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Video Game: Icewind Dale

aka: Icewind Dale II
Icewind Dale is a pair of games set in the Forgotten Realms and made by Black Isle Studios using the Infinity Engine. As you may guess from the title, they occur primarily in the Icewind Dale region, a windy, snowing valley in an area called the Ten Towns in the Spine of the World mountain, far to the north of towns like Neverwinter and Luskan.

The first game starts off in the humble fishing village of Easthaven, where your party has Jumped at the Call of adventure to accompany the hunter Hrothgar to Kuldahar, a village settled in the soothing warmth of a gigantic oak tree that lately has been getting a bit too chilly. As you investigate the source of this, it turns out that the tree's vanishing warmth is part of a larger plot between two warring Eldritch Abominations seeking to seize control of the region. The second game picks up thirty years later and similarly starts off with the village of Targos being beset by goblin attacks, and leads into a plot about an army of monsters preparing to conquer the region.

Interestingly, Icewind Dale (and its sequel) has the player create an entire party (rather than one character), lending the games more of a dungeon crawl theme than Black Isle's previous Infinity Engine titles Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment. Plot is sparse, but not shoehorned in; rather, the game is written in such a way that the player can follow the plot as tightly as he desires, or ignore it entirely in favor of some quick monster-bashing.

Both games have been rereleased for current Windows operating systems on GOG.com. Beamdog Studios have announced an Enhanced Edition of the first game, released on October 30, 2014.


Both games provide examples of:

