Beamdog Studios has released an incredibly admirable attempt at taking two classic Black Isle Studios RPGs and moving them to console for the first time ever. While not everything works perfectly, it’s an achievement that they have managed to do this at all. It genuinely increased my enjoyment of two of the best RPGs ever released. Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment have never been better looking or more accessible than they are now. In fact, you have no excuse to not go back and play these wonderful games.
What’s interesting about this pack compared to some of the other games that Beamdog are re-releasing is that for the most part Icewind and Planescape are two very different games; independent from each other. Icewind Dale is a mostly linear and heavily combat focused experience, while Planescape: Torment is an open and heavily story focused tale. They offer a glimpse into two different sides of Black Isle Studios and I thought it was fascinating that they included them together, much to my enjoyment.
Both of them are top down party based CRPGs, released back in that genre’s golden age of the late ‘90s. These are often at times complex, heavily stat focused, DnD based experiences where the rules of DnD like saving throws and dice rolls determine the combat encounters. Essentially the learning curve for these games can be harsh. However the combat is also incredibly satisfying, as is the worldbuilding and dialogue; all are incredibly top notch.
Icewind Dale is the more traditional of the two: it follows the exploits of a character-created party of eight that explore the icy tundra region of Icewind Dale. It’s a more linear experience, and while there are open areas, it’s generally more straightforward than other Black Isle games. While the story is pretty fantasy standard, it’s serviceable. Combat is the focus in this game, and there are a huge amount of varied and engaging encounters. From a technical standpoint this game impresses the most – the console version looking absolutely gorgeous, and watching this decades old game running in widescreen on the Xbox One is a joy. Icewind Dale actually looks better than I remember.
Planescape is admittedly my favorite of the two games and I think it makes for the highlight of this pack. A much more narrative centered title, it might as well be an interactive book for there’s a volume’s worth of dialogue. However the story it tells is one of the deepest and most engaging tales to ever come out of the medium of video games. This is an experience about role playing, making a character with a personality and depth. The combat is not horrible, but it does certainly take a back seat when compared to Icewind Dale, mainly as it’s much less intricate or engaging. The visuals are not as impressive either and this is certainly a game that has aged pretty poorly.
A major problem that both of the titles suffer from is the translation of the menus; it’s often as times very clunky and not incredibly intuitive. It’s not an easy task to make menus made for mouse and keyboard work with a controller and its works well enough, however I would be lying if I said the teams behind it have knocked it out of the park. Often it can be frustrating regarding the amount of time that has to be spent in menus.
However in almost every other aspect technically this is a magnificent port. Both games run at a fantastic frame rate, both feature gorgeous widescreen, and sound is rich and accurate. I was having the time of my life playing these very old PC games on my Xbox just sitting on my couch, and even as someone who has completed both of these games before, I have enjoyed devouring them again with renewed interest and fun. This launch on console makes the gate to get into these wonderful experiences so much wider and I’m excited for a new generation of players trying these for the first time.
Beamdog has taken what seems like an impossible task and actually managed to do it with Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale: Enhanced Editions on Xbox One. It’s no small feat to get two gaming classics and be able to translate them to the home console, but they have done so with very little sacrifice. If you have never played these games before then this is a perfect excuse to jump in, and even if you have, you’ll still love what is found within.