Newest Review: ... of revenge and drama in the twists of the tale, and a few thoughtful links back to the original Icewind Dale stories - and it's these threa... more
The cold, cruel Heart of Winter
Icewind Dale - Heart of Winter (PS)
Member Name: The Daz
Icewind Dale - Heart of Winter (PS)
Advantages: Heart of Fury Mode, a host of player improvements.
Disadvantages: Not the biggest of expansions.
A snowy welcome awaits you in Lonelywood. An isolated community in the far north of the Icewind Dale region - the village scrapes a living and keeps an uneasy watch on the marauding barbarians. Colourful characters and intrigue abound, of course, and the cold and the undead once again play a large part in this mission.
The sequel to Icewind Dale - Heart of Winter adds a whole new scenario to the game in which to test your players. You can choose to create new high level characters for the game, or to carry over your victorious party from the original game. Be warned that Heart of Winter is far tougher than the original, with some hefty monsters about: Polar Worms, Wights, Dragons, Barbarians and the like.
Following a similar linear path to Icewind Dale, this game takes you into contact with the Barbarian tribes, follows you along a quest for knowledge and ultimately leads you to a glacier fortress, and a showdown with a truly screen-filling bad guy and her cohorts of minions. As usual, there's more than a hint of revenge and drama in the twists of the tale, and a few thoughtful links back to the original Icewind Dale stories - and it's these threads of intrigue and plotting that lift the game above mindless hack and slash.
With a new 800x600 resolution, the screen image is far superior to the last game, and the haunting and dramatic music is up to the previous fine level. The same trick of improving resolution was done with Diablo II, and suggests games being rushed out half finished to meet deadlines, and to make you buy the expansions. Cunning...
In terms of gameplay, there are a number of improvements. Spellcasters have a whole new range of spells, taken from the Skills & Powers upgrade to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game. Lances of Disruption, dashes of Trollish Fortitude and the impressive Sunray spells and many more will help you combat the nasty creatures you encounter.
Rangers and Paladins can cast spells earlier, Druids get some nifty alternate shapechanging abilities, and Bards have a host of powerful tunes to strum to aid the party. Plenty of new magical items help you customise your party to meet the challenges ahead, and the timely aid of some of the locals goes a long way.
The best improvement is the option for the Heart of Fury mode. You should only attempt this with characters above Level 20 - as all the monsters are beefed up beyond sanity. Massive amounts of hitpoints, increased damage, better spell access for evil wizards and priests. You will literally have to wade through the corpses just to clear each screen.
This is violent hack and slash at its best - and is aimed at testing your strategic use of party members and their abilities once you have completed the regular game a few times. It takes more than a round or two to bring down the average villain, and so you really need to take your planning further than simply fireballing the back of the enemy group and then charging in. Enemy spellcasters need to be targeted, your sword wielding maniac fighter needs buffing up, and your rogue needs to sneak around the back and hamstring a suitably daunting opponent.
The sounds of fighting and spellcasting add to the appeal - a cacophony of metal on stone, chants and curses and 'aarghs' of dispatched warriors echoes around the room as you gleefully tuck into some righteous smiting.
I should probably go and lie down in a darkened room now. It's all a bit too bloodthirsty!
Nevertheless - a much loved and well thought out sequel. Its only letdown is that it isn't nearly half as long as the original game, and players should head to the Internet to download the free expansion: Trials of the Luremaster, for a complete experience.
With a starting point in Lonelywood itself, after agreeing to help out a sly Halfling, this is a standalone expansion that sees you facing off against a devious undead lord and his minions, and solving a particularly nasty infestation of lycanthropic nastiness. Nearly as long as Heart of Winter, there's plenty of new and colourful locations to explore, several new types of monster: curse those harpies!, and a few new items to help you on your way. Once you complete this expansion you'll be whisked back to Lonelywood by magic - it turned out to be far more than the minor task you were initially led to believe!
Summary: Thrilling sequel to a great game.
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