As nearly everyone knows, I haven't been on the forum for the last 4 days. The reason is quite simple: I, like many of IE fans, have been dire-charmed by the release of IWDEE. On October, 31, I managed to finish my working month, put all my home tasks aside for a few days, turned off my phone and, like in childhood, started to explore the recently installed game.
I've thought it could be a good idea to write a review because something that makes 4 days of your life feel like 4 hours can't go unevaluated. Also, I've thought that all the hard work of Beamdog on this game deserved to get credit so that all of those who're still thinking about whether to acquire IWDEE or not (like @O_Bruce
for e.g.) can consider additional feedback from a fellow forumite.
I'm not a journalist and didn't write a game review before. This is why I've chosen an alphabet structure - it's simple and yet hasn't let me forget about the focus.
A - Absolution
IWDEE looks like and feels like the ultimate version of how an IE game could be enhanced given all the lost data. During all 4 days I had no single crash, didn't encounter anything even remotely close to a bug and/or problem, didn't see anything that could upset me. With the new UI, all the new spells and kits - and in the same time with all the music, the landscapes and the enemies from the vanilla version, - the game feels absolutely brilliant.
B - Bard
I created a party of six heroes but the main character, the one that always occupies the top place, the one who speaks with everybody was the bard with 18 CHA. And it felt so natural to have a bard as a group leader! I couldn't imagine any event in the game without a bard: my party is speaking with a siren - the bard is needed to understand the girl's song and to sing in an answer; my fighter is trying to overcome a tough snake elite - the bard is needed to improve his damage and attack rolls; my thief is setting a trap or is opening a lock - the bard is needed again to give a huge bonus to thieving abilities. A bard micromanaging with all the different spells and songs he has in IWD is a very fresh feeling after the usual Blade BG routine of buff spells and dual-wielding.
C - Creativity
With a need of making your own party and not a single character plus tons of new spells, IWDEE gives an unlimited field to try any party composition you always wanted to try but could not let in BG. What if I try a cleric without any second class? What if I try a druid without any second class as well? What about a singing bard? What about a wild mage who's not Neera? And and all of that is available in one party!
D – Druid
One of my party members was a totemic druid. And what a revelation it was! A druid in IWDEE has a good attacking spell at each level. Sunscorch is a good alternative to mages’ magic missile while Spike Growth is the best AOE damaging spell you can get before Cloudkill. Several Spike Growth spells combined with Web/Stinking Cloud spells – and a group of any monsters will be dead in several rounds. Smashing Wave is simply stunning! It can go through the half of area (!) killing or severely injuring everything it meets. To tell the truth, in my party a druid was just as essential as a mage.
E - Emotion
Emotions of Courage and Hope. These two spells completely change the level of effectiveness your party has. Again, a fresh choice for an arcane spell.
F - First levels
IWDEE brought me the joy of developing characters right from the first level - the thing I like in BG1 so much: these are the moments when even a pack of orcs feel dangerous. "Ohh, I've found the first +1 item!" "Ohh, the first level-up!" "Ohh, the first Mirror Image spell scroll!" These emotions are simply unforgettable:)
G - Gear
IWDEE gives you items gradually. You can't visit all locations from the start to plan your items and spells - in this game you get them step-by-step. The joy of finally finding a thrown axe and finally getting a Web spell is unmatched. Beamdog have made a food job of putting new items here and there – just like they were always there: new monk bracers come exactly when they’re needed, a new katana +2 with a fine enchantment comes not long before a battle when you need it happens.
H - Hrothgar
James Jonah «Jim» Cummings. Both Hrothgar and Arundel are voiced over by him. And the quality of the voice-over acting is still there. They speak amazingly. I can listen to them for hours. Intonation, tempo, pause.
I – Intellect
You don’t find 5 scrolls of one spell in IWDEE so you have to be very careful before trying to learn each spell. Your mage should better get the highest INT available from the start and use every potion of Genius and/or Mind Focusing (and there’re not many of those) before scribing scrolls. This is very fresh if compared to BG.
