Now if only we
could get someone to make a Dragonlance massively multiplayer online
role-playing game where I could be a black robed wizard, I will
rule the world!
Dale plays almost identical to previous offerings published under
the Black Isle Studios banner for their AD&D licensed games.
The difference is an obvious shift to a combat emphasis, while the
story really doesnt suffer that much except for its length.
While combat never was handled extremely well in Baldurs Gate,
it definitely is more enjoyable with this game. The use of the AD&D
ruleset is superb this go round, and the game pulls off that dungeon
crawl style the designers envisioned for the game.
In the background during combat, the AD&D rules are definitely in effect, so you will not have to worry about this facet of the game if you are not a big AD&D player. Although there is some deviation from the AD&D rules, the basics are still in place when it comes to such things as the spells available at a certain level, stat bonuses, and experience towards the next level. You also have the choice to play as any of the standard races / classes most CRPG players are all too familiar with, where certain class / race restrictions are in place, so I will not go into detail with those here.
The interface is easy to use, and far from clumsy. The available options for your character can be found at the bottom of the screen, with more information displayed on either side of the screen. Nothing more complicated than a few clicks will accomplish anything in the game, and the action can be paused at any point with relative ease as well.
Combat occurs in real-time, while each character does have a delay for their next attack round. Through the correct use of the pause button, players can effectively turn combat into a turn-based system. The proper use of the pause feature is a definite requirement to make it through the Icewind Dale campaign. The combat is definitely challenging in this one. While we were told Projectile weapons would be toned down in Icewind Dale, I found them to still be by far the best attack in the game. Make sure all the members of your party have some form of ranged attack.
Black Isle has definitely taken away a lot of the necessary note taking with automatic journal and quest entries. These entries are triggered by accepting / completing a quest or finding out something interesting from a NPC. There is also a working map that gets put together as you make it to more areas, which makes travel easier especially later in the game. Speaking of maps, the running speed to get around these has been increased from Baldurs Gate, and the path finding AI is much better as well.
game can be saved at any moment in Icewind Dale as long as
there are no enemies within about a screen and a half from
your party, and the game has an auto save feature that kicks
in every 10 minutes or so. When we talk saves here at GA-RPG,
we also couple that in with the game's death system because
we normally are saving a lot when we die a bunch, and we did
find death early and often in this one. Death in Icewind Dale
is exactly the same as Baldurs Gate, which is still
a pain. Unless you have a cleric who can resurrect your dead
party member, you will have to make a journey back to the
local healer. Upon death, your character will dump all their
equipment on the ground, which is the biggest pain for dying
since you can travel to any destination on the map easily
enough. If the party leader is killed in Icewind Dale then
the game can continue, unlike Baldur's Gate.
As with our previous
review for Diablo II, I couldnt really find anything wrong
with this aspect of the game, and therefore we gave it a perfect
score for that very reason. I could have harped a bit more about
the character voices for your party, but by simply toning them down
they were acceptable. The sound quality of games released this year
has definitely improved, and we may have to become a bit more critical
on future games. For now though, you will not be disappointed with
Icewind Dale in this regard.
The story is fairly
good, but not as in-depth as previous Black Isle releases in order
to appeal to wider audience who might not enjoy reading a book when
they play a game. The only real problem with the story was the length,
where it seemed to come to an abrupt ending about five hours shorter
than I would have liked. The combat while fun and challenging, was
pretty difficult at times. You almost get the impression that you
need to cheat to get through a few of these encounters. Strategy
plays a key role in all these fights, so make sure you develop yours
early in this one.
Icewind Dale comes with full multiplayer support that allows for up to six different people to join a game, i.e. the six members of your party in the single player game. Supported connections include LAN, the Internet via a TCP/IP connection, and direct connections (two players, head-to-head, cooperative mode) via modems or serial cables. It should be noted that there is no difference in the single and multiplayer versions of the game. The person that begins the game must stay logged in for the session to continue.
Due to the linear gameplay and smaller size of the game world in Icewind, I figured that it would be easier for players to jump in and out of multiplayer games without trying to figure out just where everyone is or what needs to be done. However, I still cant get that much enjoyment out of this facet of the game. You can tell the game is primarily a single player adventure, with multiplayer tacked on. I gave the game about four hours worth of play in multiplayer, and switched back to single. The experience is much better playing solo. For those that enjoyed the multiplayer experience with Baldurs Gate; this one is more of the same in that regard. It would be nice to see a proprietery system like Blizzard Entertainments Battle.Net used for Black Isle Studios AD&D games, but this is highly doubtful with BioWares Neverwinter Nights being the publisher's multiplayer focus at the moment.
Having said this about the game, it should be noted that the game is a bit hard. You will find yourself saving the game early and often. Almost every major fight within the game will require you to rethink your strategy a few times after reloading. If youre not really into a heavy dose of strategy in your role-playing game then you should probably take a pass on this one.