Recensione di Icewind Dale 2 - Inglese  0

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When a preamble is obligatory

Icewind Dale II’s plot makes us the leading characters of an adventure which is totally untied to the saga’s first chapter, both for narrative and temporal line. That was an almost forced choice seeing the almost divine levels you could achieve in the entire path of Icewind Dale and expansion. It is not possible to import our old party. Your original heroes won’t wield again their swords which will remain in their sheaths, our old wizards won’t cast spells and the old ranger will no more shoot deadly arrows.
The saga’s new chapter imposes us to create a new party and such choice was perfect for Black Isle. Icewind Dale II, as everyone knows, is based on D&D third edition rules which make the party creation incredibly beautiful, engrossing and complete, but above all it gives us great possibilities!!
One of the most ferocious critics on D&D second edition rules - the rules on which all of Black Isle’s role playing games had been developed, with the exception of the recent Neverwinter Nights and Pool Of Radiance (Pool of Radiance represents a great flop and was developed neither by Bioware nor by Black Isle) – is that it doesn’t allow enough differentiation of characters. Except for race, aspect and alignment, the second edition’s classes were rather rigid and only a multiclass could be distinguished among characters. If you decided, for example, to play a warrior, you would have had a character with the same features of another warrior unless you decided to give him another class with all of the advantages and handicaps of this choice.
The Third Edition’s rules have modified this aspect but also created a real earthquake for all fans; we’re not talking about simple changes but a sort of revolution that at first made almost everybody a little frightened, as if they were lost in a forest. Luckily, after the first confusing impression, when one gets to understand the rules, the infinite potential that the new D&D universe carries comes to life.

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Oh my adventurers’ group

As we have just said, according to a role playing games’ lover the party creation in Icewind Dale II isn’t simply a construction of a group, but rather a real experience!
Minutes run fast when we are in this stage and the choices and possibilities of personalization are so many that it is really hard to explain all details about them. I haven’t spent more than an hour to create a party with any games but Icewind Dale II and I have spent so many time because of the Third Edition’s rules.
Before describing the character’s creation, I must make a consideration. Icewind Dale II, like its first chapter, allows all of us instead of a single character to create the whole group of adventurers. This happy choice enormously broadens the possibility of personalization.
Creating a balanced and winning party is always a challenge, but moreover it is one of the so-called “not-exact sciences”. All forums still teem with questions, paragons and reflections on which is to be considered the winning party that is the party most effective and powerful. But there’s no answer for this question. And that’s nice! We may create a group with two wizards and make use of their devastating spells at advanced level loosing in the meantime a character in physical fight.
We can create a party with only one wizard and two clerics; at advanced levels the two clerics will allow to cure a great number of hit points and that will make our party very long-lived in fighting. To these infinite possibilities, which the first Icewind Dale already offered, we can add the fact that the third edition’s rules now allow to diversify the single character. Now you can understand that creating a party equal to another is not an easy task and that is all in our advantage. In the meanwhile creating a party undermines in some part the identification with our alter ego because, without any doubt, it has its charm to create a unique character to identify with and then watch some npc join us.

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Oh my adventurers’ group

Let’s just fix a point, to avoid dispersion,: Icewind Dale II is the best transposition for PC of third edition’s rules and without any doubt it is the most faithful and complete,. It’s wonderful to create a cleric and discover that we can finally choose which divinity worship: Helm, Illmater, Talos or Lathander. Obviously each divinity will give its advantages to the cleric. But let’s follow an order.
The character’s creation has remained the same. One can choose every single aspect, starting with sex. The next step is race and already in this stage surprises don’t lack. Many different sub-races have been actually implemented. If we could choose being a human before, now we are also offered the possibility of being an Aasimar or, if we would like to play an elf, the choice can fall on three sub-races one of which is the famous dark-elf. Yes, you read well, drow are present in all of their charm, advantages and limitations.

