Icewind Dale II - game review

Date: 2002-10-16 10:15:00
The review was based on the PC version.

I approached the latest production of Black Isle with a certain degree of distrust. Despite the fact that the first part of Icewind Dale was very popular among people who liked hack'n'slash games, I personally did not like the linear scenario and the constant battles with hordes of enemies that we had to fight along the way. I am not saying that fans of classic cRPG games could not like it, because despite the aforementioned disadvantages (for me, but maybe for others), it provided several dozen hours of fun. However, I was hoping that this time the developers would go a little further and we would get something that would satisfy both fans of the first game and fans of Planescape: Tormenta.

The story told by Maralie, the niece of the gnome Oswald, and whose main characters we will become, begins thirty years after the events we know from the first Icewind Dale. Our earlier adventures and achievements were widely echoed among the inhabitants of the Ten Cities and left their mark on the life of the entire region. This time we will participate in equally important events that could change the face of this land covered with eternal ice and snow. After completing the team, we set off by ship to Targos, one of the Ten Cities that for some time has been the subject of constant, more and more powerful attacks attacking them from all sides of hordes of goblins. We need to help fight back the last one and find out who is responsible for all of this.

As everyone probably knows, Icewind Dale II already has the rules of the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons, which is most visible when creating a team. Most of the available breeds, with the exception of the half-elf and half-orphan, have been sub-races. For example: a man who is what everyone can see when looking in the mirror in the morning (although it is not always worth doing, because you can get scared), two new racial groups have arrived. Aasimaras, beings born of the relationship between humans and deities, and Tieflings with an admixture of devilish blood. We were also given the opportunity to choose hitherto inaccessible representatives of the races living in the dark (maybe that is why they were not there before, because it is difficult to lure them out of there?), I.e. deep sea gnomes, gray dwarves and drows. The latter three (well known to all lovers of RA Salvatore's books) are so powerful that the levels they reach are always delayed by two or even three (in the case of svirfnebles) compared to beings of other races.

There are eleven classes to choose from, starting with the barbarian and ending with the wizard. Considering that we can have a maximum of six people in our team, deciding who we want to join will be a lot of trouble for us. It is admittedly a workaround, because at any time when we are promoted, we can change the class, even several times, but it involves penalties for multiclass and in this case we will never become masters in what we do. A complete novelty is that priests have to declare which deity they want to bind to, but thanks to this, they will get additional spells available only to the selected church. Similarly, monks and paladins choose a patron, which allows them to change to another class (but only one, and that is predetermined) without fear that they will not be able to advance further in their original class.

Finally, there is no random allocation of points to individual attributes. The selected character starts out with an equal score of ten to each of the six basic traits that characterize him, along with any changes due to his race. In addition, we have a pool of sixteen points that we can divide in any way, of course within the permissible limits. Every four levels of experience we get another point that we add to any feature. Thanks to this, you can create a character with exactly the parameters that we think should correspond to his profession. However, we should not forget that intelligence significantly affects the number of points that we distribute among the available skills. Therefore, it is worth considering whether a half-orc warrior with intelligence at the level of mental development of Daphnia is a good solution.

Another novelty is that the skills are not so tightly connected with the character's class (although not all of them, and some of them are available only with certain restrictions), we can, for example, have a priest in the team who deals with pickpocketing. Although he will never become as good at it as a rogue, sometimes he can steal something interesting from the pockets of an unsuspecting passer-by, and most importantly, he will be able to absolve himself ;-). In addition to the basic skills, we have over seventy additional perks to choose from, the choice of which depends to a much greater extent on the character class. Thanks to them, our team can acquire various types of unique and very useful abilities. I will mention here such as: "Silent Casting", which allows you to cast spells to a person under the influence of silencing spells, or "Fight with Two Weapons", which, as the name suggests, allows you to use two weapons at the same time (even by characters who, as a rule, work more " intellectual "professions).

