Icewind Dale is a RPG (Role-Playing Game) that takes place in the world of Dungeon’s and Dragons. Like most computer incarnations of the fantasy adventure game it has its shortcomings when compared to the complexity of D&D. Where D&D has almost limitless options, programming requires a finite number of possibilities. With this said IWD has received a cult following as a classic game with a powerful story, award winning soundtrack and a great degree of character customization.
Unlike many role-playing games Icewind Dale allows you to advance through the story alone or with a group of friends. You can design up to six characters from the ground up. The game allows you to choose your characters portrait, class, talents, equipment proficiency, history, voice, alignment and more.
The chosen group of adventurers starts the game in a tavern of the city of Easthaven and quickly becomes entangled in a grandiose tale of trolls, goblins, orcs and other dark denizens of the forgotten realms. The adventure set before you is so enthralling that it is difficult to stop playing. In fact, you may wish to be prepared to spend countless hours in succession spinning through the events of this rousing adventure.
Music –The award winning soundtrack to this game, by legendary game composer Jeremy Soule, is an exceptional demonstration of how a fantastic soundtrack can bring a game to life. Somber notes and haunting melodies allow you to feel an emotional response to each town, dungeon or experience. From the theme of an aged and sentimental mercenary turned protector to the Gregorian chants of a monastery the elegant musical scores will be sure to invoke an emotional response.
Story – Without giving away too many important details I found the story of Icewind Dale to be an exceptional piece of work. Yes you will always play through the story in a linear fashion, but the story itself is like reading through a good book. The path is set out before you, but you get to decide the manner in which you take that path. A rogue may wish to play very differently from a cleric, and a cleric likewise will play differently from a berserker.
Replay Value – The hallmark of a game with a great deal of replay value is that halfway through a game you will desire to create a new character with a new background story and set of skills to experience the game in a different way. Icewind Dale had me recreating characters every few days because I had a new fantasy character I wanted to role-play with. Being able to choose your race, class, alignment and more was compounded by the possibility of group dynamic. Would I play a fiendish rogue who lets the adventurers do the dirty work? Would I play the arcane mage who served the group with astounding magical feats? Or perhaps I would play as the eager paladin ready to fight the forces of evil at great personal sacrifice. The opportunity to project a background story upon each character to explain their group behavior as well as their personal skills gave the game as great of depths as your imagination would allow.
Cooperative Campaign – One of the most exciting features to this RPG is the ability to play with friends. You have the option to log on and play the campaign with up to 5 other players. Too few games allow you to play through the campaign cooperatively and Icewind Dale did it exceptionally. One player would be designated as the group leader. Like in a real cooperative scenario you will each play differently and in conjunction with each other to tackle obstacles. You may loot as you see fit, willing giving useful items to other characters to use them, or extort them for something in their inventory that you might fancy.
Combat – One of the most disappointing aspects of this game is that of combat. Icewind Dale’s combat oriented gameplay may stagnate to some users. You gain new spells and abilities as the game progresses but frequently those new spells are just stronger rehashes of older spells (Summon Monsters level 1 through level 5).
There are different kinds of enemies that require different approaches to defeating them which keeps things interesting as you hack and slash your way through dungeons. Trolls will only succumb to fire or acid, so having a spell or fire enchanted sword will become a necessary tool in your arsenal. There are enough variations in enemies to keep you on your toes, but for the most part IWD is a hack and slash driven game.
Classes – In the world of Icewind Dale all classes are not created equally. It is certainly possible to finish the game using any class, but there are quite a few classes that stand taller than the rest. Mage, Fighter, Cleric and Rogue are typically the most useful classes to choose from. Mages have very useful and versatile spells that can deal large amounts of damage very quickly. Fighters will absorb a great deal of damage, making them essential in the front lines. Resting in dungeons can be dangerous as it can alert a mob of enemies to attack you in your already weakened state. This makes clerics useful as you can go longer between rests to minimize confrontations. Rogues make great scouts as well as have the ability to open locks. A mage can learn the ability to learn open locks with a spell, but a rogue can do so without being noticed.
Druid, bard, ranger, and paladin can be considered variations of the other four classes with more versatility. This flexibility usually detracts from the focus of a character and makes them inefficient in the party role they are designed for. A paladin is a breed between cleric and fighter but ends up being unable to tank or heal effectively. With the option to run six party members it is best to have characters each with a specific function and try not to deviate from that purpose.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this game is that of the villain. The antagonists in this game have a very interesting lore and prove to be potent adversaries. In the first half of the game they do very well to conceal their effort. However, upon discovery they prove themselves to be charming, cunning and a little spooky. The voice acting is masterfully done and cements their position as very memorable characters.