Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition Switch review carries on from our Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Editions Switch review and may touch upon a few aspects previously stated there. Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment are two isometric RPGs that are fundamentally based on the cultural phenomenon Dungeon & Dragons. Icewind Dale follows the story of a band of travellers on a grand quest, whereas Planescape: Torment takes a more personal approach with the story focussed on a main character initially referred to as the ‘Nameless One’. However as it has been approximate 20 years since these games’ releases, just how well do they hold up?
Much like the original Baldur’s Gate games, the combat in Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment is based on 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. If you’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons before, I wouldn’t stress too much; while the statistics are based around the tabletop game, the combat itself is relatively straightforward, closer resembling an automated turn-based RPG. Throughout combat, you are encouraged to pause so that you can plan out your next moves, otherwise it will play out automatically and somewhat monotonously. To fully embrace what the games have to offer (and if you ever want a chance at winning in harder difficulties), you’ll want to befriend that pause option and meticulously plan out your attacks. This is the kicker to these games: you’ll get out from them as much as you put into them, meaning that if you take your time, speak to NPCs, undertake side quests and put effort into planning out your parties equipment and abilities, you’ll get a much more rewarding experience.
The controls and UI in Icewind Dale can be cumbersome and unintuitive. Being an old 3D PC game, the engine hasn’t aged particularly well, even despite it being an enhanced edition. The character movements are stiff and the menu UI and cursor movements poorly adapts to controller inputs. Planescape: Torment differs with much smoother character controls and a menu/inventory system that works to the players advantage. It still is missing touchscreen controls which would have made inventory management much easier, but we take what we can get.
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Instantly, it’s clear to see that more thought has gone into Icewind Dale’s world design than the original two Baldur’s Gate entries. The towns are organised like a town actually would be, the open areas don’t have random mountains that get you stuck all the time and the dungeon layouts have thought and planning to them.
In Planescape: Torment, I found it very difficult to navigate through each area to the point where I was stuck at the very beginning of the game for an entire hour. I conceded and looked up a walkthrough, only to find that this is a very common issue and many players have given up with the game before even continuing. Despite how discouraging that was, I pressed on and while I can say that it does get better, I wouldn’t say by much.
Icewind Dale’s plot and its progression is at a smooth and even pace with a generous amount of plot twists. The voice acting is not as cringeworthy (I only cringed once or twice) and the dialogue is much less cliche. The same can also be said about Planescape: Torment’s plot and its progression, but it arguably has more substance. Icewind Dale’s plot takes a more cliche approach of one party being chosen to save the world, whereas Planescape: Torment contains a more personal story that centres around the morality and mortality of a single individual. However at the end of the day, it will always come down to personal preference and how much you choose to explore your surroundings.
Graphics / Art Direction
Icewind Dale uses the same engine as the original two Baldur’s Gate entries, so there’s not too much to say there aside from it looking quite outdated by modern standards. The enhanced editions help to smooth out the rough edges, but there were many times where I found it difficult to piece together what I was looking at and the dull colours made it feel bland and unexciting. Lastly in dark areas and dungeons, I couldn’t quite make out where I was going, so my TV/Switch’s brightness settings were constantly being adjusted.
Planescape: Torment uses a different graphical structure than the previously mentioned entries, but it all inherently looks the same. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing and with the enhanced edition, fine details that would’ve been difficult to make out are made a lot clearer, but the opinion still stands on the aesthetic not ageing particularly well. For those that grew up with PC RPGs and topdown real-time strategy (RTS) games, this may instead invoke a feeling of nostalgia but in 2019, it all just comes off as grainy and lifeless.
Quick tip: the text in Planescape: Torment is tiny by default as it seems to have had little alterations during the porting process from PC to consoles. It’s manageable in TV mode, but you’re going to need a magnifying in handheld mode… or not, as you can adjust the text size in the game’s setting. I recommend doing that.
Music / Sound Design
The soundtracks resemble epic fantasies that you would expect in any fantasy RPG. Nothing catchy; nothing noteworthy; nothing special – it does the job and that’s about it.
The voice acting has dramatically improved in both Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment from Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2. The characters actually have believable personalities and the sound effects have power behind them. It all just makes the games feel that much more believable.
Final Score: 70%
While this may be sacrilege to some, I would be more inclined to say that Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment are inherently better games than the original two Baldur’s Gate entries. The series seemed to have learned from their shortcomings and the plots are much more engaging, taking both grand and personal touches respectively. The Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 2 Enhanced Edition is great for nostalgic and historic purposes, but Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment seem to have been that natural progression for the series.
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