|Developer(s)||Black Isle Studios|
MacPlay (OS X)
|Distributor(s)||Wizards of the Coast|
Darren L. Monahan
|Release||June 29, 2000|
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game|
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
Icewind Dale is a role-playing video game developed by Black Isle Studios and originally published by Interplay Entertainment for Windows in 2000 and by MacPlay for OS X in 2002. The game takes place in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms campaign setting and the region of Icewind Dale, and utilises the 2nd edition ruleset, but the story follows a different set of events than those of R. A. Salvatore's The Icewind Dale Trilogy novels, in which an adventuring party becomes enlisted as a caravan guard while in Icewind Dale, in the wake of strange events, but eventually discover a plot that threatens the Ten Towns of Icewind Dale and beyond.
Icewind Dale received positive reviews, being praised for its musical score and gameplay. An expansion to the game, Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter, was released in 2001, and a sequel to the game, Icewind Dale II, followed in 2002. A remake by Overhaul Games of the game, entitled Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition, was published for several computer and mobile platforms in 2014, with the expansion pack Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, released in 2016, featuring plot elements directly linked into the game's ending.
Icewind Dale's gameplay operates on a similar basis to that of Baldur's Gate, in that it incorporates a modified version of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition ruleset, with the rules' intricacies automatically computed; the game keeps track of statistics and controls dice rolling. The game uses a similar User Interface template though with cosmetic changes in its appearance, and focuses mainly on combat, often against large groups of enemies, with dialogue driving the main story. The player is able to order a character(s) to engage in movement, dialogue, combat, or other possible actions (such as pickpocketing someone) within each location in the game, with combat occurring in real-time as opposed to a turn-based system, though with the option of it being paused at any time to allow the player to give the party orders which are carried out when the game is resumed. Along with the same inventory system and paper-doll mechanics, the game's story is divided into chapters, with a journal system archiving quests that the party undertake and notable entries on specific story-related information from non-player characters.
Like Baldur's Gate, players begin the game by creating an adventuring party of up to six characters, either by creating new characters or importing those they exported from a previous game. Each new character created requires the player to provide them with their name, choose their gender, race, class, and alignment, and then determining what ability scores and weapon proficiencies they have. The class of a character affects what alignments are available to them, and what weapons and combat styles they can use and how proficient they can be in them, with characters who are designed as thieves requiring the player to allocate points to the various thieving skills they have, and spellcasters needing a few 1st level spells selected for their spellbook and then one memorised for use at the start of the game. Once a party is created, characters earn experience points in the game through completing quests and defeating enemies, and level up upon earning enough. While levelling up will automatically increase a character's hit points, and grant healers and spellcasters with access to more spell slots including higher levels of magic, characters will also get the opportunity to increase their weapon proficiencies, with thieves able to improve their abilities further, making them more useful.
In the town of Easthaven a party of adventurers resting in its tavern are met by the town's leader, Hrothgar (voiced by Jim Cummings), who invites them to join him on an expedition to investigate the town of Kuldahar, after a messenger sent from there reported of strange happenings. On the road to Kuldahr, the expedition is ambushed by frost giants, who cause an avalanche, block the path back to Easthaven. With only the adventurers surviving, they continue to Kuldahar and meet with Arundel (Jim Cummings), the village's archdruid, who explains that a mysterious evil force has been kidnapping villagers, and causing abnormal weather patterns and monster behaviour, resulting in the magical warmth provided by the giant tree that the village resides under to begin to recede.
Asking for their help to discover the source of the evil before the tree dies, the adventurers begin by searching the Vale of Shadows, an area containing Kuldahar's crypts, due to rumours of undead creature sightings, but discover from a cursed barbarian spirit named Kresselack (Tony Jay) that the threat lies elsewhere. Reporting this back to the druid, Arundel instructs the group to retrieve an ancient scrying item called the Heartstone Gem, so he may discover the source of the evil more quickly. After finding that the gem was stolen from a temple that the druid suspected it to be in, the party travel to the caverns of Dragon's Eye, finding a number of the missing villagers being held there by lizard men, and eventually finding the gem being used by powerful demonic creature named Yxunomei (Tara Strong). After killing Yxunomei and retrieving the gem, the party return to find Kuldahar under attack, and that a shapeshifter disguised as Arundel had attacked the archdruid. After the shapeshifter vanishes, the group find the real Arundel, who advises the party to take the Heartstone to Larrel (Michael Bell) at the fortress of the Severed Hand, the only one capable of using it now, before dying from his wounds.
