These D&D classic games which originally existed back in 1999 and 2000 respectively have been resurrected by Beamdog and published by Skybound Games. As with the Baldur’s Gate series they delivered these games for the console market to enjoy. These two games which were originally developed by Black Isle Studios were always credited for their great storytelling and bringing a visual experience to D&D fans who previously had to rely on their imagination.
Both titles play from an isometric view of the action, with you taking control of between one and 6 people in a party to take on the adventure. They still have the same graphical charm of their original release but clearly upscaled for modern wide style screens. The transfer to the console is extremely smooth and with all the games and their expansions all in one place and not spread out on multiple discs, there will be relief among the original fans who in the past had to keep swapping discs for different maps and parts of the game. They have also brought back the same background music and voice acting from the originals which may have some new lines, but it doesn’t take long before the music loops or characters repeat the same stock phrases.
Icewind Dale starts you in the snowy town of Easthaven, where you will pick up the basics of the game like communicating to the other townsfolk to understand the lore and problems threatening them. You also pick up a few side quests to build up your experience and learn the combat system which is based on a D&D dice roll system. You eventually discover that the troubling unnaturally cold weather is coming from an evil presence. You set out on an expedition to find investigate the evil presence that is causing the concern. You eventually uncover a troubling evil being amassing an army to threaten the lands of Icewind Dale. This threat comes full circle back to Easthaven where a portal to a hell where demons reside was sealed long ago by a shaman called Jerrod who sacrificed himself to seal it. The evil demon is looking to reopen the portal and bring forth an army of demons and it’s up to you to stop them. This package also comes with the Heart of Winter expansion to extend the story further for more value.
Planescape Torment has a different vibe from the other D&D games. This game starts with you waking up in a mortuary as the nameless one. You are greeted by a floating skull named Morte who offers you assistance throughout the game – starting with helping you escape the Mortuary. After finding a ghost of your former lover and with Morte reading the tattoos inked on your back, you realise you need to seek out a man called Pharod when you escape the Mortuary for more answers on your past. The story then begins to unfold about how you became to be immortal and why you keep ending up in the mortuary when you die and you soon realise although it feels like groundhog day you realise that you cannot escape your destiny.
As with the other games in the D&D series, Icewind Dale allows you to either go with a pre-set team or you can customise your team to suit your own desire. You can create up to 6 characters based off Tolkien style lore where you can create a team with humans, elves, dwarves and halflings with their various abilities. They can be fighters, paladins, rogues and so much more. You can also choose their alignment, which in some way is their political view. All these customisation along with the standard stats of strength, dexterity and luck, for example, will affect the way you play the game or how NPC’s react to you. Planescape, however, is slightly different as you only play as the nameless one to start off with and you can direct your protagonist into the class you want by how you play the game and the stats you choose to increase.
The combat in both games does play in the same way as the Baldur’s Gate games also released on Xbox One. It can get very tactical and complex depending on the difficulty level you choose. In Icewind Dale you can set the difficulty to an easier setting, so your team become invulnerable which allows you to just rush through the enemy and enjoy the story of the game. Or you can set the game to a very high difficulty, and you will want to control every single action your team performs as it could be the difference between life and death. On some difficulties, once someone in your team does die, they cannot be resurrected for that added realism and to make sure you take combat very seriously. Planescape Torment, although similar in controls and combat style, you cannot set the game difficulty so low that you become invulnerable. This is because dying in the game is part of the game and doesn’t end in a game over but instead returns you back to the mortuary. But when you do take control of the combat you can really take control of every action your team does. You can choose just to attack with their current weapon, perform a skill if their class has one, perform a spell for the magic-based characters or you can use consumable items like potions or scrolls to battle your way through the fight.
The controls in both games make use of the controller very well. You can choose between moving the team with the analogue stick which is a quicker and more fluid way to move. Or you can use the original layout where you use the controller to move a cursor to and press the button to click an area to move the party to that location or interact with an object. Or once you get used to both control types you will want to flick between both layouts as both styles have their pros and cons in certain sections of the games.
These D&D classic games rely so heavily on their storytelling and combat styles and they have aged very well. Both stories are deep and gripping and the combat is just the right level of complex to keep it interesting. The graphics and cutscenes do show their age but for near 20-year-old games, they can still hold their own as must-haves for RPG fans.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.