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Icewind Dale
October 24, 2000 | Andy Largent

RPG fans everywhere need to go out and thank Bioware and Black Isle Studios for their work in the past few years. Beginning with the original Baldur's Gate and the Infinity engine it is based upon, they have transferred significant portions of the immense Forgotten Realms works to the computer. There are many reasons why both fans of Baldur's Gate, and even those that might not have found it to their fancy, should get excited over the recent announcement of a Mac version of Icewind Dale.

Icewind Dale was started soon after Baldur's Gate originally shipped for the PC, and the titles shares the same Infinity engine and basic style of gameplay. The story is shifted, however, from the Sword Coast to the Spine of the World Mountains, which provides a very different backdrop for the game. While it's not necessary to have read the Icewind Dale Trilogy, fans who have done so will enjoy many references to this northern part of Faerun. Instead of the search for self-discovery, which was a large part of Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale is much more of a standard AD&D plot. Six adventurers meet up, find a town in peril, and head to the dungeons to vanquish the evil (and collect a good amount of gold and weapons along the way).

There are many side quests to keep the player entertained and allow the discovery of unique and magical items. Cut scenes are present to tie together vital pieces of the storyline. The linear story is necessary in a game like Icewind Dale, but doesn't eliminate its replayability. NPCs will react differently to a player, depending on their character's class, alignment, etc. Different magical items also give you reason to want to go through the game again.

While the story is still an essential element to the title, Black Isle specifically wanted to focus more on action. Since the mountains are treacherous and more difficult to navigate, there is a lot of dungeon crawling in Icewind Dale. Monsters are prevalent and give the game a steady flow of combat. The setting allows for some of the best fiends in the 2nd edition AD&D world. Over fifty new monsters make an appearance, including Orcs, Cyclops, Frost Giants, etc. Many of these huge creatures dwarf your own characters, adding to the sense of perspective in the game.

The fighting system has changed little from Baldur's Gate. Pausing is allowed at any time in order to map our your plan of attack (or retreat) and give your characters specific instructions. The inventory and other screens can also now be accessed without unpausing the game, which many found annoying in Baldur's GateCharacters will also continue moving while looking at the map screen, so if you have a distance to travel, you can keep your bearings. Ten major areas will give you plenty of land to explore, and over fifty dungeon levels mean lots of close-quarters action.


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