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Icewind Dale 2 Preview

publisher: Interplay
developer: Black Isle Studios
genre: RPG

PII-350, 128MB RAM, 500MB HDD
ESRB rating: T

release date: Aug 26, 02
» All About Icewind Dale 2 on ActionTrip

March 26, 2002
Ranko "Arjuna" Trifkovic

Some of you may not know that the famous Baldur's Gate's Infinity engine originates from CGA games like Curse of the Azure Bonds and Champions of Krynn. Back then we used to get kicks from cleverly designed quasi-isometric graphics... and after several (successful) experiments with First-Person RPGs like the Eye of the Beholder series or the first Lands of Lore, when computer technology finally allowed it, we got ourselves a real good and standard setting AD&D adventure - Baldur's Gate. This was immediately followed by a number of different games using practically the same engine: Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale, Shadows of Amn. Now, when you spend all new ideas in the computer entertainment world, you are either facing a revolution or some recycling of old ideas. Black Isle chose the second option and signed a contract with Interplay for Icewind Dale 2.

The programmers swear that they completely re-designed the old Infinity Engine, which seems to be quite true judging by the pictures. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine what it is that they really had to change. Some of the possible things that could have been improved are the spell-effects, and the general artwork, and we certainly hope to see even more beautiful maps and monsters than in the first Icewind Dale. The programmers promised the game would play in 1024x768, and some even mentioned it might support 2048x1536. All in all, Icewind Dale 2 doesn't need new technology or visuals to be a good game, as the developers decided to focus more on the plot. This is great, as we saw what happened to Ubi Soft's Pool of Radiance-a, whose "innovative" engine turned out to be practically useless, and made the adventure come down to roaming around and slaughtering everything.

There will be practically no limits to your advance (provided you play the Heart of Fury mode)... i.e. you can expect to reach the level thirty! The game contains many new unique items, and a far better system for generating powerful magic gadgets. You will now be able to compose your coterie of such races as Half-Orc, Drow (Dark Elf), Thiefling or Gold Dwarf, and classes such as Barbarian, Sorcerer and Monk. This implies the use of the new AD&D 3rd Edition Rules. Hence, the Barbarian cannot stand magic, but he has no equal in melee combat. The Sorcerer is a more powerful version of old Magic-Users and he doesn't have to memorize spells. Monk is a bizarre character whose AC goes down with every level; what am I saying?! His AC goes up with every level! You see, in 3rd edition rules, THAC0 and AC no longer go backwards. Priest spells and religions have been far better defined, and the new system will let you create characters like berserker/ranger/paladin/axe-murderer with a flick of a wrist.

In coherence with the new level range, professions and rules, the developers promised to introduce fifty new spells. Even their names sound great: Death Armor, Delayed Blast Fireball, Negative Plane Protection, Wondrous Recall... At first, I didn't think it possible, but when I looked into it I realized that all the classes did gain new high-level spells. Sweet!

Still, even with all these novelties, all new levels, races and rules, Icewind Dale 2 wouldn't be what we want it to be without a thrilling and involving story. Some thirty years after the events depicted in the Heart of Winter, Ten-Towns gather mercenaries and adventurers, because of the increasing frequency of Goblin attacks on civilized territories and especially Targos. Some unknown force wants to destroy all good races in Icewind Dale, and it is up to you to get into the entire mess and find out who is responsible for it. Once you finish this part of the story, the game will unlock several new locations where you can look for the great finale (like in Baldur's Gate 2). Icewind Dale 2 will, unfortunately, be just as linear as its predecessor, but it will give you an insight into many new locations in Faerun. You will get a chance to wander around Underdark and meet all of its typical inhabitants like the Hook Horror (indestructible worm-like things) or Duergar and Drider (half-drow half-spider). You will get a chance to cut through the dense forests of Chulta, and run through Cold Marches and Fields of Slaughter. The very thought of all the locations covered in this game sends shivers down my spine.

The game should take about forty hours of quality gameplay, in case you decide to go straight through the main campaign. And if you decide to complete every single quest in the game, or turn the Heart of Fury mode on and go through the game again, you are looking at eighty hours of pure fun, provided by the guys who made Fallout with some fresh reinforcements.

All in all, Interplay never had to be ashamed of any of its AD&D RPGs, and being a game-master myself, I have to say that the quality of the descriptions and dialogues made Black Isle RPGs dangerously similar to the real thing. Icewind Dale 2 is scheduled for release in May 2002. I can hardly wait!



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