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!

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