The Bard's Tale

aka: Bingcheng Zhuanqi, The Bard's Tale (2004), The Bard's Tale ARPG, The Bard's Tale: Opowiesci Barda, The Bard's Tale: Remastered and Resnarkled, The Bard's Tale: Song of the Bard
Moby ID: 15800
PlayStation 2 Specs
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Description official descriptions

The Bard is a cynical, opportunistic musician who roams the country in search of carnal pleasures. However, this impatient and selfish fellow is compelled to accept the greatest quest of his life: save the princess Caleigh from a demonic cult that has kidnapped her. The unlikely hero must now explore the land in search of the princess, accompanied by the omnipresent Narrator who obviously can't stand the Bard and uses every opportunity to sarcastically comment on his actions. Furthermore, Fionnaoch, the mysterious abductor of the princess, does everything he can to stop the Bard, sending his minions after him.

A self-proclaimed "quest for coin and cleavage", The Bard's Tale is an action RPG that is more of a whimsical take on role-playing games than a remake of the classic series. As the Bard, players can fight off hordes of foes with blade and bow, and summon companions through magical Bard Songs. Leveling up allows the player to raise the character's main attributes and invest specialization points in the different types of weapons he can use. Magical companions must be sought out and then summoned during battles. After being summoned, they act pretty much like AI-controlled party members; some of them specialize in physical attacks and offensive spells, while others can heal the hero.

During conversations the player can choose "nice" or "snarky" responses for the protagonist. While mostly used for humorous effect, some of these responses may affect subsequent events. The game uses the Dark Alliance engine and has a similar camera and control scheme.

Spellings

  • Похождения Барда - Russian spelling
  • 冰城传奇 - Simplified Chinese spelling
  • 新冰城傳奇 - Traditional Chinese spelling

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Credits (PlayStation 2 version)

137 People (128 developers, 9 thanks) · View all

Original Concept and Design
Creative Director
Executive Producer
Art Director
Director Engineering
Lead Designer
VP Operations
Senior Artist
Character Designer
Environmetal Design
Animation
Additional Art
Senior Engineers
Engineer
AI Engineer
Additional Engineering
Lead Scriptor
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Game Design and Writing
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 74% (based on 51 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 77 ratings with 5 reviews)

Even mediocre endings don't lower the game's black "humour" level

The Good
I liked the game's "humour". It is mostly black, but it appears everywhere. All the dialogues, songs and approaches to solve the problem are full of it.

The game is 'rogue'-like RPG. It may even be described as a Diablo-clone, but it has many simplifications to make it closer to action/arcade. Such simplifications are good, in the meaning of such a game type.

One of simplifications is the ability only to buy items in store, but not to sell them. How is that good, you may ask? The good thing is the ability to sell the looted items automatically, if they are worse than items currently worn. Most of the items aren't used by the Bard in any way, so they are sold immediately.

Controls in the game are also very well designed. You may simply hit an opponent with a weapon by clicking on the button, or use a special ability of the weapon holding the button for a certain period of time. Simplified, but very useful.

The Bard's musical instrument is used to summon different allies in human-like form or in form of creatures. Such allies may simply help the Bard in combat killing enemies, while the Bard is smoking around, or open certain unlockable door with their unique abilities. Each ally is unique and combination of 16 allies allows to build tactics in combats.

With his level rising, the Bard may use different kinds of weapons and each of them has different influence on the enemies. Variation of the melee and range weapons also gave some sort of freedom.

There are many secret areas in the game. Such areas may be unlocked either performing certain wish or simply buying the map to such an area. But maps sometimes cost much money, and they can't be afforded by the Bard. So kill more enemies, loot more items, and buy the maps as fast as possible, because some events may occur in the game unexpectedly that untwist the plot cardinally, and ability to buy such maps may be lost as well as access to certain secret (or side-quest) areas.