  • All in a Row: The party has several tactical formations options, including follow the leader. Life saving at several points in II.
  • All-Star Cast: The voicing acting credits include Tony Jay, Michael Bell, Jim Cummings, Tara Strong, and John Kassir aka The Cryptkeeper. And that's just the first game's major characters.
  • An Axe to Grind: Unlike Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale has two-handed axes.
  • An Economy Is You
  • Anti-Human Alliance: The forces the player fights in II.
  • Artifact of Doom: Crenshinibon, taken from The Icewind Dale Trilogy.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Oh, so very much so. When not controlling your party members, they will seeming randomly attack whatever enemy. When moving the party in a group, they will try to stay in whatever formation you have them in. This leads to a bumper car effect as the party member start bumping into each other due to Chokepoint Geography. The characters will eventually go the opposite way simply because they can. Often this lead to unnecessary deaths.
  • Attract Mode: If you sit there long enough the Player Party will complain about it
  • Badass Baritone: Kresselack, voiced by Tony Jay, combines this with Barbarian Hero, Warrior Prince, The Caligula and Black Knight in the first game. Also, your character can also have this kind of voice, supplied by none other than Tony Jay himself. Playing a boisterous barbarian warrior, no less.
  • Battle Theme Music: See above
  • Bears Are Bad News: Those darn dire bears swarming you in that tiny werejackal cave.
  • Character Customization: Can lead to Alt-itis as you have to make up to six.
  • Chokepoint Geography: It helps to know the Artificial Stupidity. Nothing like a Fireball on a narrow bridge to take out multiple enemies. However, due the above bumping, enemies can suddenly appear out of the Fog of War behind you.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Nym the Drow merchant, who single-handedly caused the fall of an ancient Elf/Dwarf alliance out of greed, gives you information about an alternative travel route so you'll have an easier time defeating an army that's hampering his business and then readily sells you out to them just because he could.
  • Cosmic Keystone: The Heartstone Gem and Crenshinibon.
  • Dialogue Tree
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Set in the Forgotten Realms setting, with all the associated tropes one would expect including, but not limited to:
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Hrothgar is rather unceremoniously killed off in a cutscene after the first chapter. A reportedly famed elven adventurer in the inn in Easthaven can later be found dead in a cave—approaching his body triggers a boulder trap, explaining how he died.
  • Elite Mooks: The Spectre Guards that creep in Maluradek's castle. In the sequel, the Slayer Knights of Xvim. They wear full-plate mails and carry Greatswords of the Soulless. The knights also double as Praetorian Guards.
  • Elves VS Dwarves: Explained in the Severed Hand's back story in both games. Both races initially forged an alliance and successfully to fend off invading Orcs. This lasted many years until a theft of magical weapons broke their alliance into deep hatred of each others.
  • Flunky Boss: Every end boss love this trope. Belhifet is flanked with two iron Golem. Icasaracht is backed-up with Sahuagin. The Luremaster has Spectre Heroes. Isair and Madae has a demon knight, a chimera, a wizard, Drows and other nasty creatures.
  • Form-Fitting Wardrobe/Cleavage Window: On female armor, in the character sprites. In the character sprites, leather armor will conform to a female warrior's bust, which not only risks deflecting weapons at the face but is well-designed to guide weapons towards the heart. Also, it may not be steel, but it's still put a wedge of hard material right against the sternum, which probably isn't any fun to take a blow on.(This is hardened boiled leather, mind you, not supple worked leather). Metal armor is even worse; in addition to boob cups the entire area above the cleavage is left exposed.
