Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Decade Of Icewind Dale: A Whale's Tale

I had a bit of an epiphany this past week at the beach.  It was Friday, our last day at the Waalkes Cottage.  After spending 8 hours everyday, give or take an hour, playing only Icewind Dale II my back and leg hurt and I was getting pretty severe headaches.  On Friday around hour 5, I started thinking.  What is going on here?  Why am I still trying to beat this after 10 years?  What is it about this game that I love and hate all at once?  Is this worth it?  I then went outside and sat on the beach with my parents for a good hour.  It had a weird feel to it.  Icewind Dale II is a good game but as Tommy once said its my White Whale.

Icewind Dale II is by no means a bad game.  It runs on the same Infinity Engine as Icewind Dale I, Baldur's Gate I and II, and Planescape Torment.  All incredible old school RPGs following the D&D ruleset.  It was the last in the line of the Infinity Engine games. Therefore it was the most aesthetically pleasing and elegant of all the games.  BG I and II were engrossing, with expansive worlds.  The IWD games were very linear though.  Basically more cerebral versions of Diablo.  "Go here.  Kill these guys. Come back. Get your reward. Repeat."  Not bad but not great either.

I was pretty hooked on BG when my friend in high school told me I should try IWD1.  Which I enjoyed and beat quickly after buying it.  That's why I was sort of excited about it's sequel.  I bought it when it came out in 2002 and started playing, making it to chapter 3 of 6 before becoming extremely frustrated.  The first two chapters had been decently fun but the second half of chapter 3 was just plan stupid.  Basically its a sort of maze and you have to run all over and step and fetch.  Among other things, the AI of your characters is very crappy at walking around.  You click at one spot and the character basically walks all the way over the other end of the map without looking back.  So I quit playing.

I ended up starting again when I was in college, deleting half the stuff of my 9.3 GB laptop just to make room.  I suffered through the maze and made it to chapter 4!  Bam! Another Maze.  This time even longer and more confusing.  I quit again and eventually came back to it.  This has happened every year or so since 2002.

Which brings me to 2012.  I figured I'd be at the beach for a week so I may as well take a few days and finally wrap it up.  Close that chapter of my gaming life.  It'd be glorious beating it on the same laptop I had started on but it slowly became a chore, which then slowly became my full-time job.  My parents expressed concern that I wasn't doing anything but play the game.  I tried telling them everything I've said so far but they of course did not understand.  I basically only stopped to eat, sleep, and maybe watch a little TV before bed.  But once again after all this, after making it farther than ever all the way to chapter 6, I quit.

I think IWD2 is unbeatable, at least for me it is.  I don't know why it took me so long to realize it.  I always used to feel bad when I didn't like a novel and had to put it down part way through.  Maybe where games and books are concerned, its okay to quit when they stop being enjoyable and start being something you have to finish.  Isn't the point of games to be entertaining? You don't necessarily have to complete every single thing you st