I Just Finished Icewind Dale 2 (review and stock rant)

Black Isle studios, who made Icewind Dale 2 (IWD2) want you to know that it and the original IWD are more stright up, combat-oriented dungeon crawls. The focus is on the combat.

In the case of IWD2, this is like saying that you are taking a trip to the North Pole and you expect there may be some snow.

The plot of IWD2 is as such:

Fight, fight, fight a BUNCH of creatures, fight, fight some more, fight, fight again, fight a miniboss, fight, fight, engage in combat, fight, fight a large group of creatures, fight more of those creatures, fight, fight, fight a miniboss, fight again, fight, fight, fight a bigger boss, fight, fight a huge group of creatures, fight, fight this one really tough guy, fight, fight a miniboss, fight, hit some guy with your weapons, fight, fight some more, fight a bunch of creatures that came out of some place you’d already cleared out, fight, fight, and fight a big boss. Then comes Chapter Two, which is the same. Repeat until the end, when you fight the two big bosses who hang out with several other bosses.

As you can see, there’s some fighting. Remember, that’s what the emphasis is on. And I admit, combat is not my favoritest part of games like this, but I don’t mind it. However, I am kind of tired of it, and the game didn’t help.

Incessant combat isn’t bad if there seems to be a point to it, but this is just one thing after another. And it’s not inspired at all. Someone at Black Isle got a paycheck for deciding that fighting twenty trolls was twice as fun as fighting ten. Maybe they got a big raise when they then said, “And, after the twenty are dead, we’ll make the player fight them AGAIN!” After a while it’s really not hard to feel like you’re just going through the motions.

For me, the toughest part about this is that, since it’s a Black Isle Studios game, I know that all of this fighting is leading up to one inevitable conclusion - a big fight. So now it’s time for a stock side rant of mine:

Fallout. Ultima 7 (and Ultimas 3-6 as well). The Might and Magic games. Wizardry 8. Planescape: Torment. What doe these games all have in common? They’re hailed as some of the best computer RPGs ever. In addition, they all can be solved, without any loss of satisfaction, without having a huge resource-draining fight at the end. It CAN be done. It HAS been done. So how come people think it can’t?

I complained about this on the Black Isle boards - can we please get a game that is something more than just gearing up for a huge fight? Predictably, I was shot down and told that was impossible, that there was no way such a thing could be done. If it were, the ending wouldn’t be satisfying. Despite the counter-examples above, I was still told it couldn’t be done. The Dungeons and Dragons universe is huge, filled with all kinds of magic, wonders, and gods that actively work in that world. Yet for some reason, people making D&D games can only seem to find stories in which the main problem is that this guy hasn’t been hit enough times with a suitably large sword.

Again, I’m told that’s the only kind of satisfying ending one of these games can have. Maybe I’m a freak, but I find that ending incredibly UN-satisfying. That’s it? All I needed to do was stab this guy? Especially in game like this where the bad guy’s been popping up all along to taunt you. Dude, why didn’t you just kill me when I was only level five? I find it unsatisfying because I’ve been fighting all along. A bigger fight is just more of the same. How is that climactic or cathartic? It’s like having a big steak dinner and then for dessert having an even bigger steak, washed down with a tall glass of steak.

Now I realize that it’s probably wrong to level this criticism at IWD2, since it’s supposed to be combat-heavy, but to describe it as such implies that it’s somehow different from the other games, which it really isn’t. Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate 2, IWD, IWD2, and even Neverwinter Nights - it’s all the same plot. Sure, sometimes the bad guy is more interesting, sometimes he’s a different type of bad guy, but it’s the same game each time - get strong, get a big sword, and then fight the bad guy over and over until you finally defeat him.

If I wanted to play Warcraft, I’d just play Warcraft. Hell, if you want non-stop combat punctuated with the finding of magic items, look no further than Nethack, which is free. But don’t be surprised if sooner or later you find yourself saying, “Is this it? Is there nothing more?” Because, intentional or no, a game consisting of the same thing over and over gets dull.

Truth be told, there are some puzzle-solving aspects of the game, and there are some moments where diplomacy can win out over swords. I have to give credit there. But it’s all window dressing on the way to the big fight.

