Video Game of the Day is a daily show available on Amazon Alexa devices and here on this website. Each day, we briefly discuss the history of a single game, randomly chosen. If you would like to listen on your daily flash briefing, you can enable Video Game of the Day here: https://amzn.to/2CNx2NJ.
Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day!
Even if you are not into computer RPGs yourself, you have likely heard of Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment. I certainly mention both of them enough on this show! Both names are a necessity anytime the topic of gaming narratives or RPGs comes up but did you know there was a third pillar of the Infinity Engine legacy? A third name that is rarely mentioned despite the enduring popularity of the other two. Today, let’s talk about that oft-forgotten title. Today’s game is Icewind Dale, developed by Black Isle Studios and released on the PC in 2000.
On first glance, Icewind Dale feels very similar to the other Infinity Engine games of the time. The ruleset is again based on Dungeons and Dragons 2nd edition which means that arcane concepts like THAC0 and speed factor make a comeback. One thing that players may notice right away, however, is that the game has you make a full party of six characters all from scratch. Icewind Dale does not contain companion NPCs like the other games, indicative of its change in focus.
See, where Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment focus significantly on their stories and player choice, Icewind Dale isn’t as interested in telling a compelling narrative as it is giving players many dungeons to explore and enemies to fight. The game still uses the real-time with pausing combat system so players must pause the game to tactically queue up their character’s attacks or spells before unpausing and watching the chaos occur. Defeating enemies and completing quests gains the characters experience points which level them up. If you’re used to JRPG systems, be prepared since D&D games level up at a much slower rate than you may be expecting. That said, Icewind Dale does have a higher level cap than the other games, allowing players to reach between levels 14-18 depending on their class.
The story may not be the focus in Icewind Dale but that doesn’t mean it’s not there at all. As the name suggests, the game takes place in the snowy north of Faerun in the land of Icewind Dale after the events of Baldur’s Gate 1 but before Baldur’s Gate 2. You go to the town of Easthaven and from there, are sent on quests around the land of Icewind Dale and beyond, typically to defeat threats against the town.
Icewind Dale may not have attained the revered status of its siblings but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t well received. It was often recommended by critics to fans of Dungeons and Dragons or those who enjoyed the combat of the other games and wanted more of that. The storyline isn’t bad but it isn’t particularly great either, often just there to push the players onward to further adventures. The game received an expansion called Heart of Winter as well as a downloadable content pack called Trials of the Luremaster only a year later. So while Icewind Dale was well received, it just couldn’t help but be overshadowed by Baldur’s Gate 2, which released only three months after Icewind Dale, effectively stealing the spotlight for good. While it was exclusive to PC and later Mac for a long time, the Enhanced Edition has made it available for all modern platforms, including Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.
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