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Oh my adventurers’ group

Classes as races have been expanded in a good part. So, we can choose everything, both a barbarian or a fantastic sorcerer. This class needs some explanation. Sorcerers unlike wizards must not learn a spell. They have a natural talent for magical arts. The advantage is that they can cast an enormous number of spells but their variety is minimal. In this way you must pay attention on choosing the right spell for that level because, unlike those of the wizard the spells can’t be changed from the spell book since it isn’t the source on which the sorcerer draws.
Once we chose the class, we’re ready to distribute our points to the main characteristics of our fellow that are always the same: strength, constitution, dexterity, wisdom and so on. Obviously the starting points are influenced from the choices we have previously made. So it’s easy to get a penalty in constitution choosing an elf or something like that.
We are aware of the fact that it would take a single review to describe each possibility we are offered in the character’s creation. We only remind you that the assignation of character points has direct effects in the game: increasing the strength for example, the damage caused to the enemy would be higher…

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Surely it isn’t a sudden reversal

The part that more differs in the character’s creation from Icewind Dale is without any doubt the management of skills and feats. This aspect is completely new and distinctive of D&D third edition’s rules. This combination between skills and feats it allows us to customize our alter ego. Do we want to allow our ranger to hide in shadows? The feats will allow us doing so. Or do we want to specialize in a certain weapon? What’s about a school of magic? Do we want to hit someone with precise and lethal strikes? The feats’ management allows us to do so.
Then come the portraits. Even though they’re few they are extremely beautiful. Drow’s pictures are blood-curdling and wizards’ ones are evocative. In short they’re wonderful.
There are also some ready default parties which you can use if you’re in trouble with character’s creation. These “ready for use” groups have evocative names: They’re well balanced and have a detailed story description. However, my advice is you shouldn’t try not to use this default groups but create your own group and let it grow.
As you may have noticed, one could speak at lenght about character’s creation in Icewind Dale II.

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Surely it isn’t a sudden reversal

Once we have created our party, we are in the Forgotten Realms, in the legendary Spine of the World. In this zone air is always thin and biting, places aren’t comfortable at all and teem with monsters. These legendary lands echo heroic achievements and soon our names will be added to those of mythical characters.
The first impact with Icewind Dale II is like a meeting with an old friend, who maybe has grown up or maybe has changed in aspect, but who has still remained the same.
The graphic aspect is the same of that of all the games that use Infinite Engine with the only exception of interface and some other things about the graphical engine. Finally we can achieve the resolution beyond 800x600 with very satisfactory results for our eyes. If you have a 15-inch screen you should be careful using these resolutions. In these cases I think that characters become too tiny and we can loose some details. We cannot admire our sword or our armor because characters are really too small. Since you eyes could be damage by using a high resolution it’s better to play with old 800x600 or change the screen.
The background in which our heroes move seems painted on our screen. Spells are spectacular, both in the symbol you put in the spell book and in graphic realization. Enemies are also carefully constructed both in artificial intelligence and in textures in movement. As for intelligence we can forget about the old tactic of advancement step by step. For all of those who don’t know this tactic here there is an explanation: moving slowly in the map, we were usually able to be attacked by a single enemy, even if this enemy was organized in groups. Our enemy was going to die under our blows and his companions remained still waiting to be “recalled”. Now it’s not possible anymore. Once our enemies have heard battle noises, they will rush all together to us leaving their position, even tough they haven’t yet seen us!!

The Interface

Icewind Dale II’s interface is the really new event with the third edition rules compared to the saga’s first chapter. The two big lateral toolbars, which cut down a good part of the game visual, have been removed. The portraits are no longer on the left of the screen. They have been reduced and moved on the bottom. A bar under the small portrait will show us the character’s health. This is a good choice. Viewing the entire portrait was useless.
The new 1024 look and the absence of lateral bars, give us a broad game visual and resolve one of the old faults of the Infinite Engine. Moreover our beloved functions are still present. The rest key is available, like the one to select all our party or that to pause the game. In the end, the interface, like graphic engine, has only been restyled and this restyling has made it more compact, efficient and personalized. Actually, with “y” key we can enlarge or reduce the bar on the bottom until we only have character’s portraits. This enable us to get an almost total view of the game.

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The Interface

There are also three very good options to speed up the various actions.