  • Grail in the Garbage: Pale Justice, the game's best sword, found on the corpse of a hapless adventurer in Dorn's Deep. Its inventory icon is the same as that of a regular longsword, and shopkeepers will buy or sell it for a pittance.
  • Harder Than Hard: The Heart of Fury mode in both games.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Saablic Tan was one of Big Bad's lieutenant until he got thrown out and turned into a umber hulk. He helps the party and regret the terrible things he did in the past.
  • Horny Vikings: The Uthgardt and Reghed tribes in the game's backstory are pretty much this. A lot of the available portraits of the game also seek to encourage you to be like this.
    • You can purchase a Bardic Horn of Valhalla from a merchant in Kuldahar. Even its icon appears like a Viking war-horn.
    • Also, the Face of Death helmet's icon look likes a Viking helmet (a real one, mind you), it is also a Reghed artifact.
    • Honestly, this game is set in the harsh north of Faerun, and is populated by people who have names like "Hrothgar".
  • Idle Animation
  • Ingame Novel: It's how both stories are told.
  • Karma Houdini: See Chronic Backstabbing Disorder above. Hope you're not expecting to get back at Nym.
  • Lawful Stupid: Paladins and Monks will routinely refuse rewards. Kinda pushes Evil Pays Better.
    • Or just have another party member claim the reward. Which is just another kind of Lawful Stupid, come to think of it...
  • Load-Bearing Boss
  • Monster Shaped Mountain: The dungeon of Dragon's Eye is much in the shape of a dragon's head, hence the name.
  • Numbered Sequels
  • The Ogre
  • One-Man Army: Technically six, but nevertheless, your party in both games plows through entire armies in their quests.
    • In the first game, the two opposing demon armies of Yxunomei and Belhifet never quite get the chance to duke it out simply because the group infiltrates Yxunomei's stronghold and slaughters the entire army in small-scale room-by-room battles, all to get a MacGuffin that would point them towards Belhifet's stronghold, where they proceed to do the same. It gets better when considering that nobody around actually had any idea that the demons so much as existed, and the party goes to both locations following a partially unrelated investigation.
    • The struggle against the Legion of the Chimera is what the whole story is about. Predictably enough, you end up solving the entire thing by yourselves.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: The class choice of a solo option in Targos.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger
  • Our Wights Are Different
  • Pausable Realtime
  • Point-and-Click Map
  • Point of No Return: Painfully with Oswald in the second. Happens multiple times in both games. Basically, when you are told to go over the pass or to Kuldahar, you can pretty much count on it.
  • Proper Lady: Ginafae, a loving and kind lady.
  • RPGs Equal Combat
    • Minor subversion occurs in the first game when confronted by the first bone dancer in the main tomb in the Vale of Shadows. You'll get EXP if you try to reason with the skeleton and avoid a fight. Of course right after you finish talking to it, you go right ahead and kill it anyways.
  • Spiritual Successor: Neverwinter Nights 2's second Expansion Pack Storm of Zehir is a lot like IWD in many respects: less plot, more dungeon-crawling, construction of a full party from scratch. Helps that they were made by many of the same people.
  • Statistically Speaking
  • Stereotype Flip: Ginafae in both games. She's a Drow elf, a member of a cruel and evil elven race, and yet, she's kind, loving and caring to people close to her.
  • Stop Poking Me
  • Suffer The Slings: Includes magical slings and magical/bonus ammunition! A good way to ensure your wizards and healers don't just sit back and remain useless when not casting spells.
  • With This Herring: While the adventuring band in both games is presumed to be mostly inexperienced, one has to question what in the world all twelve were thinking when they decided to head to one of the most inhospitable regions of Faerun, the second band explicitly to work as mercenaries, with nothing but a bunch of quarterstaves.
  • You No Take Candle: Lesser species such as Goblins, Orcs, and Ogres, speak in this manner.