Black Isle says they’re about ready to retire the infinity engine, and that’s probably a good thing. I don’t mind it, but a lot of folks do, and we’re all ready for something else. I hope that something else involves a new type of plot as well, since this one is just as tired and worn out. Black Isle, go back and play those games I mentioned above. Hell, you had ahand in a couple of them. Look at some other sources. There are other ways to do this and still keep the combat-monkeys as well as the plot junkies happy. Give us something other than the same thing over and over again. It’s pretty hard for me to justify purchasing a game I pretty much already owned.

Umm… You know, while having the option to have non-violent endings is nice…


Thats the POINT of IWD2. Dungeon crawl. And yes, BG1/2 was different. It had a different style, even though combat may still have been the order of the day, the game itself played totally differently. Look, not every games going to be like you like. IWD was not supposed to be peaceful or diplomatic.

Look, yes, most games have a strong element of violence. This is because it creates conflict. Lots of conflict.

Lets take a lok at you Fallout. I liked it. But you are kidding yourself if you think the game wasn’t one fight after another. Half the game revolved around clearing out dungeons of one sort or another. PLanescape did the same, but then, in Torment, you weren’t taking on an army at any point, be it an army of super-mutants or half-breed mythic freaks.

In any case, you’re the one not realizin that Black Isle IS recalling their old games. IWD was a dungeon crawler, so was IWD2. Lionheart will probably be more your speed. BUt your DEAD WRONG if you think they simply don’t have anything but comnbat in their bag of tricks. The question is, why do you assume that every offering must be to YOUR taste?

I pretty much said that I realized IWD games are supposed to be combat heavy, but this just was silly. I’ve played Nethack games that had less fighting. Plus, my point was that after a while, the constant fighting gets tedious. How many trolls and hook horros do you need to kill until you’re just going through the motions? Sure, this was intentional, but that doesn’t make it any less repetitious and, ultimately, dull.

“Here’s a troll. Kill it.” isn’t conflict. It especially isn’t conflict after the 30th time.

Settle down, chuckles. At no point did I say that only my taste is important, but I was under the impression I could have an opinion about it. You don’t have to agree with it, but I still have it.

Sniff But I *like/i] slaughtering Trolls and Hook Horrors. The tactical overpowering and crushing of my foes was more than enough reason to buy and play a game. Taking down a huge enemy army is more than enough reason to fight them.

Call me “chuckles” again and I swear by all that is holy I will tear out your spine.

Sniff But I *like/i] slaughtering Trolls and Hook Horrors. The tactical overpowering and crushing of my foes was more than enough reason to buy and play a game. Taking down a huge enemy army is more than enough reason to fight them.

Call me “chuckles” again and I swear by all that is holy I will tear out your cyber-spine, “Leggy”.

In some respect, it depends on your attitude toward combat. In Baldur’s Gate II, I didn’t do combat. I sent my scout around to make sure there weren’t any plot-carrying NPCs in the next room, and then I got all my casters just out of sight range and rooted and nuked. Often I would finish off a few survivors with ranged weapons as they were running toward me. Then I walked in and picked up the treasure. Once in a while I was forced to skirmish, or to roshambo some weapon type verses some resistance type, but mostly I just reduced every room full of villains to smouldering treasure. That way, I was able to concentrate on the story.

I don’t remember there being a lot of combat in Planescape: Torment, and when there was I usually conducted the entire fight by finding a corner I could run around and constantly hiding and backstabbing with Nameless and Annah. The other party members mostly stood around in one corner and smoked cigarettes until we told them it was time to move along.

I couldn’t get through the Baldur’s Gate games–the interface and AI for the NPC’s was annoying enough that I figured if I played them long enough, I’d have to really hurt my computer.

On the other hand, I made it all the way through the Might & Magic games, and the ending to M&M 8 came as a total surprise. As in, I went back to town to sell off some stuff, the NPC there said, Hey, great! Thanks! Game over! and I’m like, “huh? did I miss a memo or something?”

Yeah, I beat Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday without realizing I had done so. All of the sudden, there’s nothing left to do.

Don’t forget Wing Commander 4 where you win by having a debate.

Ok, bad example. Not an RPG, completely combat orientated till the end but it did take me by surprise.