We took a look at a feature-complete build of Icewind Dale II at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo. The game is a sequel to Black Isle's Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game from 2000, but unlike the original game, Icewind Dale II will use the third-edition Dungeons & Dragons rules, which let players create much more versatile, interesting characters thanks to the heroic feat system. This system lets player characters acquire powerful skills that aid their fighting, spellcasting, and adventuring abilities. The third-edition rules also let players change their professions almost completely freely; for instance, players can play as a fighter character, gain four levels to acquire the weapon expertise feat, change class to a cleric and gain a few levels, and then change class to another profession.
Icewind Dale II uses BioWare's Infinity Engine, the same graphics and game engine that Black Isle has used for Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment. Icewind Dale II runs at a minimum 800x600 resolution, and though the 2D graphics engine (which powered the original Baldur's Gate from 1998) is definitely showing its age, the game's clean-looking interface and excellent character portrait art help the game's otherwise dated look considerably. We were able to run through some of the game's environments and levels, which include popular areas from the Forgotten Realms' universe, such as the snowy reaches of Icewind Dale and the jungles of Chult. Like the original game, Icewind Dale II will be a mostly linear game, but it will let players make some intelligent use of dialogue options--for instance, to infiltrate an evil monastery in Chult, you'll be able to defeat a group of monks guarding the entrance, steal their robes, and disguise your party to sneak past the guards. If you've paid careful attention to the monks' dialogue, you'll be able to bluff your way through the temple without having to fight the sizeable groups of guards.
Icewind Dale II is scheduled for an early summer release this year. We'll have more information on the game soon.