During the game, the Bard collects the Tokens that increases his stats, but much of them may be taken only following the certain way in conversations or policy. Almost all useful items are hidden in chests or stumps, and it is tasks of the player to find and open them. They all are unlocked. Such simplification is also welcoming.

Conversations suppose the style of the Bard, and it is task of player to choose either to be snarky or good in tongue. Not always good style is useful, and it allows the player to be on his own.

The game is full of songs performed by game participants and may be used in Karaoke system to revive the memories.

The game is linear in general, at least in its plot, and you always come finally to the ending point, where you should choose one of three options to finish the game. All of them may be tried, but none of them is good to be real ending, though.

The Bad
First of all, I didn't like the movie sequences. I'm not sure that all platforms use such sequences, but Windows platform uses Windows Media Files (WMF) to play introduction, 3 endings, logos, etc. The quality of such movies are below all the possible standards for the period of time the game was released. I was very wondered that such movies exist in Low and High Quality formats. It seems that High Quality format was made for 640x400 resolution or lower, so I don't even mention Low Q. one. While the game may be played in 1280x1024 resolution, and the quality of the in-game engine is satisfactory, you do not have any desire to play the game to see the endings. They are awful in the terms of video quality.

The second thing is the content of the endings. I will not describe what they are about, but I may say that I did not play such a great game to see such mediocre endings. Any of them does not satisfy my expectations. So if you want to play, just don't expect to see something special in the end.

The third thing is game view. It is generally top-down, but in-game animations allow the camera to move in 3rd person view. Why the game does not allow this? It seems that some difficulties was encountered by game developers to prevent the player to have such a pleasure.

The Bottom Line
The game is not an RPG, it is mostly slash action with RPG elements. It includes underrated black "humour", many fights, songs for Karaoke, and twisted plot. The game relies mostly on its plot and style than on replayability in self-generated dungeons. There are three game endings of low quality, but the game should be played for the gameflow not for the result. It should be played by fans of mid 80s RPGs, may be played by fans of Diablo-clones, and should be at least looked at by all the players not indifferent to games with "humour" in its different kinds.

Windows · by POMAH (66436) · 2009

Right Script and Acting, Wrong Game

The Good
Just to let you know, if you are familiar with the original Bard's Tale series which was 1st person perspective RPG in the 1980's, well this Bard's Tale has nothing to do with that unfortunately. So if you’re a big fan of the series, you just got suckered...like me.

Most old-skool RPG fans were waiting for this game to come out only because of its title. This little marketing scheme may have disappointed many hardcore fans of the series. Something I propose publishers never do again: Promote a false Messiah.

Anyway, back to the game. Bard's Tale, curiously enough is exactly was the title say's it is. A tale of a Bard. The bard is you and considering the time period, bard's are practically tricksters and scoundrels with the wit and charm of barmaids always fall far...at least until she's taken advantaged or she's missing a few coins.

And so we have the tale of our Bard. A handsome fellow...a little rough behind the edges...maybe a lot rough behind the edges, has the tongue of a snake and most impressively can steal a maidens virginity before she realizes it’s gone! A little dramatic by my part, but our hero bard is everything every man at one point in his life wanted to be...but wasn't allowed by certain figures in society. Ahem.

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Now if you’re expecting this game to be an RPG, then you may be a little disappointed. Unfortunately for you RPG fans, this the game's genre follow this sequence :

  1. Adventure
  2. Action
  3. RPG

So if your an action adventure fan or a hack-and-slash RPG fan, then this may be up your alley. For hardcore RPG fans, this game however lacks fundamental elements an old skool RPG has, but we'll discuss that later.

<hr />

The difference this game has to offer refers to the Bard's skills. Our bard is practically a Fighter/Mage/Ranger/Thief. As traditional RPG bard's are, a Jack-of-Trades. A little bit of everything, none too good, none too bad.

Now the "magic" part refers to his bard abilities to play tunes or songs. When played, the magical notes create a spell. May it be a bonus to your character, but more interesting, the capability to summon monsters or NPCs to aid your bard. Depending on your charisma, you can summon a maximum of 4 (four) monsters to aid you in battle.