The first game provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: The exact reason why Kuldahar's tree is cooling down is only glossed over (if mentioned at all), as by the time you get to the point you can discover the cause there's much more important things to be concerned with.
  • Artifact of Doom: Crenshinibon. Even the Big Bad can't completely control it in the end.
  • Captain Obvious: There are many objects in the scenery that you can examine by clicking on them. The appearing text will tell you most of the time exactly what you already see (see a winged statue with stretched hands? 'This is a winged statue with its hands stretched')
  • Chekhov's Army: Don't pay much attention to Hrothgar. Now, everyone else is Easthaven...
  • Chekhov's Gun: Yeah, all that stuff the priest in Easthaven says about Jerod's Stone? Totally not important.
  • Creepy Child: Yxunomei's human form.
  • Dem Bones: You'll encounter a lot of them. In the sequel, not as much.
  • End of an Age: Icasaracht mourns the death of her once proud dragon culture at the hands of man. She joined forces with Wylfdene out of sympathy for the similar plight of the barbarians.
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Luremaster
  • Evil Is Hammy: Poquelin in the Final Battle.
  • Excalibur in the Rust: Pale Justice
  • Fan Remake: Using the modding toolset from Neverwinter Nights 2, available here.
  • Flaming Sword: IWD has several examples of this as a random treasure, not the least of which is the Flaming Long Sword +2.
    • A certain NPC in Dragon's Eye also carries this weapon, provided you don't mind killing him to get it.
  • Genius Bruiser: Kresselack was a barbarian king, so he was most likely a strong person in life. He's also clever enough to trick you into helping him without lying.
  • Godiva Hair: The Seer. She's also completely naked in the arctic and 70 something years old.
  • Harping On About Harpies
  • Haunted Castle: The Severed Hand, Upper Dorn's Deep and Maluradek's castle.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Both as backstory and in the ending
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Kresselack is voiced by Tony Jay, who also played the Big Bad in Planescape Torment.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Ginafae truly believes that her lover Marketh is a good person, despite having been abused by him several times. Several of Marketh's other enslaved and mutilated victims would like to disagree.
  • Large Ham: Belhifet, specifically his human incarnation, Poquelin.
  • Manual Leader, AI Party: The game gives the player the option of letting their party be controlled by AI (although micromanaging them is a better option during boss fights).
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The Heartstone gem.
  • Narrator All Along: The man telling your story is first thought to be a common omniscient narrator, until the ending cinematic where his calm and serene voice suddenly turns hateful and he reveals that he is Belhifet himself.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The Heart of Winter trailer narrates "She is the spirit of one who died in the North long ago." with footage of an old woman. This is then followed by captions "Something wicked chills the heart of Icewind Dale" complete with dramatic music, implying the old lady is responsible for the evils in the North. In the game however, the 'she' actually refer to a huge female white dragon, while the old lady helps the party of adventurers.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: At one point, you are sent to investigate a series of crypts to find out if they are cause of the problems plaguing Kuldahar. After killing everything and reaching their master, Kresselack, you find out that not only is he is not involved at all, but you just destroyed the only defense between him and an ice priestess who wishes to plunge his tomb into darkness.
    • Another quest has you going to Dragon's Eye to retrieve the Heartstone Gem from Yxunomei. After retrieving it and butchering yet another army, you later find out that Yxunomei was Belhifet's greatest rival and killing her removed the only hurdle in his quest for world domination. Considering that the Gem was needed to find Belhifet in the first place, you pretty much had no choice in the matter.
  • No Name Given: The Luremaster.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Icasaracht made her own unborn children into soulless vessels so that she could be reborn as a dragon again in case of death. Her mate — their father — naturally objected to this insane scheme, and she killed him. She blames the humans for this too.
  • Shout-Out: The Shadowed Orcs in the Severed Hand say "Zug Zug" when they attack, just as in Warcraft II.
    • The Razorvine Extract ("property of Mourns-For-Trees") is a nod to Planescape: Torment.
    • When asked about her gift of sight, the Gloomfrost Seer makes a cryptic reference to a "black-brambled garden", thus making her one of Ravel Puzzlewell's avatars.
    • Erevain's Journal mentions Xan from Baldur's Gate.
    • The elven bladesinger Lethias in the Severed Hand can sometimes be found muttering "The needs of the many...", a likely reference to Leonard Nimoy's Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
  • Teleport Spam: Belhifet and The Luremaster's favorite tactic.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: The party is confronted with a dilemma: kill Marketh, a cruel thief who works for the Big Bad and abuses his lover Ginafae among other things. Several of his victims will want you to deliver justice to him. However, doing so will doom Ginafae as she's been cursed with a geas. Only by sparing Marketh will the party be given the option of freeing her.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Belhifet during the end cinematic.
  • Woman Scorned: Icasaracht. From one point it seems like she had Aihonen's ancestor as a lover then later died because of him, thus invoking this trope. The other, and most likely case, is that she was just doing what dragons do and then came along the Hero Aihonen's Ancestor who then killed her, depriving her of everything she ever cherished.
    Seer - A woman knows a woman's heart, and a strange, beautiful, and cruel thing it is. But the cruelest of all is a heart of winter, for it beats not with love, but with loss, and *nothing* may comfort it.
    Seer - When a human heart breaks, it may heal and forgive. When a heart of winter breaks, it is like ice... it shatters and can never be made whole again.
    CHARNAME - Why does this... creature that's possessed Wylfdene... why does she want to destroy the Ten-Towns?
    Seer - Her heart was broken once by a man of the Ten-Towns. A *mighty* breaking it was, for in it she lost her kingdom, her love, and her life. Now, her heart beats with the vengeance of winter.
    CHARNAME - Surely she can be reasoned with. There is no need for war...
    Seer - A woman's fury is a terrible thing.

