Developed by Interplay's role-playing game division Black Isle Studios, Icewind Dale takes place in the same universe as Baldur's Gate and also uses the same engine. As such, the game will be instantly familiar to Baldur's Gate players, who'll be the first to notice the game's various improvements over BioWare's award-winning 1998 game. Icewind Dale is now available in software stores around the country.
The first thing you do in Icewind Dale is create a party of six adventurers, using the standard second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons race and class combinations. This can be a time-consuming process, as you must roll for each character's stats, determine his profession, and even choose a portrait and a unique voice. Once the game begins, your characters have a surplus of money with which you can outfit them at the equipment shop. Fortunately, once your party is finally prepared, Icewind Dale gets interesting very quickly.
The game's cinematics are presented as chapters in an illustrated, candle-lit storybook. The quality of the voice-over narration is excellent, as is the speech for several non-player characters you'll meet early in your adventure. The game also features an orchestral soundtrack by Jeremy Soule, who previously composed the soundtrack for Cavedog's hit real-time strategy game, Total Annihilation. Although the game has all new monsters and sound effects as well as an original score, most of its player character graphics are recycled from Baldur's Gate.
Icewind Dale ought to appeal to AD&D fans who've enjoyed previous Black Isle Studios games. The first hours of gameplay show that it has impressive production values and quality writing, which is some of what made Interplay's previous RPG, Planescape: Torment, a critical success. Check out these new screenshots showing off scenes from Icewind Dale's prologue and first chapter.