My name is Jon.
I'm a dice-chucker.
It's true. I bear the mark of the d20 on my back.
Actually that's only there because I landed on it when my party's dwarf tackled me. It seems I had said something disparaging regarding his lineage.
Oh, and d20s hurt. But at least it wasn't a d8, eh? Eh?
What a geek I am.
Anyway, having made my dark secret known, you probably should know that I only subscribe to the big daddy of all RPGs, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (or as it was recently re-christened, Dungeons and Dragons). As such, I of course played Pool of Radiance, Hillsfar, Curse of the Azure Bonds, Secret of the Silver Blades, and Gateway to the Savage Frontier. If it had AD&D in the title, you were pretty sure it was going to be good.
These games were nothing, however, to the majesty of Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale. I remember just staring at the screen, watching these epic stories unfold with completely customizable characters. These video games were almost perfect ports of the pencil-and-paper version. I was entering a magical age of AD&D video games it seemed.
That about brings us up-to-date and to the release of the Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter expansion.
I'm of many minds about HoW, which makes it difficult to rate and quanitify. Do I approach it as a hardcore AD&D fan or as a gamer who occasionally play AD&D? Let's try and take the middle road, shall we?
HoW is a nice offering from Black Isle Studios. Included in the game are new areas, weapons, spells, abilities, and, most notably, the lifting of the level cap (characters can now reach 30th level, which is getting a bit ridiculous, no?). The gameplay is also cleaned up a bit, with a drop-away interface for full screen visibility and a reworking of the inventory system. Other goodies include a key that highlights any dropped items or visible doors. Very handy for when you've lost track of what was where. The expansion is accessible at any point in Icewind Dale, but entering it means you will not be compatible with people who don't have the expansion (a common set-back). Just as before, the graphics are beautiful and the music is haunting. You can see there was love put into this project. Perhaps my favorite feature was the Heart of Fury setting. Players can opt to toggle this difficulty switch and increase the power of the monsters they face. Consequently, the rewards for defeating these monsters go up as well.
However, I did have some problems. First off, the expansion is just way too short. Anyone familiar with the Infinity engine and AD&D should be able to finish this in just a few sessions. With that in mind, I wondered how Black Isle justified the $30.00 price tag when the original only cost $40.00. For gamers new to the series, you may want to seek out package deals that sell both together at a reduced price. I also wasn't impressed with the variety of monsters in the game. I can hear all you hardcore AD&D fans screaming at me about realism and monster ecology and I understand. I'm with you. I just would have liked to have seen a bit of diversity. We're talking about a fantasy world after all.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I agree with what I'd been hearing. Heart of Winter would have made a fantastic patch, but as a $30.00 expansion it kind of falls flat. More than anything the price is what kept this fair expansion from greatness.
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- Icewind Dale-Full Version