Icewind Dale is a role-playing video game developed by Black Isle Studios and originally published by Interplay Entertainment for Windows in 2000 and by MacPlay for OS X in 2002. The game takes place in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms campaign setting and the region of Icewind Dale, and utilises the 2nd edition ruleset. The story follows a different set of events than those of R. A. Salvatore's The Icewind Dale Trilogy novels: in the game, an adventuring party becomes enlisted as a caravan guard while in Icewind Dale, in the wake of strange events, and eventually discover a plot that threatens the Ten Towns of Icewind Dale and beyond.
|Developer(s)||Black Isle Studios|
|Publisher(s)||Interplay Entertainment |
MacPlay (OS X)
|Producer(s)||Chris Parker |
Darren L. Monahan
|Designer(s)||Chris Avellone |
|Programmer(s)||Jacob Devore |
|Artist(s)||Timothy Donley |
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, OS X|
|Release||June 29, 2000|
Icewind Dale received positive reviews, being praised for its musical score and gameplay. It was a commercial success, with sales above 400,000 units worldwide by early 2001. An expansion, Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter, was released in 2001, and a sequel, Icewind Dale II, followed in 2002. A remake by Overhaul Games, entitled Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition, was published for several platforms in 2014.
Icewind Dale's gameplay operates on a similar basis to that of Baldur's Gate, in that it incorporates a modified version of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition ruleset, with the rules' intricacies automatically computed; the game keeps track of statistics and controls dice rolling. It uses a similar user interface though with cosmetic changes, and focuses mainly on combat, often against large groups of enemies, with dialogue driving the main story. The player is able to order a character(s) to engage in movement, dialogue, combat, or other actions such as pickpocketing within each game location. Combat has a real-time as opposed to a turn-based system, though with the option of pausing at any time so the player can give the party orders which are carried out when the game is resumed. Along with the same inventory system and paper-doll mechanics, the game's story is divided into chapters, with a journal system archiving quests and notable entries on specific story-related information from non-player characters.
Players begin the game by creating an adventuring party of up to six characters, either by creating new characters or importing those from a previous game. Each new character created requires the player to provide them with their name, gender, race, class, and alignment, and then determine their ability scores and weapon proficiencies. The class of a character affects what alignments are available to them, what weapons and combat styles they can use, and how proficient they can be in them. Characters designated as thieves require the player to allocate points to the various thieving skills, and spellcasters need a few 1st level spells selected for their spellbook and then one memorised for use at the start of the game. Once a party is created, characters earn experience points in the game through completing quests and defeating enemies, and level up upon earning enough. Leveling up will automatically increase a character's hit points, grants spellcasters access to more spell slots including higher levels of magic, sometimes allows additional weapon proficiencies, and allows thieves to improve their thieving abilities.
In the town of Easthaven a party of adventurers resting in its tavern are met by the town's leader, Hrothgar (voiced by Jim Cummings), who invites them to join him on an expedition to investigate the town of Kuldahar, after a messenger sent from there reported of strange happenings. On the road to Kuldahar, the expedition is ambushed by frost giants, who cause an avalanche, blocking the path back to Easthaven. With only the adventurers surviving, they continue to Kuldahar and meet with Arundel (Jim Cummings), the village's archdruid, who explains that a mysterious evil force has been kidnapping villagers, and causing abnormal weather patterns and monster behaviour, resulting in the magical warmth provided by the giant tree that the village resides under to begin to recede.
Asking for their help to discover the source of the evil before the tree dies, the adventurers begin by searching the Vale of Shadows, an area containing Kuldahar's crypts, due to rumours of undead creature sightings, but discover from a cursed barbarian spirit named Kresselack (Tony Jay) that the threat lies elsewhere. Reporting this back to the druid, Arundel instructs the group to retrieve an ancient scrying item called the Heartstone Gem, so he may discover the source of the evil more quickly. After finding that the gem was stolen from a temple that the druid suspected it to be in, the party travel to the caverns of Dragon's Eye, finding a number of the missing villagers being held there by lizard men, and eventually finding the gem being used by powerful demonic creature named Yxunomei (Tara Strong). After killing Yxunomei and retrieving the gem, the party return to find Kuldahar under attack, and that a shapeshifter disguised as Arundel had attacked the archdruid. After the shapeshifter vanishes, the group find the real Arundel, who advises the party to take the Heartstone to Larrel (Michael Bell) at the fortress of the Severed Hand, the only one capable of using it now, before dying from his wounds.
Arriving at the fortress, the party discover that Larrel had gone insane, and aid him with a task he mentions, helping him to regain his sanity. Using the gem, Larrel discovers the source of the evil to reside in the former dwarven city of Dorn's Deep. Fighting their way through the city, the group eventually come across the source of the evil in the form of a priest who came to the region – Brother Poquelin (John Kassir). Poquelin reveals himself to be a demon who was exiled from his home realm by his superiors, and that both he and Yxunomei maintained a vendetta against each other that was getting out of control. Predicting she would follow him to the material plane, the demon sought a base of operation in the region to form a military force that could crush her, and while doing so, stumbled upon the ancient artifact Crenshinibon, which he claims had been "calling" to him. Poquelin immediately used its power to help him amass an army that he planned to use in conquering the lands of Icewind Dale, until Yxunomei's activities around Kuldahar led to the formation of Hrothgar's expedition. Seeking to stop it, the demon had his frost giant minions crush the expedition, but did not count on the adventurers' survival being a problem until they recovered the Heartstone Gem, forcing him to eliminate Arundel. Despite the party having found someone else to use it, Poquelin had managed to build up his forces, which he soon sent to Easthaven.
