||This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (August 2013)|
|Developer(s)||Black Isle Studios|
|Release date(s)||June 29, 2000|
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game|
|Mode(s)||Single player, Multiplayer|
Icewind Dale is a role-playing video game developed for Windows by Black Isle Studios and published by Interplay Entertainment. Released on June 30, 2000, it takes place in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms campaign setting, and is based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition ruleset.
The player begins the game by creating an adventuring party, which becomes enlisted as a caravan guard in the wake of strange events. As the story progresses, the player learns of a demonic feud that threatens the Ten Towns of Icewind Dale.
Icewind Dale was released to positive reviews, with critics praising the game's musical score and gameplay, the latter being compared to Diablo. The game received criticism for its similarities to previous Infinity Engine games. An expansion to the game, Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter, was released in 2001. A free expansion called Trials of the Luremaster was also released by the publishers, though it requires the Heart of Winter expansion pack to play. The sequel, Icewind Dale II, was released in 2002.
The PC game does not follow the events of R. A. Salvatore's the Icewind Dale Trilogy novels, as it takes place in a different century—thus characters such as Drizzt Do'Urden, Bruenor Battlehammer, and others do not appear.
Icewind Dale's gameplay incorporates a modified version of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition ruleset. The rules' intricacies are automatically computed; the game keeps track of statistics and controls dice rolling.
The player begins the game by creating an adventuring party of up to six characters. During character creation, statistics including name, gender, race, class, ability scores and weapon proficiencies may be altered. Spell-casters and thieves have additional statistics to manage (in the form of spells and thief abilities, respectively).
After a character has earned enough experience points through completing quests and defeating enemies, the player is able to level up that character. The player may alter several statistics in this process, while others are automatically upgraded. Certain character classes require less experience than others to achieve a new level. An experience point limit of 1,801,000 is in place for all characters, meaning that certain classes are able to reach higher levels than others.
The player may order characters to engage in movement, dialogue and combat. Combat occurs in real-time, replacing the originally turn-based system. The player may pause the game at any time, and during a pause may give the party orders which will be carried out when the game is resumed. Gameplay is focused mainly on combat, often against large groups of enemies. The game also features a journal system that archives all text dialog with non-player characters (NPCs).
The game begins in the town of Easthaven, where the player's party of adventurers is resting at a tavern. The town's leader, Hrothgar (voiced by Jim Cummings), invites the party to investigate the town of Kuldahar, which has recently sent word of strange happenings. On the road to Kuldahar, the group is ambushed by frost giants, who cause an avalanche. Save for the player's party, the entire expeditionary force is crushed, and the way back to Easthaven is blocked.
The party continues on to Kuldahar, where they meet Arundel (Jim Cummings), the village's Archdruid. The druid explains that a mysterious evil force has been causing abnormal weather patterns and monster behavior, and kidnapping villagers. As a result of these disturbances, the magical warmth surrounding the giant tree, under which the town is built, has begun to recede. Arundel sends the party to discover the source of the evil before the tree dies, and Kuldahar is destroyed. Following Arundel's advice, the party first goes to the "Vale of Shadows", an area containing Kuldahar's crypts, due to rumors of undead creatures being seen there. However, Kresselack (Tony Jay), a cursed barbarian spirit residing in the Vale of Shadows, informs the player that the threat to Kuldahar is not present in the area. The party returns to Arundel, who asks them to retrieve an ancient scrying item called the Heartstone Gem, so that he may discover the source of the evil more quickly.
The player's party travels to a temple that Arundel believes houses the gem, but finds that it had been attacked recently, and the gem stolen. Arundel discovers that the attackers' lair lies within the caverns of Dragon's Eye, and the party travels there to retrieve the gem. After making their way through a network of tunnels, the party finds a powerful demonic creature named Yxunomei (Tara Strong). Yxunomei claims to be using the Heartstone Gem for personal reasons, and mentions a vendetta and age-old war with someone she sarcastically referred to as an "old friend." After slaying Yxunomei and retrieving the Heartstone Gem, the player returns to Kuldahar, and finds it under attack. The player converses with a shapeshifter disguised as Arundel, who reveals that he was the one Yxunomei had mentioned, and that the real Arundel is dying in another section of the hut. After the shapeshifter vanishes, the player locates the real Arundel, who tells the party to take the Heartstone Gem to Larrel (Michael Bell) at the fortress of the Severed Hand, as he is now the only one capable of using it.
The party arrives at the fortress, discovering that Larrel had gone insane. Larrel brokenly mentions something about freeing his cursed people, along with a hint on how to go about it. After completing his task, Larrel regains his sanity and uses the Heartstone Gem to discover the source of the evil, which apparently resides in the dwarven city of Dorn's Deep.
After carving their way through Upper Dorn's Deep, Wyrm's Tooth, and Lower Dorn's Deep, the party at last reaches Brother Poquelin (John Kassir) – the villain of the game. Poquelin explains that he arrived in the material plane due to his superiors exiling him from his home plane – according to Poquelin, calling his vendetta with Yxunomei "out of control." Poquelin had predicted that Yxunomei would follow him to the material plane, so he had sought a base of operations in order to begin a military force capable of crushing her. While he was doing so, he stumbled upon the ancient artifact Crenshinibon, which he claims had been "calling" to him. Using its power of attracting evil-intentioned creatures, Poquelin began amassing an immense army with which to conquer the lands of Icewind Dale. He claims that everything was going as planned until Hrothgar's expedition had set out to investigate Yxunomei's activities in the area around Kuldahar. He used his frost giant minions to cause the avalanche to crush the expedition. Apparently, he did not see the player's party as a threat until they stole the Heartstone Gem from Yxunomei, to which he responded by killing Arundel – the only person he thought would be capable of using it. Although the party discovered his location by taking it to Larrel, Poquelin wasn't bothered, as all the while he was amassing his forces outside of Easthaven. After combating Poquelin, he teleports the party back to Easthaven, which is now in ruins. After freeing the surviving villagers and speaking with a local cleric of Tempus, the party makes its way to Poquelin's lair – Easthaven's temple, which has been enveloped by a Cryshal-Tirith (Elvish, meaning "crystal tower"), courtesy of Crenshinibon.
