REVIEW: Planescape: Torment & Icewind Dale - Enhanced Editions

October 31, 2019
REVIEW: Planescape: Torment & Icewind Dale - Enhanced Editions

For the past few years, or maybe decades, players have been offered chewed up titles that are basically taking your hand and leading you through the experience. Colorful tutorials are everywhere for lazy players to grasp what is actually happening on the screen and which buttons they need to press. Because of this, the games completely lost the mystery, while the players were denied the opportunity to explore and understand the game on their terms. We forgot what it’s like to unpack something new, unfamiliar, something you’ve chosen based on the cover you saw. Now it’s all neatly served on the plate, the player is there only to sit and consume the game as he was told he should.

Fortunately, from time to time, a game will appear and remind us of how good the gaming industry can be, how it isn’t poisoned by all sorts of false idols and ideas. Not too long ago, we got The Outer Worlds, which perfectly replicates all that is forgotten and neglected in RPG games, Divinity: Original Sin 2 for consoles blew me away a few months ago. No matter how good these new games are, although much better than some "lead by the hand" titles, they can't conjure the magic that radiated from every RPG title in the late 1990s.

1

Not too long ago, a group of people from Beamdog decided to remaster some of the biggest PC hits from the late 1990s and early 2000s. Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights, Planescape: Torment and games as such got their "new" versions adapted for new computers several years ago. We were pleased even more by the news that the same team was preparing to deliver exactly the same hardcore RPG experience on consoles.

I almost didn’t believe it, since the player has to use the entire keyboard because of the complexity of those games, not just a couple of buttons as is the case on consoles. However, the solutions some developers have found for their modern RPGs could be used for these titles as well, so these games have found their place under the sun on all current consoles, including the Nintendo Switch.

2

Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment make one bundle, while the other has Baldur's Gate 1 and 2. Playing on the Switch has several advantages, but just as many disadvantages. It's amazing that we can play these games on the go, and they required "those" computers twenty years ago, but this console has several problems just because it’s portable. A game that relies on storytelling and exploration just can't get the best possible results on a small screen. All this is fascinating, but that fascination loses momentum when you need to read the half page of a text to start a side quest, or just start any conversation.

Another drawback of this platform is the lack of touch controls, the tiny screen, menus that are too complex for new players... It would be much easier if things could be dragged on the screen. Of course, I understand that this is due to the lack of touch screens on other consoles, but the lack of such controls is a disappointment. That tiny screen does have some advantages though, such as not being able to see all the pixelated flaws that were visible on the original. Yes, remasers or Enhanced versions do have better models and backgrounds, but the flaws that exist are basically invisible. Switch is a great platform to play these games, but only if your eye vision is absolutely perfect.

3

Icewind Dale

Icewind Dale begins with the story of Jared, a shaman who sacrificed himself to save Icewind Dale. You and your party arrive a little later when he meets the leader of the town in Eastheaven, Hrothgar. He invites the adventurers to explore the city of Kuldahar, where some rather strange things are happening. It is up to you to get to the root of the problem, discover what it is about and see what kind of story you will be drawn to in Icewind Dale.

You can make your hero at the beginning of the game, but unlike modern RPG games, everything is up to your decision. To understand what attribute, skill, race, class, or what nature of your character will be, you simply have to read absolutely everything on screen, think about how you would like to play this type of game, what you’ll need for an adventure like this, and create a character by these criteria. In other words, this game makes you to mentally engage with everything that happens on the screen in order to know what to do next.

Making a character can take hours, because you never know what you’ll need during the adventure. The next “problem” appears when you see that you can, but don’t have to, customize five more members of your group. Of course you can always take pre-made characters, but they may not have the attributes you’ll need. It may not be the class or character type that’ll make up for your flaws and weaknesses, both in conversations and in gameplay. From the very beginning, every player can see that this will be a long experience, but above all, unforgettable, fantastic and absolutely unique.

4

Icewind Dale just doesn't forgive any gameplay mistakes, that's why you can pause before every fight and every move, so you can think about what your next move is going to be and plan who will do what and how to protect yourself. In addition, in every battle you must keep in mind the fact that every character in your small but selected group can die, of course, there are ways you can revive them. Everything is absolutely up to you, how to get going, how to explore, how to play, how to end a game. That is the beauty of these games, absolute freedom at every turn. This is a game that doesn't have limitations and a system that rewards your hard work and knowledge every time you do something worthwhile.

In his game you can easily invest a hundred hours since each side quest seems to be a main one, with tons of reading, discussions with characters, and thinking about what to do next. Add to that the old D&D 2nd Edition system in which the game was created, and you will have days and days to explore and enjoy this amazing fantasy world.

There is also a Story Mode for players who don’t want challenges in front of them but prefer to enjoy a good and complex story. In this mode your characters are almost indestructible, you don’t have to worry whether or not your companions will die, but simply enjoy a perfectly written story and getting to know the characters that are in it.

5

Planescape: Torment

Now let’s talk about another game in this bundle, Planescape: Torment. The main difference to Icewind Dale is that this is not a standard D&D world, but a mix of D&D rules and storytelling hat is fascinating in every way. Icewind Dale has this serious vibe, while Planescape: Torment is absolutely crazy. You assume the role of The Nameless One, an immortal person that “died” and wakes up in the morgue.

The very fact that you “died” is questionable at the beginning, because you absolutely don’t know what is happening to you. Fragments of a past life are intertwined with the thoughts of the monster you have become, and it is up to you to discover what is happening in this fantastic world that defies the rules of the living. Unlike Icewind Dale, you play with only one character, and throughout the game you can gather characters who might want to help you. At the very beginning, there’s Morty that helps you escape the morgue.

Another difference that distinguishes this game from other RPG games of this age is that it has absolutely no tutorials. Morty explains how things work along the way and it's literally the only help you'll get. Later, it is up to you to understand how the obscure system works, what’s the easiest way to navigate through the inventory, and what each of the items does.

6

Planescape: Torment has a distinctive graphic style and it makes the game look even better on the small screen. However, the flaws that appear in Icewind Dale are unfortunately present in this title as well - a text that’s too small and the lack of touch controls for easier navigation. The solutions Beamdog came up with to make up for the lack of a keyboard is fantastic, just maybe a little too slow at times, but you can always pause when you need to plan your next move.

It is good to note that both games are absolutely ruthless to the new players, some might say they’re too difficult. Not only are they not user friendly, they will torture and harass you until you just get used to the game systems.

Final Impressions

This bundle of two great old-school RPGs has survived the test of time, both games are still very playable today. Graphically they are not mind-blowing, but the quality is there. These games just can't get old and be forgotten. Every person who calls themselves a gamer must play, or at least try to play one of these titles in their life, because simply, they are worth it and from me they get 8/10.