Before releasing Saturday morning cartoon roguelike Mythforce, developer Beamdog made its name remastering BioWare and Black Isle RPGs like the OG Baldur's Gates. But there was always one that got away: Icewind Dale 2. Though an official remaster remains impossible for reasons I'll get to, modding group Red Chimera has produced their own take on an Icewind Dale 2 Enhanced Edition.
Back in 2014, Beamdog CEO Trent Oster (formerly of BioWare) claimed that "nightmares abound " in remastering Icewind Dale 2 on the company's Infinity Plus engine, and in 2017 he ruled it out entirely.
Somewhere along the line, in the great morass of Interplay shuttering and the rights shuffling between Atari and Wizards of the Coast, Icewind Dale 2's source code just slipped away. Maybe it's still on some dusty old Western Digital hard disk in a filing cabinet in Irvine, but barring a thrift shop miracle, it seems gone for good.
Enter the Red Chimera Group, whose name sounds like one of the corporations that kept hiring me in Armored Core 6. Their project is not an Infinity Plus engine conversion like the official Beamdog EEs (that'd require the source code). Instead, it introduces numerous quality of life changes, 110 new spells, 170 new magic items, 30 new feats, makes various NPCs recruitable for your party, and bundles in a widescreen patch for good measure.
Setup is simple—just copying the mod files to your Icewind Dale 2 install directory and running setup-iw2ee.exe. Similar to other 2.5D RPGs with pre-rendered backgrounds of the era, you don't want to set the resolution too high, as the game screen and UI will just zoom out to accommodate, making everything too small to parse—1280x720 is a good sweet spot for modern 16:9 monitors.
As a note, the Red Chimera Group does mention IW2EE turning up antivirus false positives, and I experienced this myself. I don't believe that this multi-year effort was all a ploy to target hapless CRPG lovers with a simple trojan, though, and Beamdog itself has highlighted the team's work. We've also run into similar antivirus false positives with other CRPG mod projects like the Arcanum Multiverse Edition.
Ultimately, this is the best Icewind Dale 2 Enhanced Edition we could hope for, unless of course a former Black Isle hand miraculously finds that source code rolling around in the footwells of their car. It's always a good time to revisit the Infinity Engine classics, doubly so if this banner year for RPGs has put The Hunger in you.