Icewind Dale & Planescape Torment Xbox One review
Our Xbox One review of Icewind Dale & Planescape: Torment bundle.
3 games, 2 worlds, one thing in common… Dungeons & Dragons!
The team at Beamdog have bought together two classic games and an expansion pack, and bundled them into any D&D player’s perfect present. Based on D&D 2nd edition, the same as Baldur’s Gate, for the first time you can play these games on the Xbox One. Should you though?
Before we look at the games as individuals, let’s look at the bundle as a whole. Both of these games branched out from Baldur’s Gate, a fantasy game in the classic high-angled RPG format. They have been out on PC for over a decade, and both proved very popular in bygone times. Fantasy RPG games in this style do not make for mainstream games any more, visual technology has far surpassed it. That being said, as the surge in popularity for Dungeons & Dragons proves, there is always room for a comeback! Is this resurgence in D&D the reason for this bundle release, almost certainly. Do they offer a true D&D experience however, I am not convinced.
So let’s look at each game more closely. Planescape Torment is about the Nameless One’s attempt to rejoin the land of the living, and piecing together their memory. Sprawling through various Planes, you have to piece together the way back. There are Phantoms and zombies everywhere, a floating skull head that serves as a companion, all sorts of crazy NPCs, and some disturbing enemies to fight. It’s a lot of fun, and whilst it has much less combat than Icewind Dale, it is a lot darker.
The purists who have played previous versions of D&D will know this game is from the “Planescape Multiverse” which is a campaign setting. There is a temptation to just kill everything in sight. You can do that if you choose, but there’s fun side-quests wrapped up in a lot of the NPCs. Literally wrapped up in the case of one zombie you meet in the first Plane!
Planescape Torment plays as any other RPG. You assign character attribute points, level up, loot equipment and gain experience primarily through quest completion. The controls for Planescape are also nice and simple. As with all good conversions from PC to Xbox, the use of tactical pausing and game-wheels is done well. The use of Analogue Sticks and the ‘A’ button to move and interact is pretty seemless, and it’s difficult to mess anything up in terms of clicking wrong buttons etc.
All in all, Planescape Torment is a fun game, completed in a few hours. What cannot be ignored is the fact that this generation of gamers is not going to have a clue about this universe, even if they do play D&D.
The other game included in the bundle is Icewind Dale. You don’t just get the base-game however, you also get the expansion offering improvements and additions! Out of the two (three technically) Icewind Dale definitely feels more like a D&D game, with a collection of characters representing all D&D classes. The problem is you don’t get to choose these characters.
You start the game as a band of 6 adventurers, all travelling together. No backstory, no idea how they came together or who they are. All you know is that you are to go out and save the world… or something like that. Controlling 6 characters also comes with it’s own difficulties! Combat takes ages to make individual decisions (very important later in the game!). Even just moving around the map is a nightmare. When you enter combat time freezes, and you have to go assign each party member’s action. Later in the game there’s more options than space, and picking an enemy/ally you are targeting is cumbersome.
When combat finally ends, then you can move again. What is infuriating is that when you move, you only move one character. You can either switch one by one through the party on the screen, telling them where to go etc. or open a game-wheel with individual portraits and an option for All Party. It’s not the hardest thing in the world to do, I know, but the fact that you cannot click a button to select all 6 members of the party gets tiresome, quickly.
It’s also a nightmare trying to work out which character uses what, equipment wise. The character pages in the menu are just numbers and inventory slots, you have to essentially work out for yourself what the equipment improves. Thankfully the game very clearly tells you what you can equip from your inventory page to each character… what it doesn’t do is tell you anything when purchasing equipment! There’s a plethora of items for sale from uniquely interesting vendors, but there’s no way of finding out if the items you buy are actually any use to you or not!
There is a great story in Icewind Dale, one that is enhanced even more in the Heart of Winter expansion. However you have to really buy into the game and the narrative to be able to get past some very frustrating gameplay issues. Much more than Planescape, Icewind Dale feels like a PC game that hasn’t transitioned over well. That being said, you will once again meet and fall in love with a bunch of NPCs that you could only ever find in a D&D campaign. You get to adventure however you like and deal with a lot of morally ambiguous characters and scenarios. You kill LOTS of enemies as you travel around, and as time progresses, your characters all learn unique skills and spells that capture the essence of a D&D adventure. The problem is that takes a good 2 or 3 hours of gameplay to get there.
Now yes, I am personally not as sold on Icewind Dale as Planescape, even with all of the extra features that the Heart of Winter expansion offers, although it makes the gameplay a lot more interesting and challenging! That being said, if you are a Forgotten Realms fan, and played the classic Baldur’s Gate games, or if you have played either of the above on your PC back in 1999, and want to play them again on Xbox, then they will be great games for you.
For me personally when it comes to Dungeons & Dragons, I think I shall stick to tradition. A party of 6 friends, with my Volcano dice-set and my Tiefling fighter named Dreasmonde. He’s determined to kill Strahd with his very helpful Siri-sword named Daisy, and his Iron-Man style Kazan armour… all to impress the love of his life, Esmerelda!
Thanks to Renainsance PR for the review code!