The bard is a simple man, after a bit of coin in his pocket, a good meal and perhaps a chat to the barmaid. Little does he know that a bit of rat disposal at the local inn would lead to so much trouble. Soon the fate of the world and of the Princess will be on his very reluctant shoulders.
The Bard's Tale is a single character action role playing game. He may be a loner, but he isn't lonely since he can summon creatures using his magic. Plus there are many characters he will need to talk to during the game, and number of areas he'll need to explore.
There are two real highlights to the game which make it worth playing. The first is the character dialogue. The Bard (voiced by Cary Elwes) and the Narrator (Tony Jay) do a good job bringing their characters to life. The Narrator isn't fond of the Bard and frequently voices his opinion on the matter. "I'm glad that's over. I never want to read another bloody word about that bard." The Bard has the Narrator to talk to along with the other characters. The other highlight are the musical numbers. In particular the Trows performing the favourite "It's bad luck to be you" which has a number of verses about The Chosen.
Building the character is simple enough. You don't select a class, sex or alignment, that is all pre-determined. You do get to decide if you want an easy, difficult or medium game. This determines attribute points and how many save points you'll find in the game. You have a few points you can allocate to attributes to the Bard. You may select one new skill for the Bard to learn.
The main controls of the game are simple enough to learn. A left click uses your current weapon. Right click to move the bard around the screen. The numbers 1 to 4 each bring up a menu (alternate weapons, melee weapons, summoning menu and artifact menu). Each of those menus have up to four choices and each of those have up to four choices. A simple system that works well though I have been known to forget which menu is which in the heat of combat.
Character creation and advance have also been simplified. You have no classes to choose from, and only a limited number of points to use when he can level up. The only magic for your character in the game is summoning creatures with music.
Bard's Tale removes some of the typical roleplaying elements from the game. You don't decide on a character or class, your main character will be the Bard. There is no inventory management. If you find or buy an item better than your current equipment, it will automatically replace the current equipment. If it isn't useful or better then the current equipment of the bard, it is immediately sold for cash. There is no explanation of how the bard can cash things in while deep in a dungeon, but he does.
Explore thoroughly. Many of the chests hiding in far flung corners of the dungeons are the ones that have new tunes, new weapons or better valuables then average. The automap function can be quite helpful working out where you should explore. In dungeon areas, the Trapfinder not only finds traps but secret passages that you will not find without him.
The Bard has a choice between being snarky or nice to people during conversation. Remember, some people will react better to one or the other. The difference can make life easier or harder for our hero.
To unlock the game Extras, you need to make large donations to priests. It was a bit of a puzzle when they unlock to me for some time.
Animations can be painfully slow at the lower end of the recommended configurations. If you do have a good graphics card and computer RAM, this shouldn't be a problem.
The World map is an interesting idea, but not very well executed. The bard moves extremely slowly across the screen and it's frustrating when a monster wandering the map catches up to him.
I never did really like the camera angle in the game. I did get used to it, but I never really liked it.
An ageeable game with some features that would make it particularly good for someone new to role playing games in general. The humour, voices and songs are truly outstanding though the roleplaying part of the game is fairly standard slash and hack. No real gore involved, but plenty of death.
Final tally for the game 4 stars of 5.
The game for the PC includes a copy of the original Bard's Tale series. Now I played the series through, many years ago (think Commodore 64/128) and was quite fond of it at the time. It's a turned based rpg with a set of up to 6 characters. I installed and tested the first game for about 2 minutes. Nice to have a copy of the old games but I doubt very much that the style would appeal to modern gamers.
Sometimes when the Bard dies, he mutters "Inconceivable" a word frequently used in Princess Bride.
The shopkeepers lovingly describing their wares for sale is really well done and makes you wonder why more games don't use the technique.