After fighting with him, the party finds itself transported back to Easthaven, which is now in ruins. After freeing the surviving villagers, the local cleric of Tempus, Everard, informs the party that Poquelin is going after Jerrod's Stone, a mystical object housed under the town's temple, which acts as a seal on a portal to the Nine Hells of Baator that was opened during a major battle between the combined might of the barbarian tribes and an army of a powerful mage, and which was sealed shut by the sacrifice of the shaman Jerrod who led the barbarians in the conflict. Gaining entry into the demon's crystal tower that enveloped the temple, the group discover that Poquelin's true intention was to reopen the portal contained within the Stone, allowing him to conquer the North with an army of demons at his command. Although he successfully achieves this, Everard, having shunned the tale of Jerrod's sacrifice until finally understanding what he did, throws himself into the portal and seals it off at the cost of his life. The party use the time he buys them to fight Poquelin in his true form as the devil Belhifet, and manage to defeat him, banishing him to the Nine Hells and escaping the tower as it collapses. In time, Easthaven eventually recovers, and the town is reconstructed.
In a twist ending, it quickly transpires that the game's narrator (David Ogden Stiers), was really Belhifet, who spent a mandatory century of imprisonment at the hands of the adventurers that is now close to end, and that he will soon walk the Prime Material once more to seek his revenge. (see Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear)
Icewind Dale is based on the BioWare Infinity Engine, featuring pre-rendered backgrounds and sprite-based characters displayed with an isometric camera perspective. This engine was used to power Black Isle Studios' previous games Planescape: Torment, Baldur's Gate, and others.
The game and its expansion were re-released in two budget packages in 2002, entitled Icewind Dale: The Collection and Icewind Dale: Complete. They were re-released again in 2002 alongside Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment in Black Isle Compilation. A collector's edition called Icewind Dale: The Ultimate Collection, which included the sequel Icewind Dale II and its expansion, was released in 2003.
All four games were released again in Black Isle Compilation – Part Two in 2004, in Ultimate Dungeons & Dragons in 2006, and in Atari's Rollenspiele: Deluxe Edition in 2007. Icewind Dale was again re-released on October 6, 2010, complete with expansion packs on GOG.com.
In the United States, Icewind Dale debuted at #4 on PC Data's weekly computer game sales rankings for June 25–July 1, 2000, following the title's release on the 30th. Domestic sales for the period totaled 39,285 copies, which drew revenues of $1.71 million. Mark Asher of CNET Gamecenter called this performance a "mild surprise" and noted that the game was "doing well". It was the country's 16th-best-selling computer title for the month of June. After retaining position 4 in its second week, it dropped to sixth place in its third week. James Fudge of Computer Games Magazine wrote that Icewind Dale was among the titles that "dominated the retail charts in the U.S. for the month of July." The game remained in PC Data's weekly top 10 until the week ending August 5. Later that month, Interplay's Brian Fargo noted that Icewind Dale was "selling beyond our forecasts and in number one position[s] in certain European territories". It was the United States' sixth-highest computer game seller of July and 16th-highest of August.
According to Chart-Track, Icewind Dale was the United Kingdom's best-selling computer game for its debut week, breaking Diablo II's three-week streak in the region. It dropped to third place the following week, before falling to seventh. Discussing Icewind Dale's chart performance, a writer for PC Zone mentioned being "a little surprised at seeing Diablo II capitulate so easily, especially to Icewind Dale, despite the success of Baldur's Gate." Icewind Dale was the United Kingdom's third-best-selling computer title in August, placing above Diablo II for the month. According to PC Gamer US, it also achieved "high sales" in Germany, where it debuted in 17th place on the computer game sales charts in July. After peaking at #5 the following month, it claimed places 16 and 29 in September and October before exiting Germany's top 30.
By early 2001, Icewind Dale had sold more than 350,000 units worldwide, including 45,000 units in Germany. Sales rose above 400,000 units by April. In the United States alone, it sold 145,564 copies and earned $6.8 million by the end of 2000, according to PC Data. Its lifetime sales there climbed to 270,000 copies ($9.5 million) by 2006; as of that year, the Icewind Dale franchise together had sold 580,000 units in the region. In August 2006, Edge ranked the original Icewind Dale as the United States' 74th-best-selling computer game, and best-selling Icewind Dale title, released since January 2000.
Icewind Dale was well received by critics, scoring 86% from GameRankings and 87/100 from Metacritic. GameSpot's Greg Kasavin gave the game 8.6/10, opining it is "well suited for fans of Black Isle Studios' previous games, fans of classic hack-and-slash AD&D computer games, and anyone looking for an action-packed role-playing game with a lot of depth." IGN scored it 8.8/10 and GameZone gave it 9.5/10. According to GameSpy's Allen Rausch, "Icewind Dale was a fun dungeon romp that can hold its head up high, even if it can't match its big brothers." The game's music score by Jeremy Soule received widespread critical acclaim. Chris Chan of the New Strait Times said the game was one of the best he ever played, and went on to positively compare it with Diablo II.
The strongest criticism was that the gameplay was too uniform and was mostly combat-focused, with little interaction or investigation. Bob Low of the Daily Record noted technical issues such as poor pathfinding and occasional crashes. PC Zone criticized its similarities to previous Infinity Engine games. IGN ranked Icewind Dale No. 6 on their list of "The Top 11 Dungeons & Dragons Games of All Time" in 2014. Ian Williams of Paste rated the game #3 on his list of "The 10 Greatest Dungeons and Dragons Videogames" in 2015.
Computer Gaming World, GameSpot, The Electric Playground and CNET Gamecenter nominated Icewind Dale as the top computer role-playing game of 2000, but it lost all four awards to Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn. The former publication's editors wrote that Icewind Dale "hearkened back to the old days" and was "dangerously close to being the most purely fun RPG that we've played in a long time."
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