The second game provides examples of:

  • Badass Boast: Dreadmasters of Bane get a particularly nice one.
    Dreadmaster: Kneel before the Black Hand of Bane, or be destroyed where you stand.
  • Barefisted Monk: The PC can choose this class. You'll eventually run into the Black Raven monastery which are full of monks.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Ilmadia joins Belhifet's army in the first game so her elven ancestral home, the Severed Hand, would be restored to its former glory. She got her wish in the second game: she gave birth to Belhifet's children. 30 years later they rebuilt the Severed Hand, only it's now a haven for Red Wizards, slavers, demons, general outcasts, and the rebuilt tower is dedicated to the worship of Iyachtu Xvim.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Poor, poor Ilmadia. Just after she gave birth to demonic twins, she was so horrified that she threw herself off a cliff.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: An inversion. There is an axe that will always land hilt first.
  • Bonus Boss: Icewind Dale II has two of these, both within the same chapter. The first is a black dragon in the "Crossroads", which can be killed to close the teleport to Kuldahar. Players don't actually have to fight it, and can achieve their goal in a much easier way, but the difficulty of the battle alone makes it worth it for many players. The other boss is the Six Lost Followers, in the Kuldahar graveyard. This is regarded by many to be the hardest fight in the game, because A) there are six different enemies to fight at once, B) they are several levels higher than your party, and C) because each has only a few specific weaknesses, being immune to all other forms of attack, and with the weaknesses being different between each member. Victory gives the player the Holy Avenger, arguably the best weapon in the game. Unfortunately, this pisses off quite a few people itself, as the weapon can only be wielded by a Paladin, meaning that there is no reward for anyone without a Paladin in their party.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: The backstory of Ilmadia, Big Bad's mother.
  • Cloning Blues: It's been revealed that the mage Mavalon the party fought in the previous game was actually a clone gone insane.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Whoever happens to be writing your journal, and possibly whoever does the talking as well. Someone isn't taking this adventure seriously.
  • The Dragon: A literal dragon. Well, half 'a one anyway.
  • Driven to Villainy: Isair and Madae have very good reasons to be pissed at the world. They were mistaken for their foster mother's murderers by the townsfolk (they were just enacting burial rites after she died of natural causes). Then they were forced to flee to Luskan, where they had the bad luck of being adopted by the Host Tower of the Arcane Brotherhood, a cabal of evil wizards who exploited their powers. At one point they even tried going to the Lower Planes to act as mercenaries in the Blood War only to realize that they didn't even fit in with the devils, and they met their father only to be used and manipulated by him. Then they return to the upper planes and try to unite and civilize other ostracized outcasts into the Legion of the Chimera, and none of the nearby towns want anything to do with them. And then some smartass has the idea to send them cakes baked with holy water as a joke.
  • Exploding Barrels: The orcs love these. If you can sneak up on them to remove the Fog of War then you can sometimes explode the barrels yourself, kill the orcs, and cruise on through.
    • Alternatively, you can lure the orcs into the path of the barrels and watch them blow themselves up.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Oswald's airship is prone to crash-landing. You know he is prone to crashing. You've seen two crash sites by the second game. He even warns you it's very possible. A seer outright tells you he is going to crash. Still, you are unable to warn him about it and are just forced to get on the damn flying coffin anyhow, as being stranded in the middle of nowhere kick-starts your trip to the enemy stronghold.
  • Fairy Battle: Painfully subverted. Wisps are Fairies, but God do they hurt.
  • Final Boss Preview: Twice actually, once at the Legion of the Chimera's fortress you see The Dragon, and then at the Barbarian camp you meet Isair and Madae. They don't hang around, but do kill all the village guard and raise them as undead, which you have to fight.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: One half-dragon keeps a chimera as a pet named "Precious".
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The whole secret passage into the Legion of the Chimera base. The original game would lag so badly that it would take days to get through this area. A player patch fixes this.
    • Trugnuk, a mid-boss in Chapter 1, is an Orc Shaman with a nasty lightning spell. He's something of a glass cannon and not particularly difficult to deal with once you kill his guards, except that the game occasionally bugs out and allows his corpse to continue electrocuting your characters, roughly every two seconds. Thankfully the spell has a short range and you can still loot the key needed to continue off his body.
