Over the past few weeks (ok, ok, months... I'm slow at these things) I've been enjoying Icewind Dale as I await Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition to be released. I have to say, I *love* this game. The frozen north, the music, the landscapes, the sense of adventure, the creative license to craft an entire party and write their back stories, great voice acting from Hrothgar, to Kresselack the Black Wolf, to Yxunomei, to narration work done by Charles Emerson Winchester the Third (aka David Ogden Stiers).
I think this game has a more purely adventurous feel then Baldur's Gate. And I can honestly same sometimes I enjoy it more. I'm sure I'm in the minority there.
I honestly don't think it will happen... but I do hope that Icewind Dale will have a shot at an Enhanced Edition. I think it certainly deserves one.
I do think there's some things that could have made this game *better* then Baldur's Gate (you heard me!). I'm sure not all will agree, but here's my two cents on what could have been done differently:
1) More Content Between Dungeon Areas - Despite its strong points, the game had a plot train / perpetual dungeon-crawl feel. I would have personally loved if when you agreed to find the missing caravan for Hrothgar in Easthaven, that you had a larger area of land to scout out before locating it. Maybe a whole map region or two, with some of their own sub-plots or even clues to the evil that was beginning to plague the region. Additionally, how about some overland travel areas inbetween dungeon locations, ala Baldur's Gate? It's weird that I can march 3 days to Dragon's Eye and never get an encounter along the way -- The journey there should be half the adventure. This is the Spine of the World, isn't it?
2) Re-Worked Expansions - Trials of the Luremaster sucked. Why have an expansion that takes you *out* of Icewind Dale and the Spine of the World. It's such a vast area, the fact that you're teleported from the region for an adventure seemed like a cop-out to me. Additionally, while I liked some aspects of Heart of Winter, I thought the whole Barbarian seeing you in his dreams and coming to Kuldahar seemed forced. I would have preferred just an added map where you find adventure (ala the Sword Coast expansion in BG) rather than someone seeking you out as the "Chosen Ones".
3) More Content/Options for an Evil Party - Icewind Dale is geared for a good party, period. Sure there's a fair amount of items only usable by "non-good" characters, and some snarky dialog options, but that's about where it ends. Many times the narrator addresses your party as "Would-be Heroes". It makes playing non-good characters a non-plus. Address the party as Adventurers and drop the whole "Heroes of the Ten Towns" thing.
4) A Reduction of Conlan's Magical Item Inventory - I've said this in other posts and I'm sticking to it. This dude should be a king of a nation, not a blacksmith in Icewind Dale -- Look at his wealth! Put some of these items in random dungeons and *greatly* reduce his inventory. I know money needs to be a viable resource ( @Tanthalas
made a good point here on an early post about this very thing), but it still can be without so many magical trappings for sale here. Things are expensive enough as it is in the game. Which leads to my next point...
5) Make it a Bit Easier to Make Money - Don't eliminate the challenge, but money should come a bit easier than it does. Why do none of the goblins in the Kuldahar Pass drop any coin? Things like that always bothered me. If you added more content between dungeon areas, money of course would also likely be easier to come by.
6) Orrick's Ever-Changing Inventory - STOP IT.
7) Add Back Missing/Cut Content - @Camdawg
has done a great job of doing this with his "Unfinished Business" mod which I've just recently installed. Some of the content (especially the Paladin quest in Dorn's Deep) really adds to the game and helps flesh it out. Additionally, some of the items that are written for the game but are not obtainable in the game, are great. Bracers of AC 2 for a mage? Yes Please! Beats the AC 6 bracers you can get otherwise.
8) Get More Creative and Less Ridiculous With Items - I believe that people want items that are well thought through and interesting. For example, I'd much rather see a "Snow Maiden's Reaver" then a "Bastard Sword: +3 Incinerator". Why? Because of its backstory and name. Some of the items in Icewind Dale are just lacking in the creativity department (Long Sword of Action +4?). Additionally, the balance of some items was pretty bad. HoW made some changes here to try to balance this out, because they were VERY OP (Ring of the Warrior Thief was *ridiculous*).
9) The Random Treasure Debate - I admit, Random Treasure has grown on me. I think it can be tedious to get what you want, but it certainly makes each party a bit different and adds to replayability. I will pass on changes here.
10) More Weather Effects - Ok it probably doesn't rain in Icewind Dale, but how about some heavier snow - or maybe even near-white out Snowfall. That would have been cool.
There it is. My personal recipe to make Icewind Dale the better of the Infinity Engine games. It will never have the NPC banter, romances, or some of the unique and awesome things that make Baldur's Gate so great, but adding in your own creativity I think can make up for this a lot.
Sorry for the book - I'd also be interested to see other thoughts on what could have made IWD better.