Creating my own team gave me great pleasure and I spent a few hours trying out new possibilities, assigning points to different skills and sometimes regretfully giving up one created character for another. What not to say, but in this case one of the most important aspects of a good cRPG is at the highest level.

The graphics themselves do not differ from what we are used to, but do not expect anything extraordinary. However, the engine on which Black Isle games have been created for several years, despite recent improvements, differs from world standards and it is clearly visible that its time is running out. But still the eyes enjoy the nicely drawn locations and the great looking spellcasting effects. We know most of them from previous productions, which, like the monsters we meet on the way, seem strange (after all, how many times can you smash the same monsters?), But we can come across a few new spells and try our hand at battles with hooks monsters or driders, which we have not had the opportunity to kick ass so far. The appearance of the interface and the character window have also been changed, but in my opinion it had a positive effect on both the controls and the ease of access to the inventory. One cannot forget about the excellent (as always) music, which is quickly catchy and warms you up to new skirmishes with bands of all kinds wandering everywhere.

Before I could get fingerprints from clicking the mouse, I was very positively surprised when, after leaving the ship, it turned out that I was not attacked by whole herds of goblins (which I expected), but oddly enough I had to wander around and complete a dozen or so quests by people encountered along the way. There have been several occasions to chip a stick on the back of one or even two grumpy individuals wandering here and there, but the overall impression was that I guess I'm playing the wrong game. Where are the hordes of enemies and where are the heavy fights announced by the creators of Black Isle? Don't worry fans of Diablo and the first Icewind Dale though, there are fights and there are tons of monsters to beat along the way. Sometimes even both are a bit too much for my taste, but every time I started to feel tired and wanted to give it up, there was a location filled with good quality puzzles, allowing you to move gray cells. One of them can be recommended even to fans of adventure games, because you have to run a lot there and solve some very twisted problems. Of course, all this is interwoven with constant skirmishes so that nobody here will be bored. Even the rope scenario does not hurt too much, since you know what to expect. Anyway, many different tasks can be solved in more than one way. For example, the matter of the grave wraith living near the Wandering Village. In order for him to leave a place where no one likes him, you can perform the task given to you separately, and, having a bard in your team, sing him a song that prompts him to return to the afterlife; as a last resort for people who do not like long discussions with the undead, it is enough to count the bones protruding from the bent and perforated armor. A lot of dialogues with the characters met along the way have been spiced with a pinch of humor, which makes the game easy to digest and even those who do not like hack'n'slash games can have a lot of fun, provided that in the game options they set the fighting difficulty to easy, and maybe even very easy. For all desperate players, the "Heart of Fury" mode has been made available again, where the enemies encountered will be appropriately "strengthened", but the items that we encounter along the way will have much more powerful parameters. In addition, for each killed monster, we will receive a much greater amount of experience points, which will allow our team to advance to the thirtieth level. After an hour of playing in this mode, I had to install screen protectors and pull a new mouse from the drawer, but there are plenty of fans of strong sensations and there will probably be many people willing to score the maximum number of points, which may end in a heart attack, or at least a severe neurosis ;-) . I managed to get through the game on the normal difficulty level, which I think was quite a challenge and gave me a lot of fun, which I admit, I didn't expect.

Thanks to CD Projekt, we can enjoy the Polish language version, two weeks earlier than Western Icewind Dale lovers. As we have already got used to the polonization performed by CD Projekt, in the case of Icewind Dale II this task was also done very well and basically if it were not for a few typos caught in the text there would be nothing to complain about. Additionally, there is another CD attached to the game box, which is found elsewhere only in the Collector's Edition. It features the soundtrack from both parts, containing over sixty minutes of great music, and the Adventure Pack expansion with new characters, stores and items. As if that were not enough, the box also includes a Forgotten Realms map, where the game takes place. So there is nothing left for us to do but take out less than a hundred zlotys (I know that this can make our snake in his pocket have heart palpitations) and barricade himself in the room for the next several dozen hours, trying to deal with all problems (read monsters ;-)) that the creators from Black Isle put before us.