Review by XGlite015

"Improvements and new features but didn't quite capture the magic of the first game!"

IceWind Dale was a very good game, the game that got me into PC AD&D role-playing games, its expansion Heart of Winter added some more value and gameplay elements to the original and now the long awaited sequel is here. I waited for this sequel so much that I bought it immediately without questions. So is it good? is it better than its predecessor? I'll discuss the game first.

IceWind Dale 2 is an action RPG developed by Black Isle using Bioware's ever popular Infinity engine first seen on Baldur's Gate and is now standard to the AD&D games. IceWind Dale 2 uses the Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition rules, I don't know much about these rules but as you progress through the game you'll understand the concept of how it works. It's not complicated, I finished the game even without reading the instruction manuals and understanding all of the rules. The storyline goes something like this, cambion twins, Isair and Madae formed the Legion of Chimaera, an army of half-breeds whose sole purpose is to eliminate all humans and take over faerun. Your characters are mercenaries hired by targos to help defend their town, as you progress to the game your mission gets more complicated than that, soon you'll not only doing your mission for targos but for the whole continent of the spine of the world. The storyline make sense, it's not just your typical good vs evil storyline, it has depth, I won't reveal any more details you have to play the game yourself.

The graphics of the game is very good, although it still looks like the IWD and its expansion, there are improvements like new animations(noticeable when using two-handed weapons and on new enemies) and can support resolutions up to 2048x1536 as long as your hardware can support it. The music is as good as its predecessors, well orchestrated and really sets up the mood, kudos to the guys who did it. Sound effects is still the same with some new clashing sounds, character voices, and eerie howls, with environmental audio turned on and some good speakers, it's very immersing. Gameplay is the same but this time around it uses the 3rd edition rules, it's not as complicated as it seems, as soon as you get the hang of the controls, understanding how it works is as natural as breathing. There are new races(half-orc, different variations of elves and dwarves, etc.) and classes(monk, barbarian, etc.) that are previously available in the BG series, but not present in IWD and its expansions and they all have different skills that are very useful. New customization options, places to explore, sub-quests for longetivity, spells to learn as well as new weapons and items to tinker with. The difficulty system have changed, in IWD you can switch back and forth from easy, normal, to heart of fury difficulty while playing or before playing. But in IWD2, if you set it in heart of fury, you cannot change it while you play or even before you play, if you're playing a saved game with the chosen difficulty, it will remain in that difficulty until you finish the game or unless you restart a game from its very beginning and change the difficulty. So what about replay value? if you finish it in normal, you might want to play it again in heart of fury difficulty to gain more experience points and new weapons or try the other races and classes you haven't used before. If you're tired of single-player mode, why not play a multiplayer mode with or against your buddies. It has its good points but what about bad points, well some of the places you visit in the game are altered versions of the places you visited in IWD, they just have some changes but it's still the same place which is kinda give you the feel that you're playing the old game with new features. They should've just given as new places to explore like neverwinter or the other ten-towns rather than some of the old ones. There are also some spells missing, one of my favorite spell in heart of winter is a teleportation spell and it's not present. It doesn't really lessen the fun factor but it doesn't hurt if all spells from the previous IWD are present, maybe it has something to do with the 3rd edition rules. Although not really a bad thing for me, but the new difficulty system might not appeal to some fans of the original.

My verdict, Graphics are presented well two thumbs up on that, music and sound is excellent kudos to the sound team, and Gameplay is fun and addicting as ever, great job black isle. The use of some of the locales from the original is my only major gripe, I could've given this game a higher score but seeing the old IWD setting really hurts the overall experience. Still the game is very good, it has that classic IWD gameplay that got me hooked and addicted into PC RPGs, it is recommended for fans of the genre especially D&D fans and the new features are worth checking out. I'll be waiting for an expansion if there will ever be one and hope that it will make the game even better.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 05/28/03, Updated 05/28/03

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