role play, they need an incentive besides gameplay in order to keep playing the game. A good story draws the player into the game, making him feverishly play for hours on end to discover each new revelation. Icewind Dale 2 had the potential to have an above avg. story at least. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a sub par story in the end. One of the biggest problems with the story was a lack of development. The player never meets the main antagonists until midway through the game. He only learns of their motives until one chapter before the game ends. Even the narrator in IWD, a mere historian, seemed to know more about your characters in that game as opposed to the narrator in IWD2 who was ALIVE during the period. As well, the story progresses very slowly through the first three chapters. When one reaches the fourth chapter, they are thrown information in one massive heap. But this slew of information is hardly enough to save the struggling storyline. To be honest, I thought the plot in Icewind Dale 2 had incredible potential. But for reasons unknown to me, it was botched entirely. By the time I was displayed the ending, there was nothing but severe disappointment. A big let down in this section. (510)

Gameplay - This game is arguably the hardest Infinity engine game made. I breezed right through all of them, until I reached this game. The battles are hard, make no mistake. There were times where I had to reload my game and redo my tactics several times. The boss battle at the end of the game even forced me to lower the difficulty level after five retries. In this sense, Icewind Dale 2 is a welcome change from its unchallenging predecessors. However, this is probably the only change worth noticing.
In Icewind Dale, I found that I could destroy the game with incredible easy with a party consisting of only 3 fighters, 2 clerics and a single mage. After seeing the numerous new races and classes, I decided to try some variation. That proved to be my biggest make. It seems that this game punishes you for trying to try variation. Mages are just as useless except for several support spells in this game. Why? Because unlike previous games, there is now friendly fire. Misplace a single delayed blast fireball and you have fighter flambe. Fighters were abusive in Icewind Dale. Now they're godlike. Clerics are even better now due to the fact that Heal casts in about a second. Thieves are liabilities, not necessities. Monks are a pale shadow of their former selves. In short, no class can compare to the power of the cleric or the fighter. Thus making the game feel like nothing more then a multi-character D2 hack fest.
Most of the quests in this game are highly uninspiring. To give you an example, the entire prologue and first chapter consisted of nothing but fetch and run quests. Fetch and Run. In order to BEAT the prologue, you have to complete four fetch and run quests. All of which send you scurrying across three maps. My blood was boiling by the time I was finished. I hoped the quests would only get better. To my dismay, they never did.
The dungeons in this game were not fun to explore, just long. Long dreary fights through areas I don't even care to remember. By the time I finished Chapter 2 I was so happy to be done that I quite literally danced a jig around my room.
As well, something should be said about the magic items in this game. At the very start, the game is incredibly stingy with both money and equipment. For some odd reason despite being mercenaries who had been living in Luskan, you arrive unarmored and unarmed except for a single quarterstaff for each of your party members. I don't follow the logic. This game is enormously unbalanced in how it doles out the magical goodies. By the time you reach the end, the game is unloading armfuls of magical equipment upon you. Too bad that its entirely unnecessary at that point.
And last of all, I don't know who the hell programmed the movement AI in this game, but whoever it was needs to be punted off of the edge of the Grand Canyon. I felt a headache coming on every time I moved my party around. I would always come up one short because the AI had decided that instead of waiting a second for a doorway to become clear, it would take the long way around. Sometimes there wasn't a long way around and it would walk halfway around the map before walking back in the same direction. Sometimes the other way wouldn't be clear and I would have one very dead character on my hands. This happened more times then I can count in areas where I didn't have access to a Raise Dead scroll.
In short IWD 2 is IWD all over again. Except the Fighter is now the King, the Cleric is the Queen, the Mage is pulling rabbits out of hats, and everybody else is playing the role of court jester. Completely uninspired gameplay. (610)

Graphics - The PC sprites are exactly the same from Icewind Dale. Heck, instead of making a set of entirely new portraits, they decided to make only six or seven new ones and keep all the old ones from IWD. The same goes for the monster sprites, none have been redrawn. The new monsters aren't very interesting to look at. Spells don't look very interesting either. And the maps are nothing special. Very ho-hum. (610)

Music - This is where the game really shines. The music in this game is incredible, inspiring, and always fun to listen to. I replayed several boss battles just because I liked the music that much. Its a shame that the music is rarely played and when it is, its cut off right after you enter a building or the battle is over. Great stuff. (10/10)

Replay - Are you kidding? I never want to play this game again. I only beat it because otherwise, I just wasted $50. I see absolutely no point in playing this game, not even for the supposedly new and more powerful items in HoW. Its just not worth it. (210)

I really wanted to like this game. I tried to tell myself I liked this game. But I found that playing this game was more like a chore then fun. Being the die-hard RPG fan that I am, I legally own every single Black Isle game and replayed each one about six times each. But not this one. There is little doubt in my mind that I will not play this game again. Shame on you Black Isle. You gave us a rushed, half-hearted game. Shame on you.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 09/28/02, Updated 09/28/02

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