Icewind Dale II

Icewind Dale II
Icewind Dale II Cover
Platforms Windows
Genre Goblin grinding RPG
MtAMinutes to Action 10
Keep Playing? No
Buy from Amazon

Let's start with a shocker: I've only ever played one Forgotten Realms videogame, and that first happened in 2012, the year of the dragon, the year of our collective undoing. That's right, no experience with Baldur's Gate or Neverwinter Nights whatsoever. Our paths just never crossed. However, the game that does get the glory is Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale, and it's fairly bland and forgettable. Since high school, I have read what some might consider maybe too many Drizzt Do'Urden books by R.A. Salvatore and am familiar with a couple of other works based around the shared universe, which I do enjoy.

So, when Good Old Games, a website which focuses mainly on selling old PC games, ran a “buy one Dungeons & Dragons game, get The Temple of Elemental Evil for free” I took a chance on Icewind Dale II to see what I had missed out on. Hopefully it's as exciting as those books I ate up one after the other.

Minute by Minute

00 – Our adventure in Icewind Dale II begins in true storybook fashion, with a woman narrating a legend of old as we flip through the faded pages of an ancient tome. She mentions many names I can't comprehend and talks about the time when goblin warbands, some fantasy-named place. Gah. I don't instantly recognize it. Honestly, it's not the most interesting start for someone new to the series. However, the water-colored artwork used here is gorgeous.

03 – Okay, intro movie is over, and we're now at the start screen. There's an option for multiplayer, which is surprising, but I just choose to begin a new game. Next choice involves picking my party of adventurers myself or going with a predetermined group. Let's see who I can craft up...

04 – Forget that idea. That process was too overwhelming. You literally decide every single thing about your party, which is five or six people. If I was serious enough, that could take up this entire first hour review. Instead, I went with a predetermined party: the Annals of Halgren. They are a mixed bag of rogues, wizards, and warriors. Okay, prologue time, which sets up the game in that a bunch of ships have arrived at the port town of Targos, where mercenaries often gather. Unfortunately, goblins have attacked.

09 – I have not been fighting goblins these last five minutes, but have instead been chatting with a man named Hedron Kerdos about Targos. I think he's the captain of The Wicked Wench, the ship that sailed the Annals of Halgren over. What can I say? Dialogue trees—albeit not terribly deep ones—are a weakness of mine. I also learned a bit about the Salty Dog Tavern and Ulbrec Dinnsmore. Yeah, we're in a fantasy realm for certain.

10 – Okay, now in control entire party? Is that right? Oh, I can select whoever I want and move them around or move my group as a whole unit. Gotta dust off my RTS skills. And at any point, I can view all my party members' stats. There's a plethora of things to click on, and having no manual at my side or in-game guide, I'm kind of scared to mess it all up.

Icewind Dale 2 Character Generation

11 – My adventuring troop has now stepped off the dock, but is immediately stopped by a soldier named Reig Redwaters. He demands we identify ourselves. He tells us a little more about the goblin attacks, as well as his hurt friend. I also talk our way into some free armor.

13 – On a quest now to find a man named Magdar who will have some healing items for the wounded soldier. Don't really know how to access the map—if there even is one—so my plan is to just explore the whole town and hopefully run into him at some point. Coincidences are a dime a dozen during dire times.

14 – Looting weapons and armor off the ground. None of it is spectacular, but freebies are freebies.

15 – Went inside a home and discovered goblins. Clicked on them, and my entire party surrounded them, attacking in unison. The goblins went down fast. And I picked up another quest to acquire the help of the Iron Collar, a mercenary group also hanging out in beautiful, scenic Targos.

17 – While I was trying to figure out how to open a locked door, a group of goblins attacked. Again, all I had to do was click on them and down they went, ready to be looted.

20 – Inside an unnamed person's home, and there are more goblins to kill.

Icewind Dale 2 Goblin Killing

21 – After some clicking around, I figured out who in the Annals of Helgren was my thief: Kei the Wooden. Yeah, that's her name. Using her, I am now able to open up locked chests. Got some gold, a sword, and a fire agate gem thanks to her skills. Not much else to do in this house so it's back outside we go...

23 – Bumped into a man named Jorun Tamewater, but despite his neat name he's little help to us.

25 – FINALLY FOUND THE SALTY DOG TAVERN. Guess we'll go in for a drink and some chit-chat.

27 – Hmm. The Iron Collar was inside, but my speech skills failed, and I couldn't convince them to help Targos out and fight off these never-ending goblin waves. Depressed, I went to the barman and sold some loot I didn't need, like extra swords and shields.

