Icewind Dale Retrospective

PC Games N writer Jeremy Peel has penned an extremely positive retrospective article for Black Isle's combat-focused Infinity Engine RPG Icewind Dale. I'm going to quote a few words of his on the title's worldbuilding to get you started:

The sense of locality yields some wonderfully subtle world-building. The starting town alone, Easthaven, manages to pack subsistence, stoicism, religion and the stench of drying fish into an isometric drawing.

Later, in an extended bout of forensic storytelling, you get to pick through a Elven stronghold that fell tragically after the breakdown of its relationship with its dwarven allies. And then you'll traipse through the dwarven city and uncover their side of the story of how things went wrong. It's like trudging through an epic poem punctuated by punch-ups with spectral orcs.

Icewind Dale also remains to my knowledge the only RPG in which you can have an argument with a skeleton about the problem of proactive foreign policy.

Tasked with finding the source of a warmth-quenching power that threatens to strangle civilisation in the Dale, you're reduced to cracking open the crypts of known ancient evils in the area. More than once, your tenuous lines of inquiry end with a ticking off from an especially animated undead warrior about the audacity of storming into a tomb under false pretences. If its release date didn't say different, I'd be convinced Icewind Dale was an allegory about the search for WMDs.

Despite the game's overt combat focus, Black Isle clearly took role-playing very seriously in everything they did. Memorably, one map in the game can be turned from a dialogue hub to a wholly hostile area if you happen to have a paladin leading the party.