Sunday, July 27, 2014

Icewind Dale (Remake)

The Icewind Dale remake for Neverwinter Nights 2 will stay as the last NWN2 campaign I will play in a while. I finally got enough of the constant party rebuffing you have to do in order to survive. NWN2 is probably the worst of the D&D CRPGs in this regard, and this mod is no exception.

It is annoying how many similar (cleric) buff spells there are for each spell level; sometimes even more than one. And it is extremely difficult to tell how many of them actually stack with each other. But to be certain, I always cast all of them.

Excessive rebuffing or no, the campaign's difficulty felt largely the same as in the original Icewind Dale. The party had to rest after around the same number of encounters. The most difficult part was definitely the orc cave at the start of the game. I had to reload multiple times until I got through the fight in the middle.

The remake uses the strictest revive rules found in the NWN2 campaigns, i.e. party members going below 0 will continue losing health until they are at negative half of their max health, at which point they die. And every negative hit point has to be healed in order to get them back up. At least this was acknowledged by the modders and you are given two coins of life at the start to bring your dead guys back to life before you have access to resurrection spells. Storm of Zehir had the same thing, if I recall correctly.

The final showdown against Belhifet was somewhat easier than in IWD. Having the dispel effect make a caster level check instead of just straight up removing all buffs (like it does in IWD) certainly helped. I in fact thought that might be the case and buffed my party beforehand even though I knew there would be dispel magic. Belhifet is rather easy in IWD too, if you do the Heart of Winter areas first. The mod does not have the expansion in it, which is probably for the best -- I never liked it that much anyway.

The iron golems were bit more challenging than in the original game as per D&D 3rd edition rules they require adamantine weapons to bypass their damage reduction. The mod has basic crafting implemented, and I ended up using it surprisingly much. In addition to couple adamantine weapons, I crafted quite a few mithral armor pieces. The reduced weight, +2 to max dex bonus, and -1 to weight category make chain shirts and full plates quite useful. A mithral heavy shield also has no arcane casting penalty, which is optimal for a melee bard.

Porting 2nd edition magic items into 3rd can be tricky, but it is not an excuse for an item not doing anything. For instance, Lysan's cloak you get after returning from the Vale of Shadows seemed to have no effects whatsoever.

At least Pale Justice seemed to work like it is supposed to. The sword was one the reasons my party had a paladin (who I this time kept as pure class). As the healer I made a cleric for the first time in NWN2. I picked Sun as one of her domains. I reckoned improved undead turning would be handy, and it indeed was. Very powerful actually. Even the paladin's lesser turning was enough to stop many enemies on their tracks.

Like in Storm of Zehir, I again combined trap-handler and arcane caster into a sun elf rogue 1/wizard x. Traps were found in where I recalled them to be but the only locks I encountered were the cell doors in the Shattered Hand, which is odd. I wonder why the modders did not bother locking things up.

As the last party member (four characters is recommended, but you can go up to six) I made a bard to get Aihonen's blade. I guess I could have done without a permanent bard party member as you can replace them at any time. The songs were quite handy, although they probably would be even more effective with more people to buff.

Much to my liking, the campaign does not use the cinematic dialogue thing needlessly like Baldur's Gate Reloaded; only for the voice-acted ones. Otherwise the campaign uses the party conversation mode introduced in SoZ, which is nice for not missing the possible special dialogue options (that sometimes grant extra experience).

Overall the modders did good job with the remake, maybe even better than the guys behind BGR. It is not quite a professional production but definitely succeeds at its goal. Although again there is the question if one would be better off just playing the original game which does not have as troublesome party AI as NWN2 does.

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