  • Get on the Boat: Well, technically off the boat first, then technically an airship.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Kath Soucie, who voiced Aerie in Baldur's Gate, is the voice of Narrator Maralie Fiddlebender.
    • Also, Jack Roth plays as Oswald Fiddlebender and the Male Bard voice. Who also voiced Jan Jensen in the aforementioned Baldur's Gate.
  • Hide Your Children: Subverted. The barbarian village has the children gone missing. A local sorceress stole their life force and turned them into minks, which the village hunts.
  • Holding Out for a Hero: The above village.
  • Inconveniently Placed Conveyor Belt: Stairs, actually.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Yes but, War-Bears? And they bear collars?
  • Infinity+1 Sword: You can follow a sidequest to retrieve Light of Cera Sumat, a holy avenger that only a paladin can yield. You just have to make it alive against six revived followers of Bane.
  • Interspecies Romance: The Legion of Chimera encourage this: Saablic Tan and Dracein. The former is a human Red Wizard and the latter a half-dragon. There's also a half-goblin who hooked up with, yet another half-dragon.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The opening scenario could belong in the Deconstructor Fleet. Nearly all the quests in the first town don't just parody computer RPGs in general, they actually specifically skewer quests in Black Isle RPGs. One character has basically no other purpose but as a lampshade salesman.
    • To drive the point home, after you defeat the initial Goblin raid on the docks, your character can comment on how surprising was it to get thrust right into action, as opposed to being walked through a series of meaningless small chat and fetch quests. Which is exactly what you go do AFTER the raid.
    • During the introduction you can come across a dead cat. Any experienced player would probably pick the thing up and keep it with him hoping it's be the solution to some quest and he'd get some easy experience. After solving the, err, "mystery" of how the cat died, the "culprit" asks you why the hells are you carrying a dead cat around, to which your response is that you were kind of hoping it'd be the solution to somebody's problem and that I could learn something from the experience. And sure enough, the cat's owner is wondering about what happened to it, and you can get 300 XP for bringing the carcass to her and telling her who the culprit is after you have obtained his confession.
      • If for some reason you carry the cat during the entire game, a Barghest Whelp near the end is squicked that you carried around a dead cat all this time and asks what the hell is wrong with you.
    • There's a barrel atop the wall just to the north of us. You might not be able to see it at the moment with that strange fog that comes up, but it's there.
  • Legion of Doom: The Legion of the Chimera made alliances with Kuldahar's enemies: the Yuan-ti of Dragon Eye and the Aurilites.
  • Let's Play: "Urggzob is TEN playthroughs!"
  • The Lost Woods: Fell Wood. Home to Will O' Wisps, Dark Treants, undead, traps.
  • Nerf: The druid spell Static Charge which shock all opponents in the room every round. In the sequel, it only shock one random monster per round.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the backstory, it's explained that a priestess from the previous game, Mother Egenia, buried EVERYONE that were killed in the first game. However, she resurrected Ilmadia, one of Big Bad's general's, out of sorrow. This led to the birth of Isair and Madae, the Big Bads for this game.
  • Shoplift and Die: By that one bi-lady who runs the shop in Targos. No wonder she was sent far away by the family.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Most obviously, you will find plenty of leftover stories and tales about the original party in Icewind Dale I.
    • Firtha Kedros mentions that in her dreams, she's seen visions of what is clearly meant to be Sigil, more noticeably ?a brambled garden, blacker than ink, and even goes as far as to unknowingly imply that she may be another of Ravel Puzzlewell's avatars. The latter was confirmed by Word of God.
    • A monk in the Black Raven monastery sells a book called How To Be An Adventurer. Its index titles, besides blatantly mocking pretty much the entirety of D&D and fantasy adventure as a whole, includes a peculiar entry under "Dungeons to Avoid Like the Crotch-Rot: Dominara the Erinyes Nine-Layered Brothel of Violent Emasculation (No Slating... Or Slaking... allowed)".
    • One random item found is "The Death Adder's Dragon-Shield". Its description matches story elements from Golden Axe and The Revenge of Death Adder.
    • One of the tombstones in the Kuldahar graveyard marks the resting place of "Kyanka, writer of humorous articles".
    • An NPC named Bisbe in the Severed Hand can be heard gleefully singing, "I hate you. You hate me. Xvim will kill society."
  • Spider People: Driders.
  • What the Hell, Player?: This can happen in Targos and can lead to an Unwinnable situation. See, you can pickpocket, but if you get caught then everyone attacks you. If you kill a plot related character?
  • When Trees Attack: Evil ents. Best way to rid of them is using fire.

Alternative Title(s):

Icewind Dale II