Icewind Dale, by MacPlay
Posted: 18-Nov-2003

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: MacPlay Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Miles Libbey Class: GAMES

The Game
First the headlines: for D&D fans or Baldur's Gate (BG) fanatics, you should be well pleased with Icewind Dale - for others be prepared to devote some significant overheard to learning your way around the complex commands, interactions and specialized capabilities of several different character types before your comfort level gets to the enjoyable stage and you are able to kill and pillage to your rightful level.

Icewind Dale (viz. Popular print background: Icewind Dale trilogy, written by Robert Salvatore, and published by Wizards of the Coast) is a single or multiplayer (less than 7 players) role-playing game with a team rather than a hero's quest theme following the same general time and physical setting fought in BG and Baldur's Gate II.

Playing was delayed a few days after loading because the required 1.01 patch needed to play with OS X 1.2.x which was not on the game or any mirror site. Enough squawking finally got the update and got my party of six (the maximum allowed) headed off together to explore Easthaven, and set out on an expedition into the Spine of the World mountains. These evil places, however, turn out to be a bit pixilated with the screen resolution fixed at 640 by 480. Playing within a frame was more pleasing to me.

With almost 200 spells between the mages and priests alone, the initial learning curve should be approached realistically so as not to spoil enjoyment of the game. Study and practice are important. Fidelity to the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game system rules (as played in BG for instance) are a strength in the long run, but adds friction to the novice's early experiences.

Game control is hampered to a greater degree than necessary by the relatively small "active" window that must be moved over the characters before moving them. This is especially bothersome when a couple of party members are wandering about or trying to catch up to the rest of the band and frequently outside the active window. This annoyance accounted for almost a full point penalty, as it was an issue on almost every move. I personally found this interface quark to be intrusive to the game play. Those with better 'leadership' skills in keeping their party together might not be so bothered.

Lesser quests seem to have little effect on dispatching the elemental evil terrifying the world of Icewind Dale. This linear style was apparently purposely chosen to suit the needs of those interested in playing with up to seven other players. I took a couple of rounds with the game, and while I did not complete these other rounds, things seemed more familiar than say the RPG classic Diablo where there is more freedom of action. However, even for the single player, different teammates, new magic items, or items in different places should hold interest for at least a couple of rounds despite some sameness.

Game control is hampered to a greater degree than necessary by the relatively small window available as the play areas at any one time - especially so if your leadership is careless enough to have one of your party wandering about or trying to catch up to the rest of the band. This annoyance accounted for almost a full point penalty, as it was an issue on almost every move that I personally found to be intrusive to the game play. With about fifty levels, play gets easier and more intense, and so stays exciting as your characters grow (especially with frequent saves). In other words, for you less than enthusiastic gamers, peek, save, strategize, load and kill. That gets you through some tough spots because the micro management of your party members is very tough in most melee fights.

Summary
Overall, I found Icewind Dale to be an engaging RPG, especially if you like a lot of slash and magic and treasures, and even more so if you enjoyed other AD&D games like BG. This is a solid and entertaining game, that allows a great deal of interaction with respect to playing online with others, or playing with a uniquely tailored set of adventures. Although I doubt that this will change anyone into an AD&D freak, for pre-existing fans of that genre it will provide hours of fun at a most reasonable price.

Pros

  • High fidelity to Baldur's gate and AD&D rules and concept
  • Lots of levels and ways to compose your traveling party
  • Built for a multiplayer game
  • Lots of fighting with good detailed player control and a multitude of spells and weapons


Cons

  • Tight field of view makes it difficult to manipulate party
  • Light on the physics, graphics, and sounds that gamers generally expect today
  • Linear story line much the same on replay
  • Steep learning curve for those without AD&D experience


Overall Rating

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice