Icewind Dale II
Never played it, UNTIL NOW. I started with Icewind Dale, Heart of Winter and Trials of the Luremaster and paused it for a really long time (like 2-3 years – seriously). But now I finally finished it and started II right away. In II I didn’t fall into the same trap, IWDI wasn’t bad or anything, but it’s heavily focusing on fights. It’s quite the grind at times. After besting an x level dungeon, the only thing that will happen, is the start of the next x level dungeon. That really wore me down. Every time I thought about continuing it, all I could think of were these masses of minotaur lords in the dungeon I was stuck in and that they would surround me immediately (maybe I started Trials of the Luremaster too early). Given that there are much more community support files for IWDI than for II, I always thought it probably meant, that IWDI was the better game somehow too.
To my delight, I discovered the exact opposite (I could have spoiled myself by reading up on the games beforehand, but I don’t like to do that). II has much more quests (often with several possible outcomes!), characters, dialogs, shops… And they really made stuff matter. It’s a big deal to have a Paladin in the group for instance, even much more famous Baldur’s Gate didn’t have that much material for such classes IIRC (okay they had extra strongholds instead…). Returns to familiar places, such as the Severed Hand are so much more fun this time around. Actually this is a prime example to illustrate the differences between the two Icewind Dale games. In IWD the Severed Hand is this dark place full with enemies and it takes lots of running around to switch between all the different floors. There’s still a story attached to it, but except for maybe 2 characters there’s not much else than fighting. In IWDII this place is full with characters, (often optional) quests and this rich backstory that now spans 2 games – just lots of stuff to do besides merely grinding through hordes of enemies.
It’s often funny too, in the first city there are some mercenaries standing around, who complain a lot that all they get to do is stupid fetch-quests and similar tedious tasks. :D This attitude was what kept me easily hooked and made it a pleasure to play through the whole thing. It’s not a short game after all (it took me about 8 hours to finish the prolog!), so without proper motivation any attempt at finishing it, is surely doomed.
Playing both games not too far apart is a good idea, since it’s not just called IWDII merely for using the name of an already known franchise. It’s a true sequel and many characters, even places, are referred to in one form or another, if they don’t appear again outright (like the Hand pretty much always clearly improved). There were even some connections to Torment thrown into the series. :)
I very much would have liked an epilog here, like Arcanum or Dungeon Siege III had, to reflect the outcome of some of the more interesting optional side quests, it would have been more satisfying than “just” gaining additional experience points for doing them, but hey…
There was just one situation were I almost felt punked, it was when I finally got my favorite spell but my mage never leveled up far enough to gain level 9 spells… In Torment Meteor Swarm had the best casting animation of all the Infinity games EVER. BOOM! Once I got it I used it on everyone! :D Every time! :D The thing is, that most of these D&D games, don’t even have Meteor Swarm. I think only Torment and IWDII do. So it’s all the more painful. I’m confident I did all the quests…
Playing this made it even easier for me to back Project Eternity, because – what could possibly go wrong? Having pretty much the same folks who did this behind it? There’s no way this could end up being entirely bad. I’m guessing. :P
Anyway, IWDII was the last of the Infinity games I hadn’t played yet. Now I know them all! :) MUAHAHAHAHA! Next stop will be the BG overhaul. Just in time. Wouldn’t have wanted these two (playthroughs) to conflict with each other.