Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition

Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition

Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition is a re-release of the classic Dungeons and Dragons role playing game from 2000 with bug fixes, new items, and the Heart of Winter expansion.

The game begins with you customizing the party. If you are like me, put some coffee on because this might take a while. There is a lot to choose from if you opt not to go with the default party. Various races and classes are available, and "kits" further specialize classes. For example, a Paladin might be a Caviler, Inquisitor, or the anti-Paladin Blackguard. You can have a party of upwards of six characters, deleting any you don't want. Going with fewer characters might be more of a challenge at first, but you will earn more experience.

I've always loved being able to customize characters, so a full party of six warriors I tweaked to my liking made for a fun adventure. Everything from race, gender, and even alignment is taken into consideration. In this regard, it does a good job of recreating the pen and paper experience of character creation. You even have to roll your stats. That means, for those not used to Dungeons and Dragons jargon, that you click to randomize stats until you get them the way you want them, the goal being to have the highest numbers for that character's crucial stat. You can tweak these within limits, say you rolled a 17 strength on a Mage, and like the rest of the stats but his Intelligence score is dismal. You could subtract up to the minimum allowed of the strength stat and put it into intelligence.  In the picture above, the 18/## is a way of two characters with an 18 in strength apart. The difference between an 18 and 19 was apparently so great there are variations on the 18 strength.

As someone who is very well acquainted with Dungeons and Dragons, I made what I considered to be a balanced party. A Fighter, Thief, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, and a Paladin. The idea was the Paladin and Fighter would be my main line melee units, with the Paladin being helpful against undead, the Cleric being another melee healing unit, the thief to do roguish things like detect traps, the sorcerer for magic damage and utility, with the Druid being well, a Druid. Seems like every campaign I've played with friends has had one so I included him for the fun of it.

The game starts off with a wonderful narration before putting your party in a tavern where you are free to explore the town. Moving characters for combat and exploration merely involves clicking around the screen, or simplified through hot keys. 0 selects the whole party, while the numbers 1 through 6 select the corresponding party members, 7, 8 and 9 select the first two, second two, and last two characters respectively. You can swap the order around on the party bar on the side of the screen to have the characters paired up the way you would prefer, with the top most character acting as the parties leader. Like most games of this nature, you can pause combat to make selections and target foes, which is handy when trying to control six characters at once. While exploring, areas you haven't seen yet are black, and are uncovered as you walk. As the map is uncovered, a fog of war effect keeps you from seeing anything other than the terrain, so you are limited to seeing enemies and such within a radius of your party.

The ambiance and sound are great, and while the graphics are a bit dated by today's standard, I feel they hold up well for this sort of game. The animations are a bit stiff, however.  Another thing I particularly noticed was how most the minor NPC's only had the same things to say. Other than that, the dialogue and choices are well written, and the voiced parts are excellent. One other problem with the graphics, is interactive objects can be hard to notice sometimes. The switch in the screen shot below, for example. I almost missed it until I zoomed in to see it sticking out of the pillar. You will often have to mouse over nearly everything in the environment to see what your icon can highlight.

The games difficulty can be a bit much if unprepared. I found saving often to be helpful in avoiding unnecessary frustration, and slowly going forward to provoke as few foes at a time as I could. The difficultly slider rangers from "story" which goes as far as to make you invincible, to "Insane" so there is something for everyone.

The only other issue I had worth noting, was occasional pathfinding issues. Sometimes one of my party members would lag behind the rest of the group or wander off on a different path than the others, and I would have to wait for them to catch up.  All in all, it makes for a fun RPG if you don't mind the gameplay mechanics and graphical styles of a time gone by. The story is standard fair for those who play these games often, but it is told well. For someone looking for a game like the Baldur's Gate titles but with more emphasis on spending time fighting monsters and delving through dungeons, this may be just the thing.