30 – Found a house full of...cats. Well, that's a little better than a house full of goblins, but man. Way too man cats here. Oh, and an old, blind woman. Didn't Hedron mention his mother was blind? Yes, yes he did. Well, it's her, and we talk for a bit, and I make a mental note to return to Hedron and tell him his mother is safe and sound in her cat-crammed abode.

33 – Still wandering around Targos, killing goblins. It's a pretty big town, and parts of the map are shrouded in darkness until you walk over to them, giving off an even larger sense of scale. Wait, this isn't even the town, it's still the harbor.

Icewind Dale 2 Cave Exploration

36 – Used my thief character to open a locked warehouse door. Hey, Magdar Shenlen was inside! He's the guy who can help us with some healing potions. He gives the Annals of Halgren full clearance to smash the crap out of every barrel in this warehouse in hopes of finding these potions. Naturally, just as we begin taking out barrels, goblins storm inside to attack.

40 – Warehouse has now been cleared of all barrels and lootable chests. Time to head back to the dock we arrived on where the wounded soldier is. Surprisingly, despite telling us he'd go on ahead of us, Magdar is not there. What a liar.

42 – what? I guess I'll continue exploring Targos in search of caves where these goblins could be coming from. Don't have much else to go on right now.

43 – All right. There's another warehouse near the pier that is full of goblins. This was originally what I needed the Iron Collar's help with, but since they turned their collective noses up at the Annals of Halgren, we're going in on our own. It wasn't a problem, as my party swarmed each and every goblin until there were no more to be swarmed. Also, found a dead cat. ::sad face::

46 – A trap door inside this pier warehouse leads to a cave below, but because of terrible AI pathing, I can't get anyone to click on it without getting in each other's ways. Oh boy. I had to move my entire party away, and then bring them back to get it right.

47 – In a cave, killing goblins. This is becoming monotonous to experience and write, and I'm sure you all are simply enthralled.

Icewind Dale 2 Cleric Spells

50 – Uh oh. Someone from my troop died, swarmed by one too many goblin jerks. It was the wizard, Mordakai of Thay. Oh well. Didn't really know the fellow...

52 – Okay, think I cleared out this cave. Can't find any more goblins to slice down. Heading back outside to speak to my bro Brogan.

53 – Brogan says Ulbrec will give us a hefty reward for clearing out those nasty goblins and saving Targos from total overrun. The way further into town is via the western path, and so off we go.

55 – The game actually transitioned to a new screen, now that the Annals of Halgren (minus one) are in town proper. Exploring as we move forward, but there's really not much to see. A lot of the town and buildings are roped off. Though we did come across a house with a creepy man inside; he was whispering to corpses. Thinking I might have to come back to him later and dive deeper into this CSI-like mystery.

60 – Hey, found Ulbrec Dinnsmore in the town hall. Don't get that name confused with Ulfric Stormcloak, the Jarl of Windhelm, from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, or Ulric the great Nadir warleader from David Gemmell's Legend. This is Ulbrec, and he's nicely voice-acted. I report to him what happened down at the docks. Gratitude and rewards are passed on, and then Ulbrec informs us that a man named Shawford Crale, commander of the Targos Guard, can assign us further duties. Too bad our one hour with Icewind Dale II is up.

Icewind Dale 2 Storybook Cutscene

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 10

What I loved: Dialogue trees and...dialogue in general. It flowed well and had a good sense of depth, with plenty of topics you could ask more about. Most was even voice-acted. I also dug a lot of the artwork used to set the story at the beginning of the game.

What I hated: Most of the game. Yes, you read that right. It certainly is not a very exciting first sixty minutes, with little guidance and too much goblin grinding. I also found that there were too many things to click on and assign; an auto-level up function would've been greatly appreciated. And with a party of six randomly generated characters, I never felt immersed in the world or even cared a pinch about them. Sure, I could've made my own team, but even then it seems like they are just one singular unit for attacking rather than individuals on a mission to save a port town. Another problem I had was trying to select different attack options for my party members during the heat of battle; after my sixty minutes were up, I figured out that pressing the space bar paused the action. That would've been nice to know earlier on. But yeah, this just didn't work for me. Too much to manage and not a fun start with unexciting loot drops.

Would I keep playing? No. I thought, maybe, just maybe, I might continue on or at least start over with a new team, but it took me three weeks to type up these notes, and during that span of time I did not go hop back in. And revisiting my time here with Icewind Dale II has not gotten me any more interested in it. Though I do still plan to try out The Temple of Elemental Evil...