Icewind Dale

Bill Dungsroman 03/04/2003 

Black Isle Studios (BIS), the fruits behind the Baldur's Gate series, had finished making Baldur's Gate 1 (BG1) and were preparing for the monumental time-consuming task of putting together the huge beast known as Baldur's Gate 2 (BG2). But however would they make their Jetta payments in the interim? Solution: throw together a pacifier game using a slighty-improved version of the clunky Infinity Engine (from BG1), a schizophrenic collection of dungeons and a threadbare plot, emphasize that it's a "dungeon crawl" in any and all press releases, and make a tidy sum whilst placating the masses that formed from the success of BG1. And it worked! Ravenous retarded D&D fans ate up any ol' crap BIS threw at them. Naturally, I count myself among them; Icewind Dale (IWD) was the only game I've bought in the last ten years without first reading reviews from a reputable source before purchasing (y'know, like PC Gamer. Stop laughing.). My bold nature knows no constraint.

Roll 3d6 to Determine Your Charactersí Stats. For All of Them, Elf Boy.

Yeah, I know Bards are faggots. But you really ought to have one for this game. Express your inner faggot.
Part of the "fun" of IWD is getting to roll up your entire party from scratch, instead of just one and relying on the developersí retarded notions of "good" NPCs to compliment your main character. After the fumbling clods I had to make do with in BG1, I was more than happy to get the chance to assemble my own party from scratch. Listen, I love rolling up characters for RPGs. That is, "rolling" as in creating, not physically rolling dice or clicking a "Roll" button. I suck at stuff like that; the characters I roll wouldnít be able to make the qualifying cut-off for the Special Olympics in real life. Forget fighting orcs and shit like that, not a chance. I invariably end up compulsively roll-roll-rolling to get some decent fucking stats for my fruity party. For IWD, I concocted some stupid range of total points, figuring above-average was the best that I could hope for. I applied my knowledge from playing BG1 and made sure all my characters had 18 Constitution (because I knew Iíd get hit a lot, and I was right) and 18 in whatever their "primary stat" was for their class. 16 Intelligence on my mages donít play, and no Strengths below 15 for anybody. It wasnít hard: I just rolled for awhile, then I made everyone ugly as fuck and put all the points from Charisma into everything else, except the Bard who I gave the 18 Charisma to. I just put him in the lead of the party in town to get the cheap prices and better dialogue options (so Iím led to believe; I doubt it mattered during dialogue) when necessary.

Make your party in the order they will march in, or be prepared to resurrect your mage shortly after every time you enter a dungeon.
Character class choices are of the typical Fighter-Mage-Thief variety. Options for character portraits are plentiful enough, but voice options aren't. I chose the best I could and I got Strangled-Gravelly-Voiced Guy for my fighter (I couldn't handle Hearty Deep-Throated Guy: "YES! I shall wear the enchanted ball gag" or whatever he said), Husky Bedroom Voice Girl for my lame "love interest" ranger (a love interest that was all in my head, of course. Yes, I was the fighter and she was my rough and tumble love. God, I'm gay. But the game helped by having her speak lines like "I am by your side," and "Whatever you need me to do" in a throaty half-whisper). Also Snidely Whiplash for my mage/thief, Cute Li'l Self-Conscious Girl for my priest, Friendly Gruff Guy for my bard, and Sort-Of Accent-Having Fruity Girl for my mage. Compared to the cringe-worthy options from BG1, though, these sound bites are sweet melodies. At least everyone sounds optimistic, as opposed to the dour bitches from BG1. I'm all for bitterness, but not from some NPC fag every single time I click on him. Remember to create your party in the order you want them to march around in. When you enter a new area, the game stupidly puts them in the order you originally made them, no matter what your arrangement was walking in. You don't want your mage to wind up in front with every goddamn monster in the room targeting him, every time you enter a dungeon.

I Wasn't Supposed to Have Read the Stupid Novels, Was I?

Your first big mission sounds a lot like carrying Hrothgar's fucking luggage up a mountain. I imagine his bear hide undies stink like hell.
The setting for IWD is some fucking year AD, or BC, or FU; I'm a fruit, but not nearly fruity enough to care about shit like D&D timelines. What I do know is that even though the setting is around the Ten Towns (specifically, Easthaven), as written about by the prodigious "talent" of R.A. Salvatore, who made up Drizzt Do'Urden, neither Drizzt nor any of his gay party are in it. He was in BG1 for some reason, and the story of IWD apparently takes place way before his lifetime. Who cares? I'm still amazed that nobody's ever complained about Drow being dark-skinned and the epitome of evil in the D&D universe. The plot of the game is set up with a back story opening movie, which is ably voiced by David Ogden Stiers (Winchester from M*A*S*H), and isn't the dumbest shit I've ever heard from fantasy game writers, at least. The plot of the game is that Easthaven is having problems, and a group of heroes (you and yours) is required to join a contingent of other - I assume better - heroes, led by the mighty Hrothgar (whoever that is), to schlump off and investigate a Mysterious Great Evil™ that plagues the area. Whatever; where's the first dungeon? Actually, the story is better than average for an RPG. I think it's funny that everyone dismissed IWD's plot out-of-hand (including the developers), even though the supposedly more in-depth storylines of BG1 and BG2 aren't much more involved. I'd place IWD's plot in between BG1's bongwater storyline and BG2's WTF-just-happened mess. In other words, just about right.

"What can Brown do for you?"
Just like in BG1 and BG2, nothing is very urgent, so when someone tells you to go meet with Hrothgar, that should be the last thing you do. You'll want to wander about Easthaven (I mean, to it's very edges) in order to do some random Fed-Ex quests and get into a couple of fights in order to obtain some items and enough scratch to outfit your party half-decently. Hrothgar will send you on a mission to kill some orcs in a cave, which is good for some quick loot. I recommend that your Thief have a good lock-picking score right from the start, so you can loot everything in Easthaven; you'll need it. Also, have your Bard pick the pockets of anyone who looks important. You won't get to return to Easthaven for awhile, so prepare accordingly. You'll have to amble though a small area full of monsters first, too, one that's reminiscent of those pointless outdoor areas in BG1 (though not quite as lame).

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