Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter
Expanding Black Isle’s cool AD&D game.
Expansion packs are always curious creatures. Some expansions innovate and change the original game as much as a sequel would; others are content with merely adding more “stuff.” Heart of Winter, an expansion set for Icewind Dale much akin to Tales of the Sword Coast of Baldur’s Gate fame, is a first-class example of how to strike a balance. Black Isle has introduced no new classes or major gameplay changes, but the game’s structure is refined and they have thrown a few Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition rules into the mix.
Old classes get some renovations and become that much more useful. Paladins gain the Smite Evil special ability (1d6 + 1d6 per 3 character levels), along with immunity to fear and disease. Paladins and rangers also get access to spells at earlier levels. Rangers gain the ability to track monsters in the area, a skill that is particularly useful for players who do not like to reload saved games. For the first time in the Infinity engine games, druids can finally advance beyond level 14. They also gain new powers such as shape shifting into elemental form and immunity to both poison and fatigue.
Thieves arguably benefit more than any other class from their trio of new skills. Evasion gives them a chance to completely avoid the affects of certain spells (such as Fireball), and they gain the combined Sneak Attack/Crippling Strike ability. You can choose to replace Backstab with Sneak Attack, a similar attack that merely requires you be behind the target. It is not as damaging as Backstab, but it is far easier to use and it weakens the opponent (the Crippling Strike part of the ability). Finally, bards have a series of new songs that boost the party’s stats.
Increased screen resolution is the most significant visual change. The increased viewing radius makes a dramatic difference in your situational awareness, which is much better at 800 x 600 and beyond than at the 640 x 480 resolution of the original. At the lower resolution you could never see enough on the screen at onceâ€”your characters could react to things that you couldn’t see, as could monsters. Overall, it is much easier to manage your party in Heart of Winter, which makes the game all he more enjoyable.
System Requirements: Pentium II 300 Mhz, 32 MB RAM, 8 MB Video, Windows 95
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