The Bard's Tale
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Critic Reviews 73% add missing review
Game Chronicles (9 out of 10) (90%)
This is without a doubt one of the best RPG games I’ve played on the Xbox to date. It’s not as epic as KOTOR and your karma-building decisions aren’t as crucial to the gameplay, but this game packs in more humor and charm than anything I can remember. Whether you want to simply play a great adventure game or just laugh hysterically for a week or more of solid gaming, The Bard’s Tale is the perfect solution, and a game that I can’t recommend highly enough.Dec 12th, 2004 · Xbox · read review
GameLemon (8.6 out of 10) (86%)
For me the game delivered quite a few solid hours of fun and many moments of laugh-out-loud amusement. If you've read to this point, chances are that Bard's Tale will strike a pleasant note for you as well - pleasant enough to start out with a rental, at least. If Bard's Tale 2 ever happens, there is definitely potential for an emergence of new top-notch comedic game series that can stand proudly alongside classics of the genre, such as Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island. Toodaloo.Mar 26th, 2005 · Xbox · read review
GameZone (8.3 out of 10) (83%)
I know what you are thinking…“John, why should I play The Bard’s Tale and not Halo 2?” I’d like to make a stand that there are many titles sinking below radar because of the Halo 2 craze that deserve our attention. The Bard’s Tale is incredibly witty and creative, indicative when the CD cover instructs you to flip the disc over “for a really disturbing image” (though it took me a while to figure, I was horrified when I did). Though officially classified as an RPG, it urinates on what is traditionally demanded in the genre why still delivering a fun storyline you want to see.Nov 16th, 2004 · Xbox · read review
IGN (8.2 out of 10) (82%)
Brian Fargo, famed creator of seminal RPGs Baldur's Gate and Fallout is finally back in action with a re-telling of his original great, The Bard's Tale. Having formed his own company, inXile Entertainment, Fargo licensed the Snowblind Engine used to make Sony's Champions of Norrath and created a rather unique, if somewhat familiar, top-down fantasy role-playing game. While The Bard's Tale may look like every other top-down perspective RPG hack-n-slash you've played in the past, it is not. The Bard's Tale is a lampooning of the entire genre with a hero who is often more despicable than the villains and a magic system that is unlike anything done before.Oct 21st, 2004 · Xbox · read review
RPGFan (82 out of 100) (82%)
It's very easy to tell if The Bard's Tale is the right game for you; for those who find games such as the Monkey Island series and Grim Fandango to be their cup of tea, The Bard's Tale is the action-oriented title for them. Gamers who are looking for a serious romp will find no quarter here, however. Still, anyone who's willing to laugh at a good fart or beer joke will find themselves a game to enjoy.Dec 16th, 2004 · Xbox · read review
Xbox Front (82 out of 100) (82%)
Eines Tages gruben einige findige Herren bei Ubisoft in ihren Wühlkisten in den dunkelsten Ecken und erinnerten sich, dass sie als junge Männer auf ihren alten Rechnern The Bards Tale Stunde um Stunde gespielt hatten. Was lag also näher, als dem Barden ein zeitgemäßes Outfit zu verleihen und ihn abermals auf eine lange Reise zur Rettung der Menschen und einer holden Maid zu schicken? Ob das Flair der alten Zeit wieder aufersteht oder der Barde ein Aufguss geworden ist, erfahrt ihr hier im Test.Mar 31st, 2005 · Xbox · read review
4Players.de (80 out of 100) (80%)
