The Ten Towns are calling everyone capable of bearing arms, even mercenaries from such distant cities as Luskan. What could be threatening Dekapolis this time? What wicked creatures would want this hostile, frozen wasteland that is the Spine of The Earth? And above everything else : What is there to gain, for those brave, skilled or lucky enough to survive the Icewind Dale?
ID2 takes place in known to all world called Toril of Dungeons & Dragons system. To be more precise : in the north-western edges of continent called Faerun. Faerun is home to countless races of humanoids, animals and others, it's also a place where magic is common, and present on a daily basis. Even if you haven't played the first Icewind Dale, you are likely to know the world from tittles such as Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, ToEE or some older ones, not to mention hundrets of books.
Your party are mercenaries from a city called Luskan that are hired to help with troubles in distant Targos. Targos seems to be in a desperate situation, constantly sieged by goblins. When you arrive, you will arrive to a city taken over by chaos and fear, but unlike other do-gooders, your motivation is gold. Mine would probably be the same.
Whether you want to be an all human party, or a mix of aasimar, drow, dwarves & other races is for you to decide. Each race has its ups and downs, which you should study before making any decisions. Classes are another important point of character creation : You can pick from a rather large pool including, but not limited to : paladin, mage, sorcerer, druid, bard, rogue and more. Then you'll choose feats, like power strike -which allows you to hit harder, but less accurately - or dodge, place a few ranks in skills of your choosing - like sneaking, spellcraft or opening locks, and...
For more info about character creation, skills, attributes, races, classes and feats you'll have to read the manual, because there is truly alot of ground to cover. This section of the game has been well made, and it is definitely one of the strengths of ID2.
However, your characters or your party doesn't have to make any sense at all, as there are no roleplaying consequences whatsoever, regardless of what abominations you may wish to create. There are no restrictions or penalties from picking six good-hearted drows (it's a race of chaotic evil elves, who feel pure, burning hatred towards surface elves) or mix some bloodthirsty killers with rainbow-&-kittens-like companions. Your party never banters within itself, and not once will your heritage give you an upper hand, or stop you from achieving something normaly possible. Sure, you will sometimes hear a differend line, depending on your race, but if a band of half-orcs would attack a gnome party, they will also attack a half-orcs party.
The one, and only difference between good and bad aligned parties are spells that affect creatures of said alignment, and the only difference between races are favoured classes, attributes and an extra line or two in a dialogue or two. Oh, and for the most part if you go out of your way to perform an evil deed.. game over. The plot has been broken, you're stuck.
Since Icewind Dale is labeled as an RPG, this whole paragraph right here is a punch to the crotch.
Does this axe make me look fat?[/size]
Itemisation is an important part of the game. While you start the game with a bunch of sticks used as weapons and leather bags serving as armor - i wouldn;t hire mercenaries THAT poorly equipped! - you will quickly lay hands on something more worthy. Eventualy you will get some magical equipment, and by the time you finish the game, maybe even an artifact or two. Now, while your warriors will pass out from happiness once they get a flaming sword and plate armor with demon's engraved on them, your mages, druids, priests and co. will prefer some scrolls - and there are plenty of these aswell.
The items are quite balanced, and i don't think that there was a single moment in the game where i felt like i've had too powerfull or too bad equipment for the task at hand. There is enough equipment in the game to fill out a small hangar. More than once you'll be forced to leave some valuable weapon, in order to take even more valuable loot. There are plenty of merchants in game, and even if their sons are currently beign murdered, and their village pillaged, they will gladly buy some of your spare trinkets.
As mentioned before, your adventure starts at Targos, where you'll try to stop the goblin raids, but as history has taught us, every goblin raid on a small, isolated village in the middle of nowhere is a work of demonic mastermind that wants to take over the world. Thus after you solve one problem, another one will pop, and you will be asked to solve it too, then a problem will pop up two hundret miles away.. Luckily the player is a nice enough guy to not mind that you cannot decline, even though you have no reason to perform a task whatsoever. You'll turn from a mercenary that wants only gold, to a philantropist that wants to turn the world into a better place very fast, without knowing it, and without any valid reason.
Before you know it, your chaotic evil duergar berserker will receive tasks to solve marriage problems, find missing children and haul rocks, completing which is absolutely essential to advancing the plot. The end result will be as it is in all games of this kind, a climactic combat-filled finale.
This is not to say that Icewind Dale 2 has a poor plot, because the storyline is very, very good and i liked it, it's just the fact that whilst the programmers gave you freedom in creating characters, they didn't make sure that you had any motivation to continue. They also added good-aligned, boring, trivial tasks to the main quest, to completely kill replayability and cause roleplayers around the world to tremble and despair.. Here's the kicker.. Some of the unavoidable, boring, trivial quests are after the mid-point in the game! (long after you stop receiving any payments for your mercenary services) It's also the fact that even if you will have a choice at all in this game, and it happens.. maybe once in a chapter.. it will only affect how many enemies you will fight..
This part contains [color="Red"]spoilers[/color] but trust me when i say, that if i spoil it now it will be a much lesser disappointment than if you experienced it on your own in game.
After you fight your way through some epic encounters, hack, shiv and burn countless faersome enemies, save a city or two, rescue entire armies and change the landscape of the entire region.. You will come across a small village with four huts, and an old hag asking you to do her favours, in return she will show you the way through a forest. This part of the game is long after you've done your job, and i still wonder till this day what exactly was my party smoking at that point to continue.
The forest is rather small, even lore-wise, but for some reason you cannot go around it, or just find the way on your own (it only opens once you know where it is... ...mellon? no.) you cannot decline trivial quests of finding a lost piece of metal, investigating a death from two decades ago or wandering the forest in search of.. wait, didn't i just tell you that you need her to pass through the woods? I did. No, please, don't ask any more questions, i'm just as confussed as you are.
Even though my drow party would normaly cut a villagers limb off every minute the elder kept the path through the forest a secret, eventualy forcing her to spit it out, or we'd just burn the forest, or fly above it, or go home, i somehow managed to bite the bullet and.. What a coincidence! Demonic mastermind appears to tell me what his plan is, and then leaves.. Now that i saw the enemy, i have to chase him through the entire Faerun and kill him! Why? Because i can!
Elder! Now that i have rescued all the kittens that were stuck on the threes, please show me the passage through!
This is when i've uninstalled ID2 for the first time.
After the Elder told me how to pass the forest (by saying that the forest is evil), the forest knew that she has told me, and tried to kill me. Only after i've killed all the evil trees, the passage, a two-inch wall of green, has opened
This is when i've uninstalled ID2 for the second time.