Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale have made their way onto Nintendo Switch in their definitive “Enhanced Edition” forms, bringing the classic PC role-playing games to a Nintendo console for the first time. Containing the Heart of Winter and Trials of the Luremaster expansions from Icewind Dale and additional cut content and console-specific upgrades, you have an all-around complete package to work with.
Being pillars of PC gaming’s history, do these titles offer all the positives console players have heard, or is there something lost in translation?
Both titles are narrative-driven RPGs that have you working within the Dungeons & Dragons systems of combat and adventure. You fight monsters of all varieties, and helping townsfolk on side quests is a common pastime while also pursuing your overall goal. The gameplay loop should be familiar from modern RPGs and CRPGs, as these games formed the basis of said loop.
In Planescape: Torment, you play as ‘The Nameless One’, a zombified corpse that comes to life in a hellscape known as Sigil, with actual Hell right around the corner. As you discover the reason behind why you are there and how you got there, you take a deep dive into morality, life, and death. Being the more story-based title between the two, you’re able to hold conversations where most can be resolved with selected dialogue choices. There’s also an alignment system that changes your reputation based on the way you react to the many situations at hand. Be nice to people, or be a complete jerk; it’s your call.
Icewind Dale is more closely related to Diablo than the traditional story-heavy RPGs from Black Isle Studios. Although you have the same full-length quests and story beats, this title is more of a dungeon crawler than a straight RPG, as loot gathering and monster-slaying come to the forefront. As you work through this frozen tundra, you end up fighting for both your life and the life of your party.
Both games have been masterfully ported over to console with changes to controls and UI that really help an old-school PC game make sense on a controller. You have the ability to manoeuvre with a cursor on the screen, as is the usual fix, but you can also use “Drive Mode”, which tasks the party of heroes to your left analogue stick, allowing for modern traversal. This, along with assigning the menus to radial wheels controlled by the left and right bumpers, allows for these games to play nicely on a controller. Considering that adapted controls are an issue that has plagued PC-to-console ports for a long time, the fact that the developers have engineered this dust-laden engine to function with an all-new control scheme is something to truly appreciate.
Graphically, each entry shows its age for sure, but with some minor visual upgrades and performance free of hiccups, there isn’t much more you can ask for outside of a full remaster. Visuals are grainy but, all things considered, these are still ports of 20-year-old games after all. The nostalgia of this old feel blurred my sensibilities on the matter.
For those who are fond of the days of yesteryear, as well as those who partake in their own paper-and-pencil gaming sessions, you may find something here you can’t get enough of. However, for those new to this style of game, you may find yourself frustrated by the slow gameplay and ageing aesthetic.
Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale: Enhanced Editions £39.99
Once you get past the dated graphics, slow RPG gameplay, and wonky (but improved) PC-to-console controls, you will find one of the better stories available to you in gaming in each of these titles. A worthy place for fans of the original releases to return, as well as for those paper-and-pencil gaming aficionados.