In the end, it is revealed that Poquelin's true intention was to re-open Jerrod's Stone (a portal to the Nine Hells of Baator created long ago), so that he could conquer the North with an army of devils at his command. Although after opening the portal, the local cleric of Tempus, Everard, hurls himself into it just as its namesake did – sealing it off at the cost of his own life. This buys the party enough time to fight Poquelin, who has reverted to his true form – the devil Belhifet. After defeating Belhifet and banishing him back to the Nine Hells, the Cryshal-Tirith collapses, and the party barely escapes in time. Easthaven begins to be rebuilt, and the game ends with the party victorious.
In a twist ending, the game's Narrator (David Ogden Stiers) and Belhifet are revealed to be one and the same; the demon implies that his mandatory century of imprisonment (after his defeat at the hands of the Player's party) is close to an end and that he will soon walk the Prime Material Plane once more.
Icewind Dale is based on the BioWare Infinity Engine, featuring pre-rendered backgrounds and sprite-based characters displayed with an isometric camera perspective. This engine was used to power Black Isle Studios' previous games Planescape: Torment, Baldur's Gate, and others. Icewind Dale's score was composed by Jeremy Soule, and received widespread critical acclaim.
Versions and re-releases
The game and its expansion were released in two budget packages in 2002, entitled Icewind Dale: The Collection and Icewind Dale: Complete. They were released once again in 2002 alongside Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment in Black Isle Compilation. A collector's edition, Icewind Dale: The Ultimate Collection, including Icewind Dale II and its expansion was released in 2003. All four games were released again in Black Isle Compilation - Part Two in 2004, in Ultimate Dungeons & Dragons in 2006 and in Atari's Rollenspiele: Deluxe Edition in 2007. On October 6, 2010, Icewind Dale was re-released complete with expansion packs on the GOG.com website.
Icewind Dale was critically well received, scoring 92% on Game Rankings. Gamespot gave the game 86% saying: "It's well suited for fans of Black Isle Studios' previous games, classic hack-and-slash AD&D computer games, and anyone looking for an action-packed role-playing game with a lot of depth." IGN scored it 8.8/10 and Game Zone gave it 9.5/10. According to GameSpy, "Icewind Dale was a fun dungeon romp that can hold its head up high, even if it can't match its big brothers". Chris Chan of the New Strait Times said the game was one of the best he'd ever played, giving much of the credit to R. A. Salvatore's writing, which he called "superb". Chan went on to compare the game with the "overhyped" Diablo II, saying controlling six characters was more interesting than the single character permitted in Diablo II.
The strongest criticism was that the gameplay was too uniform and was essentially entirely combat focused, with little interaction or investigation. Bob Low of the Daily Record noted technical issues such as poor pathfinding and occasional crashes.
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- Hrothgar: We've received word from Kuldahar, our neighbors to the south, that evil forces are stirring in the Spine of the World Mountains. I am organizing and leading a party south to Kuldahar Valley to investigate. You look capable enough, perhaps you would like to join us. What say you?
- Narrator: So it was that patchwork militia set off from Easthaven, bound for the troubled village of Kuldahar, with the party of strangers in tow. On they traveled, across the windswept tundra of the dale, through the foothills of the Spine of the World, and upwards on the steep and treacherous trails of the Kuldahar pass. Eager to seek out the evil that threatened the pass, they did not expect it to find them first. High upon the cliffs of the pass, a band of frost giants had prepared an ambush. Hurling boulders and dislodging massive outcroppings of rock and snow, the giants sparked an avalanche that thundered down the mountainside, and crashed down upon the heads of the expedition. Those fortunate enough to survive the avalanche pulled themselves free of the mountain of snow and bodies that now barred the way back to Easthaven. Battered and disheartened by the loss of their comrades, the survivors had little choice but to continue to Kuldahar, alone.
- Arundel: The face of evil remains hidden, but its presence is unmistakable. All about us, there are signs of its damaging influence on the balance... the unnatural weather, the recent rash of abductions, the many monster sightings in the pass...
- Arundel: The evil that has come to these mountains infects this town like a disease. As its people suffer, so does the tree suffer from the sickness that attacks the balance, corrupting it with its very presence. Already, the circle of warmth that radiates from the Great Oak has begun to recede. [...] If we do not take action soon, I am afraid that the life-giving warmth will cease altogether. Both the Great Oak and the town nestled within its roots will die.
- Kresselack: The truth of the matter is that I do not know who is responsible. I can only assure you that it is not I, nor is it anyone else in this vale. Were it to be otherwise, I would sense it...
- Arundel: I need you to find an ancient druidic artifact known as the Heartstone Gem. It is a powerful scrying stone that can be used to divine the location of this evil.
- Party member: We discovered that the Heartstone was indeed at the temple. Unfortunately, someone seemed to have gotten there first and taken the gem.
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- GOG.com release announcement
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- Icewind Dale at MobyGames
- Infinity Engine Modlist
- Fixing Infinity Engine multiplayer bugs on modern PCs