But what I like most in this game is something I totally did not expect: Good acting and good storytelling (well the storytelling got lame later on, but the first few hours were pretty good – especially the pub song). Now the voice acting (and whoever wrote it was genius!). I'm always a fan for intelligent sarcastic type-dialogs, since all those "serious-type" acting does get to be boring and repetitive after a while. The acting in this game is a breath of fresh and funny air in my gaming experience, since not many if not almost no RPGs have ever had a "serious approach to humor" before in there games.

The main actors of this game comprise of two individuals. Firstly, you the Bard - who has this pessimistic and opportunistic tone and idea of life. And the Storyteller, who doesn't seem to like the Bard one bit as if he has a gun...or crossbow aimed at his head if he didn't continue to tell the story. I love the fact that there are many scenes where the Bard and the Storyteller keep fighting among themselves, totally out of context of the game, which probably is a very refreshing diversion from all that monster-bashing. I don't recall playing a game where half of the time I was laughing...

Needless to say, the acting introduced in this game, to my subjective opinion is the best elements of the game. An approach which I have rarely seen in games and would really like to see more with this type of acting involved.

The Bad
Now from an RPG point of view for you RPG lovers out there, this game is a serious insult to the genre. If I didn't know any better, they'd should have dropped the RPG part in the first place, because seriously, it technically wouldn't made much difference.

Why? Simple little things like character development, which is minimal. But the most insulting trait to a hardcore RPG gamer is the elimination of an inventory and complex items.

My God, what have they done? This isn't an RPG, its an adventure game wanting to be an RPG! That's right boys and girls, you don't have an inventory. Well you do, but its automatic...similar to what you would normally find in action-adventure games.

Now the problem isn't that the game doesn't have much of an inventory, character development, and other stuff you'd find. It's because of one thing: the title.

It's called Bard's Tale. If you want to use a name that already has a reputation, in this case of being one of the best darn RPG series in the RPG classic world of gaming, then people you'd better live up to it or get trashing from the fans. Most of us already condemn this game just because of the title. Hey, we were really expecting a Bard's Tale sequel here you maggots! Don't blame us if we spit on your grave!

The Bottom Line
If it weren't for the splendid voice acting, I would give this game a good trashing it really deserves. A rare exception.

PlayStation 2 · by Indra was here (20767) · 2007

Playing a "music man" is pretty darned refreshing, not to mention hilarious!

The Good
Rogues, pirates, scoundrels, womanizers .. ya gotta love 'em. The world would be a boring place without them. Look at the smash hit movie Pirates of the Caribbean and tell me that's not the case! The comical parts of that movie (and its sequel) remind me very much of this game.

It's been a very, very, very, very long time since I played the original The Bard's Tale games, so digging deep into grey matter to find an inkling of remembrance is necessary. I do recall those being part of my first role playing experiences and that I was able to finish all 3. Somehow I know I liked them and it was a thrill to be able to install and play them on a modern Windows XP system from my new Bard's Tale CD. (It only took me about 10 minutes for me to uninstall them .. but they'll play.)

The new Bard's Tale game takes place in a fictional world that reminds one of rowdy ole England (although I think our bard's voice is Australian). There are pubs where drunkards get sloshed and sing happily in slurred voices and wenches serve brew, rustic dwellings in towns with cobble-stoned streets or mere dirt. And, of course, there are monsters we've never seen the likes of before plus humans (both good and evil) inhabiting the lands. It's mystery and mayhem, deceit and treachery, magic and dungeon trampling - all rolled into a bundle with comedy wrapped around it like a pretty bow.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty, what can you expect as far as gameplay is concerned? This single-player game uses a combination of keyboard and mouse. The mouse is used for moving around, changing camera angles, etc. Use keyboard commands (customizable) to access menus, change weapons and for summoning party members. Yes, I said Summoning! With a punch of a few keys you can bring forth companions to journey with you. Early on, only one will accompany you, but more become possible as you learn more "songs" and gain experience. Towards the end of my game, I had 5 people in my party (out of the 16 available). If they die .. who cares! They're not "real" people .. can't carry any equipment for you .. you can't talk to them .. and you can always re-summon them if they get diced. (Sometimes, though, certain party members do respond (talk) during cut-scenes. Interesting.)

