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Now, Black Isle, the game's developers, have released an upgrade to Icewind Dale and if you were a fan of the original then this is right up your street. Taking your original band of troublemakers north to travel to new, unexplored areas, will bring you into contact with much tougher enemies than you've had to face so far. You can also start Heart of Winter from scratch with a new set of characters but, be forewarned, this is VERY hard going.
The start of Heart of Winter introduces you to the new story line and then drops you into a small town. From here you must begin to try to fathom what to do and where to go. The one thing recommended is talking to everyone you meet, and that means everyone! You'll soon find that the story line is as well scripted as you'd expect from Black Isle and will be rapidly dragged into the lives (and deaths) of the characters you meet.
For newbies to the RPG fold then this might be a bit heavy going, and its probably best to start with the original before you venture here. Die-hard gamers who've played as much as they can of Icewind Dale will certainly be able to get your fix here.--Andi Flower
Both Heart of Winter and Icewind Dale use AD&D Second Edition rules, however some of the special powers and abilities in the Third Edition are available in the expansion. For example, thieves have access to Sneak Attack and Crippling Strike abilities, and the new spell progression tables for rangers and paladins have been taken from the Third Edition rules. In addition to new areas, powers and abilities, Heart of Winter features: new portraits, new player character sound sets, new monsters, 50 new spells, 800x600 resolution, drop-away interface, gem bags, potion bags, scroll cases, hot key that highlights normal doors and ground items, and the ability to buy multiple items from stores. The biggest change is the ability for all character classes to reach 30th Level, and Druids can advance higher still.
As a recent purchase of mine and consumer of many hours of my time. I felt the need to give my opinion of Icewind Dale. A 'spin-off' from the Baldurs Gate series Icewind Dale uses the same engine and AD&D rule system. I was initially reluctant to buy, feeling that it would just be Baldurs Gate all over again. However, there is a lot more to it than that.
* What it involves *
Icewind Dale offers a less complex storyline that is easier for the player to follow and interpret. The beauty of the game is that you now have 6 PCs (Player characters that you create and control) instead of 1 as in Baldurs Gate. What these 6 individuals get up to is totally at your disgression, so long as you are prepared to face the consequences. For example, you could play the law-abiding paladin or a cutthroat thief who cares only for his personal gain.
* What's new *
As well as having 6 PCs and not 1, there is an updated spell list for both cleric and mage, giving the player more spells to conjure with and enjoy. There's more magical items and new character portraits. Also more monsters and I suspect an improved AI engine to control them.
* What's gone *
Also there are a few subtle features that don't exist in Icewind that were present in Shadows of Amn (Baldurs Gate 2). There are less weapon proficiencies and no specialist character classes; this results in less confusion for new players. As an experienced table top and live action role-player this confusion does not adhere to me. However, for your every day buyer who wants the game for gaming reasons and not role-playing reasons it is a great buy.
* Bonuses *
The user manual is clear, structured and informative. The game itself incorporates good graphics (not as good as Baldurs Gate 2) and movie sequences that give a feel and touch to playing. Throughout the game, narration is used to give a medieval style and atmosphere to playing. Another favorite point of mine is the new wave of magical items that are within the game, they somehow seem more valuable and harder to obtain than in previous AD&D rule based games.
* Success *
The feature of Icewind Dale that makes it a success is that the interface is practically identical to that used in Baldurs Gate and Baldurs Gate II Shadows of Amn. So all players of that game can simply load up Icewind Dale and find themselves in a familiar environment.
One of the new improvements which does not even appear in BG2 is the loss of the ability of the player to creep attack using the fog of war i.e. being able to move your players slowly forward, thus only encountering a few enemies at a time. Now if you disturb an enemy even the off screen enemies locally will join in the fight, great for keeping you on your toes.
A great purchase if you have Icewind dale already. If you don't then buy both!
Complementing this line up we've got several new spells for each class of magic user, amongst these are 'circle of bones', 'Vitriolic Sphere' and 'Blood Rage'. An interesting point of fact for you mage fans out there is that some of the spells have become alignment specific and the opposition classes have been 'tweaked' slightly. Cosmetic changes have been effected to the avatars, some of these will be noticeable from a 'certain other' Interplay product that makes use of the AD&D rule set.
You'll notice that I haven't mentioned the new quest as such, it must be said that this is small - however a downloadable (and free) additional dungeon pack should be available in the future to go someway to correcting this.
It wasn't the new quest material that attracted me to this add-on (although being truthful it helped), I played through the original Icewind Dale several times and used Heart Of Winter to give me an excuse for a repeat sitting. I must say in this respect it works, speaking for myself, the enhancements added enough for me to plunge into the game anew.
I would have liked to have seen the idea of 'kits' implemented - this would have provided an additional twist and an opportunity has been missed to add more in terms 'background noise' (fans of Baldurs Gate will appreciate this), the game music is stunning and fits the environment perfectly I feel.
All in all a good extension to the original, even if it just adds 'replay value'!
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