* IceWind Dale * 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.
'Heart Of Winter' builds on the original Icewind Dale, placing your characters in the town of Lonelywood. It is possible to start directly from here after finishing the original Icewind Dale or, to venture into the new area at the recommended ninth level break. Looking at the game several new aspects are apparent, firstly a few classes have new abilities ranging from the Paladin's 'Smite Evil' to new Bardic songs and melodies, additionally Druidic powers and effects have been added (in the form of additional shaping shifting). 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'!
Well what can I say, this is a great add on to Icewind Dale, Black Isle never seem to disappoint when it comes a sequel. If there were any areas that in my opinion could have been improved I would have to say that I would have liked a greater choice of spells, with maybe more being included from Baldurs Gate 2... Just a small critiscism for a very good game. 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!
I have played the Baldur's Gate series, Icewind Dale, Planescape:Torment and the Fallout games. they were great, the addons for these (the ones that had addons) were fantastic, adding hours of great play to the games. Icewind Dale:Heart of Winter was completely the opposite. I finished it in a matter of hours and i have to say the story wasnt upto much, although there were some nice additions such as the scroll cases and gem bags, and also the resolution increase. Sadly these didn't do much to increase the gameplay. Don't bother buying this, but if you do, download the 'Trials of the Luremaster' expansion from Black Isle which was made to try and make up for the lack of game in Heart of Winter. Get Baldur's gate 2 instead, the best roleplaying game there is, which is also more of a thinker game and has more of a plot, as opposed to the hack and slash style of play that Icewind Dale employs. 1 star is too much for this waste of time and money.