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Icewind Dale

If Baldur’s Gate was a can of beans, then Icewind Dale would be a can of refried beans…but they’re the best tasting refried beans this side of the year 2000. It looks like the folks at Black Isle have done it again -- Icewind is no stale clone. This game's got meat…heaps of ground chuck just waiting to be devoured. So get your hot sauce and come on in, baby, because it’s a helluva ride.

Forgive me, father, for I have sinned. I have spent countless hours away from my family playing Icewind Dale. I have neglected my laundry and trash chores to play Icewind Dale. I have left my betrothed unfulfilled at night while playing Icewind Dale into the wee hours of the morning...I have sinned, father; I have indeed, but I ask not for your forgiveness…I was actually wondering if you could let me borrow some of that money that you collect every Sunday…see, I was fired from my job two weeks ago when I didn’t come in for three days straight because of my new addiction…No? I didn’t think so…

Devour? Yes, I have devoured. I have spent hours upon hours playing this game, even amidst my hectic life…my 55 hour work weeks…I have played this game like a bastard. Icewind Dale is certainly more of a hack n’ slash than Baldur’s Gate or Planescape Torment, but the story carries itself well (heck, it’s got a better plot than the Phantom Menace, anyways).

Lets start at the beginning, shall we? I was excited as hell when I bought Icewind, for multiple reasons: 1) I loved Baldur’s Gate, so why the heck wouldn’t I be excited about this game? 2) I was totally digging the fact that I’d probably run into good ol’ Drizzt… 3) Holy S#@&! There is a cloth map in there! A cloth map folks -- wow! I haven’t seen packaging like this since Ultima! This was a truly great moment for me…I’m not normally the type to do these sorts of things, but my wife swears she saw me do a bit of a happy dance in the store when I saw the sticker exclaiming the fact that there was, indeed, a cloth map inside. Once I actually opened the package I was treated by an even more pleasant surprise…the manual was spiral bound! Yes, no more bending the you know what out of the spine of the old, thick Baldur’s manual…this puppy lies completely open by itself. Bioware’s thoughtfulness and care in packaging, and the minute details that lie within get my sincere nod of approval. Almost makes me wish that Gamer's Pulse had a packaging score, because if we did, Icewind would have gotten an easy 99. Oh, I nearly forgot…the CDs come in a real jewel case this time…not that crappy cardboard sleeve (which is pretty, but functionless).

Truth be told, I was a little disappointed in the fact that the game was only two discs long, as opposed to the 5-6 discs (depending on whether you have TOSC or not) of Baldur’s Gate. I’ve heard rumors that Bioware came up with a better compression scheme and was able to simply cram more game on a single disc. I don’t know whether that’s true, but it seems plausible, as I didn’t think that the game was anywhere near the “small” side. Icewind is set up like a lot of popular games have been lately (The Wheel of Time, Ultima 9, etc…), with an install disc and a separate game disc. This beats the hell out of having two gaming/install discs that you have to continuously switch back and forth during game play. In fact, Baldur’s Gate was the only game that had me wishing for more than one CD-ROM (six to be exact). Then there’s always the DVD version, but I digress…

Once you start the game up, you are witness to a rather static intro scene (which was okay by me, since I’ve never really been that fond of Black Isle’s 3D animated cutscenes). There is simply a book, flipping pages to various still pictures, and a really great voice over. The character creation screen is unlike the previous two Black Isle games in that you create your entire party…no NPCs will join you in your quest, so you really get to start from scratch. I enjoyed this because it was so nostalgic of the RPGs of old… You get to create up to six custom characters to adventure through the lands of the Dale (to make matters even better, the portraits are customizable…you can use Baldur’s portraits easily, or scan your own).

The game screen is 640x480, exactly like Baldur’s Gate, and although you can’t run like you can in Planescape, the walking movement rate is a bit faster than Baldur’s. The engine has been modified to allow much larger sprites, so you’ll get to fight some whoppin’ big giants along the way (and boy, will you fight some bloody giants). The landscapes are lush and gorgeous, just as in Baldur’s, and the sprites are well animated and detailed. There’s not really a whole lot more to say graphics-wise, especially to those who happen to be Baldur’s veterans. If you aren’t, though, just take my word for it -- the graphics are gorgeous. They aren’t first-person point-of-view, they aren’t even 3D, but they are a sight to behold. The OpenGL setting is worth investigating, as it makes the Fog of War dither, and helps out with the spell effects, but it can cause crashes…especially when the game attempts to launch a cutscene.

I still don’t like point-and-click walking interfaces, though, damnit. I wish that the movement scheme was much more like Ultima 7 or UO’s. It just bugs me that not only do I have to click on a certain area to get my character(s) to walk there, but I also have to move the cursor all the way up to the top of the screen to get it to scroll along with my character. But since you have the option of controlling a single character, two, three or the whole group at a time, I can see why the current interface is probably the best…especially for those who enjoy splitting their characters up in combat for strategic advantages. The AI pathfinding is still a little crummy, but if your computer is fast enough, you can crank it up to a pretty good level…you just gotta make sure you remember that you do have that option (I forgot until around Chapter 3).

Read up on the creatures of Icewind Dale

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REVIEW STATS

Author:
John (Gabriel) Priest, Jr
July 23, 2000
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Reviewer's System:
Pentium III 667
128 MB RAM
TNT2 32MB
Yamaha XG
56K modem
50x CD-ROM
10 GB HD

System Requirements:
System Requirements:
Windows 95/98,
DirectX 7
Pentium II 233
32MB RAM
4x CD-ROM
DirectX sound card
4MB DirectX video card
100% Microsoft-compatible mouse and keyboard

Genre:
RPG

Pulse Rating:
Concept: 80 - Pretty typical concept; nothing surprising here…
Gameplay: 90 - Good, but I personally don’t like the point-and-click movement scheme.
Graphics: 95 - Very beautiful; no complaints.
Sound: 95 - Another awesome soundtrack by Black Isle.
Technical: 95 - No problems here either. OpenGL is buggy, but was never stated as guaranteed.
Overall: 91 - If you are on the fence between Diablo 2 and Icewind, I would suggest picking both up!

Release Date:
Available

Publisher:
Interplay

Developer:
Black Isle

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