|Icewind Dale II|
|Developer(s)||Black Isle Studios|
|Version||2.01 (October 18 2002)|
|Release date(s)||August 27, 2002|
|Genre(s)||Computer role-playing game|
|Rating(s)|| ESRB: T (Teen)|
|System requirements||350 MHz CPU, 64 MB RAM, DirectX 8.0 combatible video card, Windows 95|
|Input methods||Keyboard, mouse|
Icewind Dale II is a computer role-playing game developed by Black Isle Studios, released in 2002. The game is set in the Forgotten Realms Icewind Dale region, and is the sequel to Icewind Dale and its expansions.
As with its predecessor, it takes place long before the events described in R.A. Salvatore's Icewind Dale Trilogy made the area a well-known part of Faerûn. The plot itself is often influenced by or refers to events that happened in the original Icewind Dale.
The basic gameplay of Icewind Dale II is quite similar to that of its predecessors, as well as the other games developed on the Infinity engine. The combat system is a quasi-real-time adaptation of the normally turn-based Dungeons & Dragons combat system used - dice rolling and the like are all done automatically, without requiring the player's participation, although it is possible to pause the game at any time to issue orders to the party.
Character generation is very different from the earlier Icewind Dale games, however. Instead of the usual virtual dice-rolling process to determine the amount of strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma a character will have, the player is given a set amount of points to distribute amongst a character's various statistics. Also included are the D&D 3rd edition components of Feats and character abilities. Among other things, these replace the simple "weapon proficiencies" of previous Icewind Dale games. This, combined with inclusion of more classes and sub-classes, as well as more races and sub-races (all with their own advantages and disadvantages), makes Icewind Dale II's character generation much different from its predecessors.
Another significant change is the once more increased bestiary, which now includes such creatures as bugbears, hook horrors, and driders, as well as many returning monsters from the previous Icewind Dale game and its expansion packs, the Baldur's Gate series, and Planescape: Torment. In addition, a much larger section of Icewind Dale is explorable than in the previous games, with the game's six chapters (each broken up into around 3 thematic sections of around 2-3 maps each) providing a large amount of play value.
The game starts with the player's group of adventurers reaching the village of Targos in Icewind Dale, which is suffering from an imminent goblin invasion. After several minor quests, the heroes are required to repulse the main attacks of the enemy horde.
After this, the mayor of Targos asks the group to scout out the origins of the enemy force. After saving an important bridge from destruction and assaulting a log fortress, the group finds that a half-dragon called 'Sherincal' leads something called 'The Legion of the Chimera', an outcast band trying to conquer Icewind Dale and the North. The defeat of the fortress' leader (while Sherincal flees) puts a temporary hold to these plans.
- (Throughout the game, the Legion of the Chimera is described as relatively ambivalent, unlike more clearly evil forces in other stories. It becomes clear that being composed of half-breeds and society's outcasts, the Legion and its leaders have suffered from a lot of persecution themselves. While the player can sometimes show understanding, the game structure is linear and thus does not allow any alliance with the Legion.)
After the fight at the fort, the group is asked to look for reinforcements for Targos that have not arrived, and travels by Oswald Fiddlebender's airship (which already played a role in previous incarnations of the game) towards the south, until the ship crashes (a running joke in the series) near a large ice temple built into a magical glacier blocking an important mountain pass.
During their time in the ice fortress, the group slays Sherincal, and finds that the true leaders of the Legion of the Chimera are Isair and Madae, two (as it later turns out) half-demonic twins from Kuldahar. The heroes battle through the monsters and Aurilite priests in the ice fortress, solving a number of puzzles on their way until the glacier is finally destroyed.
After a time spent finding a way through an undead infested forest, the group finds that to cross the mountains to Kuldahar, they will have to reach a lone monastery guarding an entrance to the underdark - the only way through the 'Spine of the World' mountains. A battle with two white dragons and a clan of duergar are only preparations for the tests ahead at the monastery of the Black Raven, which does not allow entry into the underdark (where its founder is interred) until the group has passed several challenges: solving an attempt by the Legion of the Chimera to sway the monks to their side and passing the difficult combat- and puzzle-oriented tests in the monastery dungeons to become honorary members of the order.
Traveling through the underdark and defeating a band of evil driders and a nest of illithids, the group is finally picked up by Oswald Fiddlebender again and taken to Kuldahar. The tree-town (built around a sort of world Tree) is being attacked by orogs and yuan-ti, strange snake-like creatures, who desire the magical tree of Kuldahar (which keeps the area warm in the extreme of the northern ice). Defeating the threat of the yuan-ti involves travel far to the south (via a natural teleport, the "Crossroads"), where the group enters and clears a large temple and slays the crossroads guardian to prevent the yuan-ti from further invading Kuldahar.
After Kuldahar is saved, the group - meanwhile having grown into a major force of heroes equipped with mighty sorcery and magic (including items of power rarely seen in other D&D computer games due to the relatively low levels of the player characters in those games) - makes its way to Dragon's Eye, the volcano labyrinth in which the Yuan-Ti and the Legion of Chimera made a deal to cooperate. Traveling deep into the heart of the mountain, the group eventually encounters a temporal paradox, and must, traveling step by step into the past over several days, solve a murder that pitted the various groups within Dragon's Eye against each other.
Armed with new knowledge from their travels, the group now sets out for the 'Severed Hand', an old ruined elven fortress. Through guile and force of arms the group enters the massive structure - built like an upthrust hand - and starts exploring the teeming headquarters of the Legion of the Chimera. Here, the group learns more of the complex nature of the Legion, and prepares for the final assault on the twins Isair and Madae, before finally vanquishing them in a titanic fight.
Like the previous games in the series, Icewind Dale II is based on BioWare's Infinity Engine. The game incorporates nearly all of the changes and additions to the series made by the Heart of Winter and Trials of the Luremaster expansion packs, and 3D acceleration is no longer present.
Icewind Dale II was the final Infinity Engine game, and the last Black Isle Studios game released for PC. After their next game, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II for the PlayStation 2, they were shut down by Interplay Entertainment, their parent company.
Music and voice-actingEdit
Unlike its predecessors, the game is based on the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition ruleset, which brings such elements to the series as 'feats', the ability for any race to be any class, and the ability for any class to use any weapon. As in Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, the 3rd edition character classes of Barbarian, Sorcerer, and Monk are present in the game, but unlike that game there are also many sub-races, such as Drow, and Tieflings, which all have racial advantages and disadvantages.
The game was praised by many critics for its pacing, music, and numerous improvements over the original game and its expansions. Most found fault with the game's graphics, which consisted of 2D sprites and pre-rendered 3D backgrounds that were considered less impressive than those of other CRPGs released that year, such as Neverwinter Nights and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Regardless, Icewind Dale II achieved many positive reviews. Indeed, in relation to the old system and graphics, PC Gamer (who gave the game an 87% score) described it as:
- "...similar to microwaving leftovers and finding out that they taste better reheated."
GameSpot noted that:
- "...Icewind Dale II still uses the ancient Infinity Engine first seen in Baldur's Gate in 1998. "Ancient" is perhaps too pejorative, actually — "immortal" may be a better word to describe the engine, because the fact is, Icewind Dale II plays great." 
- Sorcerer's Place Icewind Dale II entry
- Internet Movie Database Icewind Dale II entry
- GameBanshee's Icewind Dale II entry