J – Jokes
The dialogue choices in IWDEE are full of jokes. They are hilarious. Overall, I should say that in IWDEE you more often than not can speak with your enemies – even quite general ones - before a fight, thus understanding him or her better. I’ll miss it in BG.
K – Kits
One of my party members was a Tempus priest. I’ve liked him a lot. Getting Holy Power from the 1st level is a nice buff, especially combined with DUHM. Chaos of Battle became my favourite opening spell in any mass fight. Overall, a chance to try kits in IWDEE is worth it.
L – Love
I’ve fallen in love with IWDEE. Being a BG fan for years, I’ve found lots and lots of positives in IWDEE. Some spells work differently: you now have to think twice before using the Insect Plague Spell in the middle of the combat. If you fear your character can be charmed, just cast Protection from Evil on him. Enemies in IWDEE have refreshing abilities as well: you should kill those beetles fast and BEFORE they come close to your party members.
M – Music
In my game I didn’t encounter any problems with music. Instead, I was blown away by beautiful sets of Kuldahar and Easthaven. The battle compositions of the Vale of Shadows and the Dragon’s Eye were lively and suited the areas perfectly.
N – No-reload
This game is a perfect chance to go a no-reload route. There’re not many free spell scrolls so if your mage hasn’t learned one or two – take it as it is. Use other spells. If your party member has fallen – try to finish the battle, take his belongings and go the temple.
O – One
I don’t think this game can give only one playthrough. With the variety of party compositions, certain spells that are alignment-restricted and the HoF mode, one can easily have several runs of IWDEE, the replayability is there.
P – Protections
As the wonderful Alveus Malcanter’s videos showed, don’t fear to use potions and spells to protect your characters. The battles in IWDEE are quite tricky and have a moderate level of difficulty, I liked that. Monsters tend to wander about and do not stay still letting you kill them easily.
Q – Question
If I was given a chance to ask Beamdog only one question after tasting IWDEE, it would be: “When can we expect IWD3?”
R – Right
I was completely right that I bought IWDEE. This game has already given me 50+ hours of gameplay and both I and my wife who sat all that time next to me and watched the game liked it.
S – Steal
Use your bard or thief and try to pick pocket NPCs you meet. The surprisingly good items can be found if you do it. Even while there’re not so many NPCs in IWDEE like there’re in BG, you still have several targets for pick pocketing.
T – Thief, and a dwarven one
"17 DEX? Come on, how can you let such aa penalty to your thief!" - this was the usual thought of mine when I wanted to make a dwarven thief in BG. And voilà! In IWDEE we have a wonderful spell called "Cat's Grace". In most cases it raises the DEX of a target to 20 and works during several hours! This arcane spell alone lets you freely take a dwarf as a thief to fully RP your concept. Now he's not worse, he's better than any popular elven thief you meet in BG parties.
U – UI
It’s a win! With the new UI which we know from BGEE and which has been further developed, playing IWD becomes as most convenient as we could ever hope.
V – Vendetta
Without giving away any spoilers, I should say that the storyline in IWD is interesting and has unexpected twists. For e.g., finding out what that “Vendetta” one enemy talked about was something like: “WHAT?” Overall, I’ve liked how the main quest advances.
W – Weapon ineffective
Quite often I saw this phrase during my run. My party reached the Severed Hand and up to this moment we had a lot of moments when in order to defeat an enemy characters had to find out first by what weapon they can hit it.
X – Xan
You can meet Xan’s cousin in IWDEE, and even read his journal. This easter-egg felt so warm and funny.
Y – Yxunomei
One of the main antagonists was deadly and fearful. The whole process of her first appearance and a subsequent transformation was quite entertaining. The battle demanded all my knowledge of IE spells and abilities to win it.
Z - ZZZZZ
IWDEE is so good you won’t be able to stop playing even for a sleep. So, no “ZZZZ”. It gives an absolute immunity to sleep, I should say. An impressive level of work has been put into this game. Beamdog have done it!
would say, with IWDEE Beamdog have made something abundantly clear – that they can release a thoroughly polished product with which gamers will have a blast.