Icewind Dale 2 Preview
developer: Black Isle Studios
PII-350, 128MB RAM, 500MB HDD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Aug 26, 02 (released)
|» All About Icewind Dale 2 on ActionTrip|
Gather around D&D fans, cause I'll wager you can't wait to get your mitts on this baby. Everything you'd want from a CRPG with Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition rules will be available in Black Isle Studios' title Icewind Dale 2. Just so all of ya know, the following feature is only a mere sample of the whole Icewind Dale 2 enchilada, so many of the announced features and gameplay improvements were not available for testing in this version. So, don't feel disappointed if you don't find out how the female/moon-elf/wizard uses the Sleep spell at level 30 and how that affects her tan (I think it actually softens the complexion). Seriously though, I'm afraid you're going to have to wait for the final edition of the game for any serious, in-depth analysis.
I shudder to think what this guy's been doing here.
There are always a few useful tips displayed on the interface text panel...
In Icewind Dale 2 the story appears to be as linear as in the previous game, but as in many RPG's, the player has the opportunity to drift away from the main plot by engaging in various side-quests. Such quests can be acquired by chatting with numerous NPCs. As always, Black Isle has put a great effort into making the dialogs and the unfolding of the plot seem as believable as possible. Almost every NPC has a thorough background. Quests can appear out of the blue, depending on the course of the dialog you took while conversing with a certain NPC. Conflict can sometimes be avoided if you restrain yourself from smart-ass remarks and offensive replies. Such details and abundant new RPG features make the gameplay more exciting, Black Isle proved they're worth once again. I only regret that we weren't able to see more in-game environments and enemies, since we got to play the early stage of the game. The surroundings in the preview version are pretty much restricted to the small on-shore town of Targos. The complete version will include various locations where your group of RPG heroes can explore; you'll be going to Underdark, visiting the Cold Marshes, returning to Dragon's Eye, etc.
The best thing about Icewind Dale 2 is that character creation is completely optional, which means you can start the game with one character and then add a new one to your team at any time during the game (even in mid-battle if need be). More new races and sub races were added in IWD2. For instance, there are new categories of elves present, which give you a greater number of skill and class combinations. Elves are now sorted out in three sub-races: the kind-hearted moon-elves, the unpleasant but dexterous drow elves, and last but not least the skillful wild elves that dwell deep in thick forests. Wild elves are adept at sneaking and stealth but have disadvantages in terms of intelligence. The other two elf sub-races both have bonuses in intelligence and charisma, but are penalized in constitution points (-2). Other races have their own sub-divisions and classifications. The humans have been divided into two sub-races - the noble and benevolent Aasimar, and on the opposite side are the Tiefling, who possess diabolical hints in their bloodlines and are not to be messed with. Every sub-race differs in skills and abilities (more info regarding these features was hinted in our previous article).
Next to Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale 2 is the only PC game that fully takes advantage of the new D&D 3rd edition rules. What this means is these rules allow an almost infinite number of combinations of characters that can be created. This means you could spend an eternity selecting and modifying your ideal RPG character. If that doesn't tickle your fancy, you can always choose from a wide variety of default character groups.
Whether it's because of the AI or for some other reason, the game is a lot trickier to play than the original Icewind Dale. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to check out a wider variety of enemies since the press demo features - mostly goblins and wolfs. Unless you're aided by at least two or three characters, your chances of enduring through the entire game are quite slim. The game does allow the difficulty to be toned down - it can be very easy or you can make it insanely difficult, whichever you prefer.
Thanks to the variety of spell combinations, you can easily overcome swarms of foes. If you have assembled the appropriate coalition of character classes you can fight against many enemies at once. So, it's good to mix races and classes while you're at it; example: you can establish a strong defense line with say a paladin and barbarian and you can have your sorcerer (or other magic-wielding character) hurl a color spray in the direction of the enemy horde, while your elf rogue fires a bunch of arrows to finish them off. It's quite simple really. And that's only one of the many alternatives.
I say we go right! No, no - left! AAAHHHH!!!
So when are they gonna release the lions?
Since I've mentioned combat, we gathered that it's all pretty much the same as the original Icewind Dale, or Baldur's Gate 2. Everything is done in real-time with the option of freezing the action so that you can carefully distribute orders to your team members. However, the interface has received additional advantages that will allow you to build up the capabilities of your character. The whole GUI has a well-organized text board that gives you highly detailed info of the damage you deal out and the skills you utilize for the purposes of gaining more experience. Again this is where the game draws parallels with Neverwinter Nights as well as Baldur's Gate 2.
The visuals have been improved as well. The announced 2048x1536 mode wasn't available in the demo, but I can assure you that the game looks just fine in the 1024x768 res mode. Some spells produce rich and colorful effects, while the appearance of your characters will change each time you buy (or find) them a new outfit. BTW, all you Infinity engine skeptics will be thrilled to know that this is probably the last time Black Isle will be utilizing it for game development, so I do not intend to walk all over the developers because their still using this old engine - creating a new engine wasn't the goal of this project. The purpose of the creative team at Black Isle was to focus on enhancing the aspects of D&D gameplay, which seems to be in pristine order if you ask me.
The in-game sounds are exceptional, the music is of the highest quality and I was captivated by the realistic ambient noises that differ with each location. While you're at the Targos docks you can hear the cries of seagulls accompanied by the soft sound of breaking waves. Game characters have compelling voiceovers and it was a real pleasure listening to them as they immersed me deeper into the plot.
The good thing about this playable demo is that it gave us a chance to test just enough features to keep us going until the final game comes out. Also, the game doesn't appear to be demanding in terms of hardware power, which I'm sure will make tons of RPG fans happy. Even in the demo there seems to be a replay value that increases thanks to the variety of new possibilities: a huge number of new spells, numerous side-quests to complete, enhanced character development system (enter 3rd edition rules), and so on. This is a title that all gamers should look forward to, especially those who are addicted to the D&D world and the RPG genre.
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