STAFF REVIEW of Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition (Xbox One)

Thursday, December 12, 2019.
by Brent Roberts

Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition Box art Hot on the heels of the groundbreaking Baldur's Gate I & II Enhanced Editions, Beamdog is at it again bringing the spectacular world of D&D to life in both Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale, and both releases are getting the "Enhanced Edition" treatment. Both games offer you a top down view that we all have come to love, but there are some dramatic differences between the two games. This means that there are some new tweaks and changes, but is this going to be enough to deliver a quality gaming experience, or should we retire these titles to the oblivion of the past?

I say the past because these games both came out around the turn of the century when many of you who may be reading this now weren't even born yet. Back in the gaming days of old, game developers needed to keep people playing their games even without DLC to purchase. They did that by making their games incredibly challenging, and we find that tradition hasn't been broken in this bundled release, also offering options for gamers to experience the game utilizing real D&D 2nd Edition rulesets. Without question, one of the largest innovations relating to difficulty to come from this new release has to be the Story mode difficulty in Icewind Dale, which actually eliminates the chance for your character to perish. Think of this as the ultimate easy mode for those who wish to enjoy the story of the game itself.

In Planescape: Torment however, you may wish for that ease of difficulty. Planescape opens with a classic computer-generated introduction movie that sets the stage for your character who wakes from certain death with amnesia and can't remember things such as, who they are, how they got there or whom put them there. Utilizing the guide at the beginning that happens to be a talking skull named Morte, you'll be guided through the walkthrough and then you and your team will be diving into the story which unfolds as you experience some of the best quality writing that can be found in a RPG.

Planescape: Torment's graphics don't appear to be as dynamic as Icewind, or even Baldur's Gate, so out of all the recent D&D releases, this one stands out as the weakest graphically, but the real downfall of this game involves the combat itself. With the hidden roll system determining your fate, there are numerous times when you think your character will easily defeat an enemy, only to suffer mortal wounds as your blows miss wildly and yet, somehow, the opponents you face don't seem to be so unlucky. This type of imbalance isn't found in Icewind and is a dynamic contrast in gameplay that may not have aged so well. That isn't though to say that there's no joy to be found though.

With what could be argued as one of the most dynamic storylines ever written, the audio that blankets this game comes to life by the dialogue that is presented throughout the game itself. While the combat may be challenging and the graphics on the mediocre side, it goes a long way that the audio of this game actually does more for the delivery of the story than anything else. These details are very apparent as well when you start talking about who should join your party and jumping into their histories. The level of detail far exceeds what we will see on most modern-day games today and highlights something that seems to have been lost over the ages; quality storytelling.

The companion title to Planescape: Torment is Icewind Dale, and as stated earlier, offers a little bit easier setting for those who wish to just pick up and jump right in. This is also where you will find a more traditional D&D experience with character creation, party creation and so forth. The gameplay does offer some areas to explore, but for the most part, gamers will find themselves more along a predetermined pathway with the core focus being combat. Already graphically better than Planescape, Icewind Dale tells the story of Jerrod who makes the typical ultra-hero move and sacrifices himself to save the land from an army of evil creatures, and then picks up the story right with your party.

While Icewind Dale packs a tremendous amount of new content, the biggest inclusion has to be cross platform multiplayer. Yes, you read that correctly. Now you can play with other people on other platforms right on your Xbox One! In today's world when we have games that come out that don't offer multiplayer even on the same platform, to offer this on a game that came out back at the turn of the century is pretty amazing and should sound an alarm to all developers that if a game that is almost 2 decades old can do this, so can they.

There are a couple of gripes though that I must touch on. First, in Icewind Dale, the combat can become so hectic at times that it's not uncommon for you to lose all objectivity within the battle. This makes party management absolutely critical and can make you more than dependent upon the ability to pause, survey the action going on and then queue up commands. The next issue is shared amongst both titles, and that is the menu system. While both share a similar menu system, both are equally cumbersome and derail a lot of momentum that the game itself builds for the audience. While these may seem like small issues, when you take into account how often you'll be trying to navigate the menu systems or pausing to direct the combat and make sure you don't lose your grip on the battle, they rapidly become pretty large over time.

Despite these faults, Beamdog has done something that, until it was released, was only a myth. With the release of Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale: Enhanced Editions, Beamdog has once again delivered an experience that will last well over 200 hours combined and produce stories that will captivate your imagination and leave you spellbound. What would normally cost you $49.99 is currently on sale and can be found for only $29.99, which makes this release from Beamdog a must have for anyone who is a fan of RPG games.

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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