Icewind Dale was announced on September 5, 1999 and was released on June 29, 2000. Below are some features of the game.
Icewind Dale is nestled in the far-north of the Forgotten Realms and was made famous by the exploits of Drizzt Do'Urden in R.A. Salvatore's novel, The Crystal Shard. Black Isle Studios has chosen to develop a new game in this setting using an enhanced version of Baldur's Gate's Infinity Engine. Icewind Dale is a separate game from the Baldur's Gate series and characters cannot be transferred between the two games.
The very linear plot of Icewind Dale is unrelated to the story of Baldur's Gate and is not centered upon a single protagonist. Instead, you create the entire party at the beginning of the game or can choose a premade party. You may have a party of 1-6 characters. For multiplayer games, each player creates their own character(s), which, because of the lack of a protagonist, will be more independent. They are trying to make it so that you can change your party leader, the spokesman, whenever you wish. This should provide new dialogue options based on that characters alignment, race, sex, class, intelligence, wisdom and charisma. You should be able to introduce new party members anywhere you can save/rest. The character creation method is the same as Baldur's Gate and no new races or classes are being introduced. Through the course of adventuring, the characters will be able to advance to 14-18th level as the experience cap is currently 1,801,000. Racial level limits will not be imposed.
Icewind Dale is expected to provide 60-80 hours of gameplay. The emphasis is on dungeon exploration, although an extensive story is planned to tie all the events together and provide significance and purpose. As the Producer, Chris Parker, put it, "There is less open and random exploration in Icewind Dale as most of the dialogs and quests relate back to the main story - and the main story drives the player throughout the entire game." There will be multiple simultaneous plot lines, numerous side quests including some that are race-, class- or alignment-specific; and your actions will have repercussions on future encounters. The primary story will be biased towards those choosing to do good deeds, however, evil characters will still have many options. The designers have been giving Against the Giants and Tomb of Horrors as examples of AD&D modules which are most similar to their approach in Icewind Dale.
There are to be twelve distinct adventuring areas featuring around fifty levels of dungeons. The dungeons will vary in size and design, ranging from cramped hallways to large caverns in varied environments. Your quest takes you through everything from 'standard' dungeons and steamy, wet volcanic areas to glacial monuments, ancient elven ruins and a dwarven citadel. Some will have puzzles, some will have traps, some will have situational puzzles, but all dungeons will have lots of monsters. These dungeons will be scattered around the Icewind Dale area including the Ten Towns and the Spine of the World mountain range. Four or five towns will be depicted with two being relatively large, although considerably smaller than the city of Baldur's Gate. One of these towns is Easthaven, where you begin the game. It will act as a tutorial to get people familiar with playing Icewind Dale.
The gods Tempus and Ilmater will feature heavily in the story. Tempus is the Chaotic Neutral god of war and combat. He is an extremely popular god among the barbarian tribes of Icewind Dale. Ilmater is the god of suffering and endurance. He is a patient, kind god whom many people pray to in times of crisis and hardship.
As you create all your characters, NPCs will not become members of your party like in Baldur's Gate. Some NPCs will join and follow your party as part of the plot, but you will not be able to control their actions. Black Isle plans to improve the dialog system to provide greater depth of choices and consequences. NPCs will often have there own agenda but your actions and reputation may entice them to divulge new information or sell you items. Because of the game's timeline, you will not run into Icewind Dale's famous residents Drizzt, Wulfgar or Artemis.
Other features not already mentioned above include:
- There are about 180 spells in the game. All the spells will be redone with more flashy effects and characters will be able to cast up to 7th level. Spells now occur instantaneously after casting so fireballs can't be dodged.
- Running has not been introduced but walking speed has been increased.
- Pathfinding has been improved including when parties move into a selected formation.
- More animation of backgrounds.
- Improved tracking of quests received and finished in the journal.
- Resurrection will be easier and more accessible.
- Treasure for many monsters will have a random component. Magic items and treasure from quest-related foes will be static.
- Better monster AI including the ability to patrol.
- Monsters can be up to 22 feet tall due to increase of animations up to 255 x 255 pixels.
- Many new magic items.
- The inventory screen paperdolls will be redone.
- A rest until healed button has been added to the main screen.
- New character portraits for players, most likely featuring a full body image for the character sheet and head shot for the main screen.
- Some 3D acceleration support using Open GL to smooth fogging effects, improve lighting and speed up drawing.
- More default voice sets although the format will remain the same so all available custom sounds and portraits from Baldur's Gate can still be used.
- No expansion pack is currently planned although the plotline will not not be closed at the end of the game.
- Additional racial bonuses have been added.
- Area maps will be larger as they will only be reduced to 1/6 size instead of 1/8.
- Ammunition will be less common to balance out the missile weapon advantage.
- No Ankheg armor, but other creatures exoskeletons could be used to make armor.
- In dialogue, the paladin's protection from evil aura will occasionally come up in conversation. Evil characters feel uncomfortable in the aura, so they might make comments about it and/or move away from the paladin by ending coversation.
- It should be possible to customize your biography in the character record.
- A greater variety of weapons. No Holy Avenger for the paladin although their will likely be some special item for them.
- Weapon proficiency groups will likely be subdivided into smaller catergories or individual weapons.
- Over 100 unique magic items which will be randomized on bosses and mini-bosses.
- To steamline the dialog, only the text said by the characters will be shown. Dialog will not contain descriptive text or actions like in Planescape: Torment.
- Some dialog will be based on the race of the speaker or the listener. For instance, one NPC really dislikes dwarves.
- There will also be different dialogue options based on alignment, sex, class, and race. They don't always have a direct effect on the conversation, but they frequently do. They also can affect the outcome of certain situations.
- As there is much less dialog in Icewind Dale, reputation is only used to determine when paladins and rangers fall from grace. Donation to a church is simply an act of kindness.
- Game takes place in DR 1281, the Year of the Cold Soul, sixteen years before Drizzt is first recorded (current year is DR 1375).
- The amount of voice-overs will be increased for player characters (the protagonist in BG had 20-25 lines, while NPCs had 41). Fewer people that can be met will have spoken lines.
- Rangers will get an additional attack per round with the weapon equipped in the first slot to simulate dual-wielding.
- To improve travel between areas, you may uncover new external entrances to dungeons you did not find before.
- There will be 23 or 24 voice sets recorded.
- Jeremy Soule will compose the music for Icewind Dale. His previous credits include the music for Total Annihilation.
- The music cues for Icewind Dale will be story-based, instead of area-based.
- An option has been added that allows the character to get maximum hit points at each level instead of rolling for it.
The following have not changed from Baldur's Gate, primarily because they are focusing on content instead of altering the games' engine. Characters will not be able to wield two weapons simultaneously. Few changes are planned to avatars used to represent the characters and no additional character colouring will be added. The characters will be the same size as in Baldur's Gate and no mounts such as horses will be introduced. The inventory screens will work like the improved version from Tales of the Sword Coast. The screen resolution will remain restricted to 640x480 and the interface will be similar to Baldur's Gate although with a different graphic look. Weapons will not cause different damage versus large creatures. None of the following will be introduced: spell components, aimed shots, non-weapon proficiences, owning real estate, spell research or magic item creation. The game will still use 2nd edition AD&D rules. Finally, as with Baldur's Gate, the fifteen editors used to make the game will not be released, and an interactive demo and public beta testing are unlikely.