Released for PC in late 2002, Icewind Dale II is an RPG (role-playing game). This type of game is often set in a fantasy universe, often with the traditional clichés of evil goblins, aloof wizards and gallant heroes. The game is based around the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons, and uses the rules laid out therein.
Despite the recent release of more graphically advanced RPGs such as Morrowind or Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale still manages to hold its own in the increasingly popular RPG market. Icewind Dale II uses the Infinity Engine, the same that the famous Baldur's Gate series used. However, unlike the two games mentioned above, Icewind Dale II is not three-dimensional. It gives, instead, a top-down view of the area, which you can explore. Thus, some feel that the engine is dated, but it has a huge following.
The game is set in the Forgotten Realms (Faerun), and builds upon the foundation of the first game. The setting is the Spine of the World, a frozen place of ice palaces, winter monsters and a great deal of snow. It is important to say that it is not necessary to have played the original Icewind Dale to play this sequel. The plot of the original is mentioned subtly, but knowing what happened in the previous game has no real bearing on one's enjoyment of this sequel.
Without giving too much away, the game begins in a small town, Targos, which has been assaulted by goblins. Once you have repelled the invaders, you set off to find from whom and for what reasons the goblins were sent. This then develops into an intricate plot, which, although not hugely original (these games do tend to be filled to the brim with clichés), contains enough twists and turns to keep one occupied.
You create a 'party' of up to six characters at the beginning of the game, from a wide selection of races and classes. There are a total of 16 races to choose from, from Moon Elves to Grey Dwarves. There is also a great range of classes; from clerics to thieves. In this way, you can create a party with varied strengths and abilities, diverse enough to be interesting. Additionally, you can also choose a wide range of 'Alignments', which indicate your character - combinations of the six types: chaotic, neutral and lawful (your attitude to the establishment) and evil, neutral and good (your own moral attitude). These have quite an effect on the game, and you may find your goody-goody two-shoes paladin turning down offers of copious rewards; and your evil barbarian may not be as willing as you'd hope to aid a village beset by orcs, for example.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Icewind Dale II is a long game. Not as long as Morrowind, or Baldur's Gate II, but still of noteworthy length. The story is compelling, the combat is exciting and the quests are varied. With a variety of races and classes to choose from, the replayability factor is high. Even in comparison to games such as Neverwinter Nights, the combat is exciting and the enemies are varied. With original music and high quality sound effects and speech, immersion in the game world comes naturally.
However, despite this game's many virtues, it lacks the defining factor that made BG II so great. Difficult though this is to describe precisely, Icewind Dale II is simply not as playable or as addictive as games in the Baldur's Gate series. More puzzles might have helped, and the classic mistake of the original Icewind Dale has been repeated. This is the fact that all six party members must be created at the beginning of the game, and they are largely devoid of any personality or individuality. Some parts of the game can also feel a little sluggish and laboured, especially when compared to the Baldur's Gate series and other Forgotten Realms games.
These complaints really are small, however, and the overall quality of the game and plot more than make up for them. An added bonus is that high-quality mods are likely to come out for this game thick and fast. Overall, despite its minor flaws, Icewind Dale II really is a worthwhile purchase, and any RPG fan should be proud to have this in their collection.