  • The first allows us to assign four different combinations of weapons ready to be selected with a simple right click in the inventory. For example, at first we can insert a shield and a sword and later a bow, just right clicking on the game interface more specifically clicking on the left of the portraits we can recall these different combinations and choose them. Changing weapons will no more happen through inventory but with a simple right click
  • As regards the interface costumization you may find many empty slots that can be filled up with some functions: hide in shadows, spell casting etc, etc. Selection is made with the right click in this case too.
  • The third function is the most useful “alt” key. By pressing this key during the game you will see the entire area a character can select.
    As everyone knows one of the never resolved lack in the graphic engine is the almost totally absence of interaction between the game and the outer world. Unlike Divine Divinity which allows us to touch almost everything, the game pattern in Icewind Dale II brings us back in the past letting us pick only certain objects. In the end, the function of the “alt” key is to highlight these objects and consequently permit us to save time.

Inventory is almost the same except for the fact that you have more slots for objects. For what concern aspects which have remained the same we must speak of the journal: every event is recorded and listed on the journal, but we don’t have any list for the quests that we still have to do or quests already done and so on. Luckily the game is very linear: if there had been too many missions the journal would have been almost useless.

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The Interface

The spells management is also changed. We can forget our old book. A sort of list has been prepared. This is a table where you can find a column on the left with the various spell levels which allow us to jump from one level to another and to view the available spells for that level and free slots. The possibility of managing separately the various classes’ spells for a multiclass is also very good.
To sum up, the interface is more compact than the previous versions of Black Isle’s games and recalls Torment rather than Icewind Dale. They have successfully tried to keep unchanged the previous functions giving more space on the game’s field.
To put in one word: efficient

Playing

Icewind Dale II’s story-line will not be remembered for its originality but it’s not my job to take away your pleasure in discovering it step by step.>br> The game also provides a multiplayer option, which allows us playing the single adventure with a six people party at the same time. As usual this option acts as background because the game real heart is the single player campaign that is engaging and drumming and has an extended length. We’re not at Baldur’s Gate levels but Icewind Dale II is without doubt as long-lived as the first chapter plus its expansion. And it’s not bad.
Dialogues have been revised even in their scantiness. Now there are multiple choices but they are only in some cases unfortunately. They also change with the character that ask the question.
The presence of the party gives life to the campaign and the fighting tactics. This aspect is the real weapon of single player’s games. It is hard to manage the fight in a tactical way with a unique character especially in D&D. Icewind Dale II has so many game tactics that it’s hard to list them all: you may use wizards with long-range spells as a first approach to the enemy or characters who can hide in shadows to lay an ambush and attack from behind or you may “charge” without any tactic.
Even the party arraying has its function, the circle arraying for example, protects the vulnerable character which are usually the wizards, from outer attacks.
We find all of previous chapter’s positive aspects with crowning happiness.

The same old story

When I started playing Icewind Dale II I was very curious because my frequent question was: is the game scheme the same or has it been changed?
I was aware that one doesn’t change a winning system and so I didn’t want to flatter myself on this new Black Isle’s game.
Trying to make a clean break, I have to highlight that if someone was expecting a change towards the not-linearity or towards dialogues in Icewind Dale II, he will be disappointed. The layout is the same of the first chapter: quest, fighting, complete a mission, quest, fighting and complete a mission. There are no distortions, no change of course.
Is this a correct choice? I think so. Icewind Dale’s first chapter has sold even beyond expectations and it is clear that the second chapter should remain on that path. But I can’t hide my disappointment since I expected some more complexity.
I must make a little comment: is Icewind Dale II a masterpiece? In my humble opinion it isn’t.
In a masterpiece we search something that goes beyond what we’ve already seen, something that, for some aspects, tries to become the new point of reference undermining the “defeated” from the pedestal. Gothic has made it referring to npcs’ behavior and to the “vitality” of its world. Torment has made it promoting for the first time the narrative aspects, the npcs’ depth and dialogues. Morrowind has made it promoting freedom of movement beyond any limit. Neverwinter Nights is changing the role of multiplayer introducing the DM figure. The two Baldur’s Gate have given new lymph to the genre when nobody dared bet on crpg.
Icewind Dale II, instead, doesn’t propose anything new. It simply improves some aspects of its predecessor. Black Isle has decided not to risk and has proposed us a game which is not new but cured in every little detail. The fact I finished the game without installing any patch proves it and this something that rarely happens.
As I said before I don’t think this is a wrong choice. Actually risking a contradiction with what I just said, I judge Icewind Dale II not innovative but certainly enjoyable!!

