Icewind Dale is a role playing game for Windows PC that was developed by Black Isle Studios and released by the now defunct Interplay Entertainment. It looks and plays very much like Baldur’s Gate, and is built on the same Infinity Engine. Although it borrows its name from an excellent trilogy of books by R.A. Salvatore, the story in this game has nothing to do with those novels.
Story (4 out of 5)
The story begins with all of your party in a small town called Easthaven, and you are hired by the local leader to travel to the nearby town of Kuldahar to investigate some strange stories that locals have been hearing. Shortly after leaving town, you get jumped by a bunch of trolls and the way home is blocked, so you are forced to travel through the snow-covered area until you reach Kuldahar. Once there, you learn of a strange magic that has taken over the land, and your investigation begins. In a nutshell, your ‘investigation’ involves finding out who is making trouble and killing them, while also killing everything else that gets in your way.
Build your party (5 out of 5)
One of the big things that sets Icewind Dale apart from Baldur’s Gate I is that you can create your entire party at the start of this game. In Baldur’s Gate, you created one main character and then picked up others along the way. Being able to create a whole party is an awesome experience, but can be troublesome to gamers not familiar with D&D and the value of the different character classes. For example, a party of all fighters may not be as effective as a party with a couple of spellcasters in tow. The game is set up in a way that it will work no matter how you build the party, but you’ll miss out on a lot of extra stuff if your party is not balanced.
Gameplay (4 out of 5)
This game is more combat-oriented than story-driven, which can be a bonus depending on what kind of game you prefer. In other words, it’s more killing and less reading. I think it helps to be a little more experienced with party-based RPG’s to get ahead in this game, because the relentless combat can often become very difficult. There are tons of cheats available in the game, and even with some of the best weapons and armor there are opponents who are still very tough to beat. I found the best party configuration to consist of at least two fighters, one ranger, one thief, a cleric, and a wizard or sorcerer. That way, you’ll always be able to cast any spell, pick locks, and more.
Graphics and Sound (3 out of 5)
Because it was built using the Infinity Engine, the graphics are of the same quality as Baldur’s Gate, but the setting is different. In this game, a lot of it takes place in snowy wooded areas, so you will have a lot of white on screen. This also makes way for a whole new set of monsters to encounter, which is always fun. You’ll learn quickly that monsters who thrive in cold environments don’t like fireballs very much. This game was originally only made to support a 640x480 resolution, but that was later updated. The orchestral soundtrack is among the best ever created for a video game.
Overall (4 out of 5)
If you liked Baldur’s Gate, I think you will also enjoy Icewind Dale. If you do get this game, I highly recommend you also get the Heart of Winter expansion pack because it provides a whole bunch of changes to the original game, including the option to play at a higher resolution, plus a bunch of bug fixes.