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Icewind Dale II
- Epic party-based Dungeons and Dragons adventure
- New playable races such as the sinister Dark Elf and the skull-smashing Half-Orc
- Auto-balancing game-play balances the conflict to match your skill level
- Real-time combat with the ability to pause at any moment to refine your strategy
- Improved multiplayer support for up to 6 players
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Icewind Dale II expands upon gameplay elements found in Icewind Dale offering players the ability to hone their combat skills and achieve even more powerful possessions, spells, and experience. Icewind Dale II hosts a large variety of new weapons, armour and magical items and features all the spells from Icewind Dale and its expansion pack. Additionally, Icewind Dale II includes over 50 new spells such as Executioner's Eyes and Aegis, bringing the total to over 300 spells.
A generation after the events in Icewind Dale, a grave new threat has arisen in the North; a threat that seeks to cut off the Ten-Towns from the rest of Faerun in a bitter power struggle. A vicious horde of goblins, orcs and bugbears has gathered beneath the mysterious banner of the Chimera and is attacking the port town of Targos.
The town of Bremen has fallen, goblin raiders ride the plains, and a stream of refugees are fleeing southwards to Bryn Shander and beyond. Fearing that they will be overrun, Targos has sent out a call for all able-bodied adventurers, soldiers and mercenaries to sail north to stand with the town's defenders against the encroaching horde, and it's up to the players' small band of adventurers to save Targos from destruction. Yet nothing is as it appears and as the shadow of the horde falls on Targos, the players find themselves drawn into an escalating conflict that plunges the region of Icewind Dale once again, into war.
Return to The Spine of the World, that famous mountain range of Icewind Dale II. Deep within Dungeons & Dragons' official world, The Forgotten Realms, you'll find party-based adventure par excellence. Icewind Dale II is a throwback to the earlier time when D&D simulation meant six party members, 2-D graphics and a heavy focus on story and on real-time strategy game tactics.
Icewind Dale II plays like Baldur's Gate with one major difference: you create and control your entire party, which leaves you free to experiment with the huge array of options D&D 3rd Edition makes possible. Halfling Paladins, Wizards with thieving skills, it's all possible because Black Isle dutifully added all the new skills, rules, options and feats given to D&D characters in the tabletop game.
The story line is long and epic and may be too focused for its own good. You can experiment with any character combination you want, but you can't really range far and wide, adventuring as you wish. The story concerns a goblin army threatening the human settlements far to the North and quickly begins to involve infernal implications as you learn the goblins' masters might not be of this prime material plane. The combat is fast, furious, constant and extremely challenging. One of the reasons Baldur's Gate II worked so well was that your Priest always had enough healing powers and Raise Dead spells handy. In Icewind Dale II you begin at first level, so for fully half the game you have to trudge homeward whenever somebody dies, which is frequently. The enemy appears in large numbers, usually with a spell-caster in tow, and just beyond one group of enemies is another one. It's relentless and strategically satisfying if more than a little frustrating too.
Fans of the earlier games who were perhaps a bit unsatisfied with the single-PC focus of Neverwinter Nights will delight in another chance to play party-based D&D. --Bob Andrews Amazon.com
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First off, it's beautiful to look at. The icebound landscapes are dramatic and you really feel as though you're in the far north; there's a tangled forest taken over by unnatural forces which feels genuinely oppressive and eerie and the remote monastery set into a mountainside is truly a sight to behold. The new monsters have been exquisitely drawn and animated - you'll love the driders, for example - and Icewind Dale still has the best iron golems in the business.
The incorporation of the third edition D&D rules is a huge enhancement and they have been very well incorporated. Character creation is a delight and the constant improvement of your characters is a major motivator for playing the game. The incorporation of feats makes for great variability within the same character class. No longer is a fighter just a guy who whacks things with swords until they're dead; instead you can choose to create an elven finesse fighter who wields two swords and can hit a penny with an arrow from thirty yards, a half-orc bruiser who can dish out tremendous punishment with a two handed sword or a dwarven tank who can take everything the bad guys can throw at him and then repay it with interest. Balance is excellent: you can choose to play a drow character who appears to have enormous powers but who also has limitations which makes him or her no better or worse than a plain human.
There is lots of combat in Icewind Dale II and it is extremely challenging, particularly in the earlier stages when your characters are still quite weak. Enemy AI is fearsome: you can't just pick the bad guys off one at a time using the fog of war as cover; instead if you attack one creature, all his mates join in. Worse, they don't just attack from the front but go round and creep up on you from behind, targeting your weak sorceror who's been merrily tossing fireballs at the frontline bad guys. Worse still, once an enemy targets your weak sorceror, he won't let up and won't be distracted unless your other characters surround him. This is how you play, right? You kill the magic user before worrying about the guys with the spears. Despite all the fighting, there is nonetheless room for diplomacy and deceit. You can avoid many hard fights either through flattery, intimidation or downright lies and you get the same experience as you would have got had you put the enemies to the sword instead. In earlier games smarts and particularly looks were mere candy. People who played the games by numbers would set intelligence and charisma to 3 and everything else to 18. Well now, many dialog options depend on these characteristics (not to mention many skils and feats) and they are only available to you if you're a good looking guy or girl with a magnetic personality, a glib tongue and wits to match. Even better, dialog options depend on the class of character being spoken to. Your bard can discuss philosophy and history while you'll want to kick your paladin's backside when he graciously refuses a reward or gets you into a really tough fight because he just can't keep his views to himself.