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The same old story



Drawing conclusions
Presentation: 6
Localization deserves an award and usually a game translated to Italian must not be evaluated under eight, save for not-professional translations.
This problem opens a delicate subject. We haven’t been able to review the Italian version of Icewind Dale II for its absence from the market. Once seen the quantity of dialogues and text, the English version is more than sufficient to evaluate the game. The issue regards the endless delay in the release date, extending the waiting beyond any limit at the expense of the distributor. We’re sorry to say so, but the community is getting tired of these continuous delay.
We don’t even know how the packaging will be, what it will contain and, what is more important, whether the localization will be perfect.

Graphic: 8
As every game that use Infinity Engine, it has a wonderful graphic. In some locations the background seems painted on the screen. It’s difficult doing something better for a two dimensions game.
The game starting sequence, which has not been created with the graphic engine, is really beautiful and immerses us in the story starting acts.

Sound: 9
Black Isle’s games usually make of this aspect one of their foundations and Icewind Dale II isn’t inferior. We almost always reserve a specific part of ours reviews to the audio effects but this time we’ve made an exception because there’s nothing to say. Sound is wonderful, as usual. In cities music is evocative and it is soft, rhythmic and fast in dungeons particularly in fights. As usual audio effects for spells and wizards are very good.
In the end they are excellent, as always.

Gameplay: 8
I’ve been undecided on this vote.
The character creation, the entire party management and the third edition’s rule allow us to create always new and different groups and give us the possibility to play again the game and have fun with different approaches. We can have a chaotic group of drow or good parties and legal followers of Helm or Lathander.
All this vastness, that deserved a nine alone, collides with the always repetitive and linear game scheme completely referred to fight without possibility of choice.
A winning mix would be without any doubt this one: the first features described united to a game like Baldur’s Gate II for vastness and not-linearity. It would be a dream that become true.

Overall judgement: 83/100

Linear and chaotic, frantic and amusing, such is Icewind Dale II. The new game by Black Isle unites the first chapter’s desired improvement to its success as regards entertainment and sales. Icewind Dale II is to be recommend to everyone who loves D&D and dungeon crawling while it will be hardly liked by people who search complexity of story-line, dialogues and multiple choices.

Daniele ‘Falcocadarn’ Falcone

translated by :Anahid "Misty" Mazkedian



Technical Informations:
Tested version: final USA
Configuration of test set: AMD 900Mhz, 256Mb Ram, Geforce 2 mx 400, Windows ME
Stability: excellent

Official Site: Icewind Dale II
Developer: Black Isle
Publisher: Interplay
Italian distributor: Halifax
Screenshots 1 - Screenshots 2 - Screenshots 3 - Screenshots 4 - Screenshots 5 - Anteprima

Introduction

In 1997 Ultima was the last memento of role playing games for PC that old players like us had. But something was going to change, an earthquake was going to befall, nothing would have ever been the same, balance was about to be broken and role playing games were going to rise up again with the knowledge that dreams and fantastic stories, were able to drag everyone in the fantasy world: Baldur’s Gate had arrived.
Bioware’s game doubtlessly acted as a watershed for the new generation of role-playing games. Beyond the extraordinary success of sales, Baldur’s Gate had another “treasure” inside that was its own heart: the famous graphic engine called Infinity Engine. In the whole history of crpg no graphic engine has given fans so many hours of playing and entertainment and since its structure has remained the same, so does the amusement.
By the strength of this “throbbing heart”, Black Isle obtained Bioware’s license for the use of the Infinity Engine on any role-playing games it would develop. And then two absolute masterpieces came: Planescape Torment and Icewind Dale. Both were wonderful but they were totally different in features, layout and scenery. Torment was a success of critic more than sales, while Icewind Dale satisfied both these aspect.
The market of games, as unchangeable as hearth’s rotation, needs a success to have its sequel and some expansions. Heart of Winter and Trials of Luremaster which is a free expansion, followed Icewind Dale, but should we not expect a chapter two for Icewind Dale? Should we not expect a totally new game? No is the answer and then here we are, happy again, again amused, for reviewing a game that throbs of Infinity Engine: Icewind Dale II.