Back to gameplay .. I would consider the game to be a Role-playing/Adventure game .. not an Action/Adventure because there's no jumping or climbing or sleuthing possible. As a role-player, you build up your tolerances and "skills" as you and your party kill off things, advancing your stats gradually. As an adventure .. well maybe that's a stretch because there are no puzzles like you'd find in the adventure genre.

I've always hated games with specific save points, which this game has .. but the spots in this game are intuitively placed so there's not a great deal of doing things over if you fail to kill that something-or-other, or get zapped unexpectedly by a laser beam.

There's no inventory as we're used to seeing. In fact, you don't even accumulate extra weapons or armor. When you go into a shop, the only things possible to buy are better than what you already have. Wow .. no more guesswork as to what armor is the best, which to keep and which to sell .. no encumberment problems .. not even arrows need to be bought for your bows. Ingenious! That frees you up to concentrate on questing and advancing the story.

Speaking of the plot, it's a good one with a final twist at the end that you don't expect. (All 3 of the multiple-endings are worth playing through, btw.) At first, as you're getting to know the controls, there seems no point to the game except doing errands for the townsfolk. But, when you're finally able to get outta town and are in the midst of a real quest, you bump right into the main objective of the game .. save a damsel in distress .. rescue the love of your life .. a Princess!

Terrence Bosky's review of the PS2 version of this game mentions that it is "combat-intensive", and that's true .. but I enjoyed 90% of it in my Windows version. I liked the gameplay, the music, the voice-acting, the plot .. and especially the "snarkiness" of the Bard. Many times I was laughing out loud .. sometimes to the point of tears!

The Bad
I didn't think the graphics were all that great .. good, yes .. but not exceptional. Cut-scenes (with the close-ups) were the best.

The narrator, although he had funny moments too, became irritating at times.

The mapping system was rather lame. The most important view appeared right in the middle of your screen. Although faded so you could see what was going on with your characters, it still obscured my point of view. I would've liked being able to add labels (notes) to the maps too so I could remember, for instance, where the weapons shop was located when I returned to a town.

A quest for coin and cleavage? Coin maybe .. Carnage for sure .. but you won't find loads of busty women anywhere. Several yes .. but not as many as the company blurbs suggest.

The Bottom Line
My experience with The Bard's Tale was thoroughly enjoyable.

The game is not so huge that you can't finish it in, say, a month's time. There are ways to extend the gameplay with extra, non-essential quests too if you wish.

As I mentioned above, there are multiple endings, each of which provides an alternate scenario as to the outcome of the Bard. Me? I like him - just the way he is - sarcastic, a little short tempered, with a snappy wit that keeps you laughing - smart and somewhat handsome. I hope they make a sequel!

Windows · by Jeanne (75973) · 2006

[ View all 5 player reviews ]

Trivia

Extras

The Polish version contains the first three Bard's Tale games as a bonus, just like the US one, but apparently unlike any other European release.

Information also contributed by JRK

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Terrence Bosky.

PS Vita, PlayStation 4 added by mars_rulez. Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows Apps added by Kam1Kaz3NL77. OnLive added by firefang9212. Ouya, iPad, Macintosh, Android, iPhone, BlackBerry added by Kabushi. Linux added by Iggi. Windows added by Jeanne.

Additional contributors: Unicorn Lynx, Jeanne, JRK, Sciere, Cigam, Stratege, Paulus18950, Patrick Bregger, Plok.

Game added December 9, 2004. Last modified February 26, 2024.