Arriving at the fortress, the party discover that Larel had gone insane, and aid him with a task he mentions, helping him to regain his sanity. Using the gem, Larrel discovers the source of the evil to reside in the former dwarven city of Dorn's Deep. Fighting their way through the city, the group eventually come across the source of the evil in the form of a priest who came to the region - Brother Poquelin (John Kassir). Poquelin reveals himself to be a demon who was exiled from his home realm by his superiors, and that both he and Yxunomei maintained a vendetta against each other that was getting out of control. Predicting she would following him to the material plane, the demon sought a base of operation in the region to form a military force that could crush her, and while doing so, stumbled upon the ancient artifact Crenshinibon, which he claims had been "calling" to him. Poquelin immediately used its power to help him amass an army that he planned to use in conquering the lands of Icewind Dale, until Yxunomei's activites around Kuldahar led to the formation of Hrothgar's expedition. Seeking to stop it, the demon had his frost giant minions crush the expedition, but did not count on the adventurers' survival being a problem until they recovered the Heartstone Gem, forcing him to eliminate Arundel. Despite the party having found someone else to use it, Poquelin had managed to build up his forces, which he soon sent to Easthaven.
After fighting with him, the party finds itself transported back to Easthaven, which is now in ruins. After freeing the surviving villagers, the local cleric of Tempus, Everard, informs the party that Poquelin is going after Jerrod's Stone, a mystical object housed under the town's temple, which acts as a seal on a portal to the Nine Hells of Baator that was opened during a major battle between the combined might of the barbarian tribes and an army of a powerful mage, and which was sealed shut by the sacrifice of the shaman Jerrod who led the barbarians in the conflict. Gaining entry into the demon's crystal tower that enveloped the temple, the group discover that Poquelin's true intention was to reopen the portal contained within the Stone, allowing him to conquer the North with an army of demons at his command. Although he successfully achieves this, Everard, having shunned the tale of Jerrod's sacrifice until finally understanding what he did, throws himself into the portal and seals it off at the cost of his life. The party use the time he buys them to fight Poquelin in his turn form as the devil Belhifet, and manage to defeat him, banishing him to the Nine Hells and escaping the tower as it collapses. In time, Easthaven eventually recovers, and the town is reconstructed.
In a twist ending, it quickly transpires that the game's narrator (David Ogden Stiers), was really Belhifet, who spent a mandatory century of imprisonment at the hands of the adventurers that is now close to end, and that he will soon walk the Prime Material once more to seek his revenge. (see Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear)
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 was originally released on June 29, 2000 for Windows by Interplay Entertainment, and on March 26, 2002 for OS X by MacPlay. An expansion to the game, Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter, was released in 2001.
The game and its expansion were re-released in two budget packages in 2002, entitled Icewind Dale: The Collection and Icewind Dale: Complete. They were re-released once again in 2002 alongside Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment in Black Isle Compilation. A collector's edition called Icewind Dale: The Ultimate Collection, which included the sequel 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. Icewind Dale was once more re-released on October 6, 2010, complete with expansion packs on GOG.com.
Icewind Dale was well received by critics, scoring 86% from GameRankings and 87/100 from Metacritic. GameSpot's Greg Kasavin gave the game 86%, opining it is "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 GameZone gave it 9.5/10. According to GameSpy's Allen Rausch, "Icewind Dale was a fun dungeon romp that can hold its head up high, even if it can't match its big brothers." The game's music score by Jeremy Soule received widespread critical acclaim. Chris Chan of the New Strait Times said the game was one of the best he ever played, and went on to positively compare it with Diablo II.
The strongest criticism was that the gameplay was too uniform and was mostly combat-focused, with little interaction or investigation. Bob Low of the Daily Record noted technical issues such as poor pathfinding and occasional crashes. PC Zone criticized its similarities to previous Infinity Engine games.
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- Icewind Dale game manual.
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- Low, Bob (July 28, 2000). "Games: Undead Brilliant". Daily Record. Glasgow, Scotland. Retrieved December 3, 2012. – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
- Anderson, Chris (August 13, 2001). "PC Zone Icewind Dale review". PC Zone. Retrieved April 24, 2007.