Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter Review

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Publisher: Interplay
Developer: Black Isle Studios

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 200 MB HD space, 4x CD-ROM

Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter is a dungeon crawl set in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons ruleset and the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. For anyone not familiar with the tabletop, pencil-and-dice gaming set, it's a fantasy setting where you kill a lot of monsters. Unlike the Baldur's Gate series, Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter doesn't involve very much character interaction, and the plot exists mostly to move the characters from one hack-and-slash setting to another. That said, ID:HoW was designed to be exactly that: a game about combat, for those who wanted a lot more fight and a lot less talk.

I played the original Icewind Dale at the same time as the Heart of Winter expansion. The expansion enables a number of enhancements to the original Icewind Dale, including new special abilities, new voices and portraits, and a higher level cap. The reasons to play both together rather than Icewind Dale alone are:

  • 800x600 resolution lets you see enough of the screen to make the game fun.
  • A hotkey that highlights interactive items makes searching for loot much easier.
  • Gem bags, potion bags and scroll cases eliminate a lot of tedious inventory management
Rob de los Reyes

I'm still playing this game largely because I can. Let's suppose that, like me, you're one of the great unwashed members of the proletariat and you have to work for a living. A lot. (You know, if I were just a little more lumpen, I would have much more time for gaming.) ID:HoW is a game for the working man in the sense that you can play it in ten minute blocks and still feel like you're making progress.

The game is, in many ways, a big war, but you, as player, are more interested in the battles. And you can fight them one at time without overmuch concern about the progress of the overall war. There is, of course, a story, but its function is to drive you from place to place. Haven't played in a week? Can't remember the story? Not a problem. Talk to or kill whatever is standing in front of you. Trust me. That's what you're supposed to be doing.

Nevertheless, the world of ID:HoW is rich. The game (at least at the 800x600 resolution) is both graphically and aurally beautiful. This is one of the few games I play with the music turned on. You can play a party dedicated to good or evil – both paths earn experience and neither forecloses major game options. My one complaint about the game from the point of view of someone being oppressed by The Man, is the amount of walking you have to do. Ten minutes fighting a horde of undead is one thing; ten minutes getting from the battle to the blacksmith is another thing altogether. In developing a realistic and beautiful setting, the designers have removed just about every straight line pathway in the game. Oh, the blacksmith may be mere centimeters away on your screen, but you'll have to walk all the way around a giant tree root to get there. It's a needless pace-slackener, but, at the end of the day, a nit.

This game is part of my morning routine, along with showering and brushing my teeth. I won't tell you which of those three things drops out when I'm in a rush.

One other thing. I'm dying to do this, so let me know if you've done it. I want to create an all-druid party so I can lead a pack of transformed bears around the world. I'd also like to see a party consisting entirely of female gnome cleric-illusionists. Hey, shut up, it might work.

Rob's Wife

You know, I actually bought Wrathful this game. He was down in the dumps, so I bought him Icewind Dale and Heart of Winter to cheer him up. Cheer him up it did. I don't know what I was thinking. Maybe I thought, oh, he always perks up when he gets a new game. He'll play it all night tonight, then tomorrow I'll have my old happy husband back. Well, I was half right. He was happy, but I still don't have him back. He wakes up in the morning and plays. He comes home late, plays for half an hour, reads The Economist and falls asleep. This is not what I had in mind.

I went in that first day to see what he was doing. He spent something like four hours just making characters. Now I know why. Have you seen the female pictures? I assume this game was designed by fifteen-year-old boys who had been trapped on a desert island since puberty started. He told me he was just trying to get some sort of sword person to have eighteen-double-oh strength or something. Yeah, right. I saw those portraits. He was after eighteen-double-ohs alright, but it had nothing to do with strength. And what about the men? He says his party consists of three men and three women, but I know that if I hadn't walked in on him it would of been six, chest-heaving tarts whose armor – oops! – accidentally falls off during battle. Then in the tussle to pick it up, they all accidentally start making out. The only thing worse than this game was Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall. I once walked in on him when he was "buying clothing" for his female character. I asked him what game function the clothing served. I never did get a straight answer, but, apparently, you had to take all her clothes off in order for it to work. Sure.

Bottom line. I regret having bought him this game. It's stupid. Don't buy it. Friends don't let friends buy this game for their husbands.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on June 2, 2001 6:09 PM.

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