One of the major criticisms of the original Icewind Dale was the plot which did have a tendency to go something like: "Are you the bad guy?" "No, but I can tell you who might be.". Now you're waging war against a sinister organisation which has forged alliances with all manner of malefactors and disaffected elements and you are forever plugging breaches and cutting off one tentacle only for another to appear elsewhere yet emerging victorious against overwhelming odds (as I said elsewhere, the difficulty level is high). You may not have a particular commitment to the welfare of the Ten Towns of Icewind Dale, but the bad guys sure do get under your skin so that you want to punish them (the rewards are attractive too). Interestingly, the main villains aren't villainous for villainy's sake but are human-demon crossbreeds, mistreated as children, who are now taking revenge against those who hurt them and those who have slighted and shunned them.
Icewind Dale II is set thirty years after the original game and events from that game have repurcussions in this one. If you played Icewind Dale your characters would have killed a priestess of Auril called Lysan. In Icewind Dale II her death means that the Aurilites are just one of the many enemy forces allied against you. I won't give away other cross references because coming across them is just of the game's many delights.
Humour, sparingly applied, is the icing on the cake. If you have fond memories of pen-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons and your characters carried iron rations, ten foot poles and fifty feet of rope, you'll find a lot to make you chuckle. If you played the original Baldur's Gate, there's a scene around a campfire which will make you laugh out loud.
Any faults? Not many. Your characters' pathfinding seems to have become dreadful again having been quite good in Icewind Dale and Baldur's Gate II. I haven't found any major bugs but there are a couple of unimportant ones. Nothing else comes to mind.
Bioware seem to have given up on the Infinity Engine and have bet the company on going 3D. I don't know what's with the fetish for 3D because Neverwinter Nights is a rubbish game which looks terrible and runs like a dog. Icewind Dale II, on the other hand, looks gorgeous, is totally immersive and runs very nicely thank you on almost all systems. If Icewind Dale II is the last Infinity Engine game, I will be most sad. Anybody fancy starting a petition?
When you first load the game up and start playing, you might feel nostalgic, but you certainly wont be particularly impressed with the tiny sprites, limited animations and begrudging use of transparency. After many hours of play however, I'm very glad the designers stuck by the infinity engine, in fact I'm wondering if the designers of Neverwinter Nights got it all wrong. In single player, Icewind dale 2 plays so much better than NWN it really makes you think that maybe Dungeons and Dragons is better in 2d.. Bioware got it right the first time.
The background graphics are lovely, varied and athmosheric. Its much easier to navigate when the backgoround orientation isnt constantly changing, so you don't need to use a minimap constantly to see where you are, you eyes rarely leave the action so, oddly, its easier to feel immersed in the game. The interface is perhaps not as powerful as it could be, but its easy to understand and looks great. Sprites, however, are average, a little small perhaps, but they do the job. There are some nice finishing touches.. like daylight and weather effects, even snow. Some things are a little grating though, the infinity engine seems to impose limits on colour (even on 32 bit mode), so shading tends to be dithered. This is particularly noticable on the edges of the 'fog of war', the black cloud obscuring unexplored areas, wich has pixelated edges rather than smooth shading. This looks very ropey in 2003.
Sound is good.. with great voice acting and spot effects. Some of the music is a bit poor, although its fine in terms of quality, its just not to my tastes.. not enough of it either.
Having a tried and tested game engine has allowed the developers to concentrate on gameplay much more. IW2 is simply the best Dungeons and Dragons RPG to date. The emphasis on managing an entire party is great fun (and a pleasent change from most recent RPGs) and combat is exciting, strategic and never feels out of place. Best of all, however, is that the game design in terms of storyline and balance is simply superb.. nothing ever feels there 'just because'.. everything fits together beautifully, and the plot is as well thought out as any good fantasy book.
The only flaw with the game is that it sometimes feels very 'pre-ordained'.. particularly after something like Morrowind, which was so free-form. Until, that is, you remember two things.. (1) that IWD2 is a Dungeons and Dragons game, whith the computer taking on the role of the dungeon master.. and (2) if the game is still immersive, varied and fun, its not important wheather or not you can go where you like, when you like. IWD2 sticks to its limits and excells within those limits.
Much like your in-game party of adventurers, the graphics, sound and gameplay in Icewind-dale work togeher beautifully to really fire the imagination. In the end, the 2d 'representative' graphics draw you into the game rather like a good book. IWD2 succeeds by not spoon feeding you flashy graphics that try to look real, so that most of the action takes place in you head.
I've used the word 'beautiful' quite a few times in this review.. IWD2, like football, is a beautiful game.
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