Icewind Dale 2 Review
Icewind Dale 2 is your typical Black Isle game. It plays much like the Baldur's Gate series, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale 1, and all the other Black ISle role playing games. If you've already played one of these other games, then you pretty much know what to expect.Buy Icewind Dale 2!
Installation & Compatibility:
The game installed just fine -- what a relief, considering my recent problems with Morrowind and Pool of Radiance! The install program is a good no-nonsense installer. It installed to the correct location (on my F: drive) and worked with Windows XP with no problems whatsoever.
My gaming PC with it's somewhat outdated Matrox Dualhead MGA 400 ran the game just fine, although there were a few glitches in the opening movie. I've had no problems with Win XP and IWD 2 yet, and am able to ALT-ESC my way in and out of the game to work on the review and walkthru. It's refreshing that the game designers have done a decent job ensuring compatibility.
In Icewind Dale 2 (and it's predecessor), you get the benefit of creating your entire party exactly the way you like it. This is in opposition to the BG series whwere you typically create one main character, and fill your party with NPCs that you meet along the way. Some people may consider party creation a good thing, while others might be overwhelmed by all the options. Personally, I like being able to design the whole party myself.
There are a wealth of classes and races, and sub-classes and sub-races to choose from. Rather than just choose human, you can pick one of 3 human sub-races. Rather than choose a wizard, you can choose any of 8 specialty wizards. Personally, I think they're starting to take it a little bit too far -- three different types of elves and umpteen different kinds of dwarves is just too much for me. Sometimes simpler is better. Nevertheless, all the choices do give you a lot of room to customize your characters.
Once shortcoming is the lack of character voices. The voices that you can pick seem a lot like the same ones from IWD-1 and they're all a bit generic. The one I picked for my Rogue sounds like Imoen from BG1. I think they could have hired some voice talent to add some more character voices. As you adventure through the game, your characters will utter occational canned comments, but they get very repetetive very quickly. On the plus side, you are free to substitute in your own voice.
You also get to pick a portrait for your character and theres a whole slew of those to choose from. I liked them; I think they did a good job with the portraits.
Characters have a whole list of skills and a list of feats that they can train in. Each time you level up, you get more skill points to distribute, and may choose a couple of feats.
Combat is the major focus of the game. It far supersedes exploration or puzzle-solving. Fortunately, the designers have done a very good job with the combat system. It looks and feels great. Combat is real time where your characters will perform a default action unless you command them to do otherwise. You can pause combat at any time to issue orders to your characters, or you an issue orders on-the-fly if you're quick enough with the mouse.
Issuing orders is generally a simple point and click method. Click the character, click a spell, and then click the target.
Experience and leveling are set to a very good balance. Your characters will gain levels fast enough to keep you interested, but not so fast that you start ignoring the leveling process. When your character levels, you'll get to distribute skill points, choose an additional feat, and sometimes add an additional attribute point.
The quality of the story is below average. Some games, like BG2 or Planescape: Torment, really draw you in with a well-written script. Both IWD2 and it's predecessor though seem more like a succession of battles than a real story. I'm not saying this is a bad thing -- on the contrary sometimes it's really nice just to fight monsters.
Basically, the story starts something like this: You show up on a ship. Orcs are attacking the town. Stop the Orcs. That's where about five to ten hours of gameplay gets you. Compare this to a story like Planescape: Torment, where you're an immortal being seeking your mortality or BG1/2 where you're the spawn of a demon wrestling with your dark side, and you'll see what I mean.
Nevertheless, the lack of a story (so far) does not deter from the enjoyability of the game.
Many of the quests are of the usual "fetch an item" or "repair the broken gadget" variety. It seems like they're main purpose is to give you some free XPs so that you can advance to fight the next battle. The quests are handed out in a fairly linear manner.
Watch out if you have a Paladin or Monk as the leader of your party as he'll usually refuse payment for the quest. Always make sure to have one of your other characters do the talking when its time to collect the reward.
We have all the spells you're familiar with from past Black Isle games -- entangle, magic missile, monster summoning, mirror image -- all your favorites are there. It seems every time a new game comes out, a few more spells are added.
I'll repeat my complaint that there's just too many choices. I mean really, how many different monster summoning spells do you need? Summon Monster I - VIII, Summon Nature's Ally I - IX, Summon Shadow, Wyvren Call, Summon Feind, Summon Efreti, Summon Invisible Stalker. There's at least a couple dozen of them and they all do essentially the same thing.
The one spell I really wish IWD had is a good long-distance teleportation spell like Lloyd's Beacon from the M&M series. Getting around in IWD, BG, or any of the other Black Isle games sometimes be tedious as you often have to walk across multiple maps to get from one location to another.
IWD 2 is a well done, entertaining RPG game. It doesn't push the envelope, but it does deliver solid combat action. If you're looking for puzzles to solve or want to do some adventuring, then you might want to choose something with a bit more story. But if combat's your thing, then this game is for you!
The game deserves kudos for having good compatibility, working with XP, and having few (if any) major bugs.