‘Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition’ Review

Platforms PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android

Developer Beamdog   Publisher Beamdog

Genre RPG   Platform Played On PC

As October drew to a close, Beamdog released Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition, the latest in a string of revitalized Infinity Engine games. The Enhanced Edition contains all of the original Icewind Dale content, including the Heart of Winter DLC, as well as a fair amount of new goodies for old fans. New character kits, new items, and even extended quests including content cut from the vanilla game are all sure to delight fans of the original.

Icewind Dale, originally released a whopping 14 years ago, is a roleplaying game based on the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons second edition ruleset. Beginning a new game gives you a short introductory cutscene and then takes you directly to the character creation scene. Character creation is easily my personal favorite part of the game. In true DnD form, players are free to customize appearance, skills, alignment, and even the character’s biography. I took advantage of the multiplayer option, and a friend and I spent what was at least a solid hour in the character creator.

Before I go any further in this review, I must admit that I did not play Icewind Dale in its original form, and therefore can only speak as a newcomer to the series. That said, the atmosphere of the game is deeply engaging. The soundtrack is beautiful, the setting well crafted, and the voice acting—though minimal—is expertly delivered. I especially enjoyed the spell animations, which often brought a bright splash of color to the sometimes bleak setting of the Spine of the World. The sprites however, didn’t seem to benefit from the overhaul of the game, but a few pixilated characters felt like an unimportant misstep.

I mentioned earlier that fans of the original game will be delighted with the new content and polished gameplay. Newcomers however, definitely have a bit of a steep learning curve. Just as a facelift cannot change the age of the subject, polishing a fourteen year old game does not make it new again. That said, the Enhanced Edition does offer a story mode for those adventurers that are primarily interested in the story content.

The user interface is complex, which can be frustrating when trying to control six (or even three) characters at one time. This sort of micromanaging is often necessary because the fighting scripts are not always the most useful. If you forget about a character, odds are they will stand still and get smashed—even if you set the proper script for them. Speaking of characters getting smashed, the first few chapters of the game are definitely a struggle. I did some research and it seems like this particular problem was present with the original release, and it does feel like it evens out as you progress farther into the game.

One of the new features is a cross-platform multiplayer option that sounds pretty amazing. However when my friend and I sat down to play at our computers and started a multiplayer game, we encountered a few frustrating hurdles. The default multiplayer settings only allow the game leader to initiate dialogue, pause the game, or even interact with merchants. This problem is easily fixed in the permissions screen, but I had to reset them every time I loaded the saved game. It was a bit frustrating that the permissions failed to stick.

Overall, Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition is a well polished update to a fourteen year old game. The Infinity Engine paved the way for a lot of current role-playing games, and must be given its due. For fans of the original series and the Infinity Engine itself, it would definitely be a great game to add to your collection. I would even recommend it for players looking for a multiplayer adventure experience. Even so, newcomers should definitely keep in mind that it is an older game, and it may take you a while to get the hang of it.

The Good

  • Tons of new content including new character kits, items, and spells
  • Engaging atmosphere
  • Beautiful artwork and soundtrack

The Bad

  • Complex UI creates a steep learning curve for newcomers
  • Early game leveling feels a little unbalanced

The Score: 6