Category Archives: Video Game Review

Retro Gaming Review: Icewind Dale

I’m not going to give you a full-fledged review of Icewind Dale. The odds are that if you are reading this, you are already quite familiar with the game itself. I will, however, extol on its virtues as virtually free entertainment, which works quite well with the general topic of this blog!

I’ve bought Icewind Dale twice. The first time, back in 2000 or so, I picked it up from a store, in a box, for only $7.99, which at the time was a super-duper deal. Of course, I only realized when I got home that the darn thing was in French.

It turned out not to be a problem, besides breaking the First Rule of All Things Computers: English Only! I’m quite fluent in French, and played the game through with no problems.

The pictures I have included are of the old box I bought all those years ago. I’m careful with my things, so it still looks good.

The second time I bought it was a few weeks ago, on GOG.com. I bought the Dungeons and Dragons Masterset, which included 10 classic D&D games for only $21 and change. That’s *literally* hundreds, if not thousands of hours of entertainment for just over twenty bucks. That is unbeatable.

Original Icewind Dale Box

Original Icewind Dale Box

So I’ve been playing Icewind Dale over the last few weeks, and I’m reminded of something I discovered when I played it the first time: I’d always thought that Icewind Dale would be Baldur’s Gate runtish little brother, a wannabe that just looks good but doesn’t deliver.

That impression was all wrong, as I’m pleased to rediscover. It’s more like Baldur’s Gate cousin; related, of course, but very different.

Visually speaking, the game can look dated from a certain perspective, but it’s really not that bad. It has a lot more to offer than just looks! While it doesn’t even come close to the sprawling splendor of Baldur’s Gate II, it has a lot going for it.

Original Icewind Dale CD Case

Original Icewind Dale CD Case: Games in those days used to come on round pieces of shinny plastic called Compact Discs.

The Story-line: The story in Icewind Dale is not as developed as in other games using the Infinity Engine, however it is still very enjoyable. It is certainly more linear than the others, and you’re often going back to the same town – Kuldahar – to sell your loot, talk to people and get new quests.

The Graphics and Soundscape: The graphics are hand-drawn backgrounds on which the characters move around, in what’s called an Isometric view. It works really well and looks absolutely wonderful. The combination of beautiful backgrounds with the excellent music and sound effects really let you immerse yourself in the Dungeons of the Spine of the World, as if you were right there. I only miss the ability to occasionally zoom in to check out details (such as you would in Neverwinter Nights). Old habits die hard, but that’s a ‘me’ problem, nothing wrong with the game.

Icewind Dale Paper Map

Icewind Dale Paper Map, translated in French. Unlike other game maps (such as the Ultima maps) this one just looks good but is useless for gameplay.

In terms of gameplay, Icewind Dale is relatively fast paced and there is plenty of combat. There is not too much backtracking over areas you’ve already cleared, although it happens once in a while, especially if you want to get absolutely all the Quest experience. There’s plenty of story to keep things moving, and tons of back-story to be found in various books everywhere, for those who want to bother. I do.

Icewind Dale Paper Manual

Icewind Dale Paper Manual

As you can see in the image above, my box actually included a paper manual. It’s incredible how games used to include all that stuff and then one day it was gone. I miss it. I still open my old games once in a while to browse through them and readt the manuals. This particular manual goes through the actual gameplay, and includes a description of every single spell in the game. It’s actually quite useful. Of course, I never use it, as it would make it dog-eared. But I could.

Anyways, on the topic of cheap entertainment, this takes the crown, or at least it does until I start Baldur’s Gate II over again. Let’s say $3, or 300 pennies, for 50 hours of gaming. It’s going to be more like 100 hours or more, but whatever. In a most-expensive scenario, that comes out to 6 pennies an hour to play. The electricity for my comparatively grossly-overpowered desktop is probably more than that.

I’m happy to recommend Icewind Dale, and indeed any game using the Infinity Engine. They’re all GREAT, and some are exceptional. Pick them up on GOG for cheap during a sale!

Deus Ex: Human Revolution PC Video Game Review

In one of my original posts on this blog, which I’m sure you’ve all read, I explained that living well cheaply is not all about being frugal, but also in spending wisely. To that effect, I look at all sorts of paid entertainment, and video games are a perennial favorite. The number of hours of entertainment compared to the dollar cost of games can be truly staggering. In this regard, I’ve decided to do a little review of the Deus Ex: Human Revolution video game, played on PC.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution PC Video Game Review

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC)

I’ve been a fan of the original Deus Ex series since the early 2000’s. I still have my original boxes of the original Deus Ex and its excellent sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War, which respectively came out in 2000 and 2003. Both these games were absolutely ground-breaking, successfully combining elements of role-playing, FPS and adventure together, in a truly immersive simulation.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution manages to give fans of Deus Ex, old and new, more of what they loved: a game that can be played as a sneak or as a tank, and in which conversations and decisions can have a lasting impact on game play. The introduction of pre-rendered cutscenes at crucial plot points seems to have taken out some choices, but I’m not here to nitpick.

True to form, the environments are huge, and the number of loads required when moving around the city is very limited, usually only when entering a distinct area, such as a large building or the sewers. In all cases the load-times are very short.

There is a relatively large number of side-quests to be obtained, which tie in quite nicely with the overall plot and story-line. In terms of action, no matter your play style, you will not be disappointed. The use of the cover system works extremely well, and can allow you to achieve most objectives without killing anyone, or even being detected. If you fancy the opposite style, of not leaving a single person alive to tell of your passing, you’ll have a great time, too. The lethal or non-lethal take-down option is also really cool.

The weapons available are varied, as you would expect, and all can be upgraded with kits you find in the environment, or that can be purchased from the few vendors in the game. Typically, I found that I did not use most weapons. I completed the game using the 10-mm pistol and the Assault Rifle, both fully upgraded, and did not touch anything else, except just to try them out. I carried around the inventory-hogging sniper rifle for a good part of the game, before I realized that it was WAY too loud to be used in almost all situations.

The style of play I favor, which includes gunning down all enemies from stealth, while avoiding to set off alarms, is only suited to quiet weapons, and the silenced pistol and rifle are the best.

In terms of bang from your buck, I got a really sweet deal playing Deus Ex: Human Revoution. I ordered it a few years ago from Amazon – as you can see from the picture, I enjoy owning a physical copy of the game – and I paid a grand total of $24.93 (Canadian dollars), including shipping. I unfortunately had to activate the game on Steam, which I’m not a huge fan of, but rentware is a debate for another day, and another place. Steam tells me that I’ve played this game a total of of 83 hours, which comes down to a ridiculously low 30 cents per hour played. I dare you to come up with a cheaper source of paid entertainment than that. Of course, this requires you to like playing video games!