Trotz einiger Längen und des geringen Umfangs war The Bard‘s Tale sehr amüsant und teils erfrischend anders. Die vielen Parodien und der schwarze Humor sorgten dank erstklassiger Lokalisierung ebenfalls immer wieder für gehobenen Spielspaß. In den Genreklischees, die inXile schonungslos durch den Kakao zog, ist aber auch der Barde gelegentlich stecken geblieben, so dass unterm Strich zwar ein herrlich zynisches Rollenspielerlebnis strahlt, das rein spielerisch jedoch nicht so viele Akzente zu setzen vermochte wie erhofft und darüber hinaus ohne den sonst üblichen Koop-Modus auskommen muss. Wer auf unkomplizierte Hack‘n‘Slay-Kost à la Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance oder Champions of Norrath steht, wird dennoch seine Freude mit dem tollpatschigen Barden und seinen Missgeschicken haben, die kein Rollenspielerauge trocken lassen dürften.Jun 30th, 2005 · Xbox · read review
GameSpy ( ) (80%)
As I recently noted in my column, the action-RPG genre is burgeoning. With numerous fantasy-based titles on the market, developers are looking at different settings in which to place the popular gameplay style. Before those settings are saturated, inXile takes a satirical look at all the fantasy action-RPGs with The Bard's Tale. Though it bears the same name as the classic '80s RPG, this iteration of The Bard's Tale isn't like its predecessors. It's an action-packed game with great characters, a fantastic script, and excellent voice acting. It's an extremely humorous tale that's especially suited to gamers that have played one too many titles in which they've saved the world as the chosen one.Oct 26th, 2004 · Xbox · read review
Digital Press - Classic Video Games (8 out of 10) (80%)
The Bard's Tale features three different endings, but the story is not significantly different. After all is said and done, The Bard's Tale is enjoyable for a single play-through, but the gameplay and extras are probably not enough to entice most gamers for a second round. It's recommended for RPGers who will enjoy a Monty Python style comedic RPG that spoofs RPGs.Jul 7th, 2005 · Xbox · read review
Tap-Repeatedly/Four Fat Chicks ( ) (80%)
If you like dungeon-crawling and giggling, play The Bard's Tale. While the repetitive combat and dated graphics keep me from awarding it the FFC Gold Star, I got a lot of mileage out of it on my own personal Fun-O-Meter.Jan 2005 · Xbox · read review
Extreme Gamer (8 out of 10) (80%)
The Bards Tale is one of the best role playing experiences for the Xbox console in 2004. It's unfortunate that the public hasn't taken notice of The Bards Tale, but we are glad to help pronounce its greatness. If you have the time, rent or pick up InXiles The Bards Tales. It's a true hidden gem.Dec 31st, 2003 · Xbox · read review
X-Power (8 out of 10) (80%)
We kunnen met een gerust hart zeggen dat The Bard’s Tale een erg aangename game is geworden zonder een revolutie te ontketenen. Eigenlijk mogen we het wel niet echt catalogeren onder het RPG genre en is het meer een combinatie van hack & slash met wat RPG invloeden. Echt zwakke punten zijn er niet en buiten de spitsvondige humor en de leuke accenten van de personages zijn er ook geen buitensporige sterke prestaties. Bovendien heeft een zeer respectabele lengte zonder dat het langdradig wordt. Gewoon een oerdegelijke game waar niemand een miskoop mee doet.May 16th, 2005 · Xbox · read review
Diehard GameFan (7.8 out of 10) (78%)
You need to play this game. You need to hear the songs and view the creatures and enjoy the dialogue and have fun playing a very hard but rewarding game that is as silly as it is addictive. It’s as good as Dark Alliance 2, but in very different ways. It’s going to come down to one of these as the best action RPG for 2004. You might as well grab both if you can and see how different two companies can use one engine.Nov 3rd, 2004 · Xbox · read review
Gamesmania.de (74 out of 100) (74%)
Es ist wirklich toll mit dem Barden Abenteuer zu erleben. Die Technik stimmt und Dialoge sorgen für viele Lacher. Dennoch geht mir der Sarkasmus des Barden an mancher Stelle nicht weit genug – das ist jedoch Geschmackssache. Was wirklich negativ auffällt ist das limitierte Inventar und das umständliche Gezaubere. Hier hätte ein wirklich einfaches System wesendlich bessere Dienste geleistet. Ein weiteres großes Manko ist der nicht vorhandene Zweispieler-Modus. Gerade bei solchen Spielen ist dies heutzutage ein Muss! Dennoch: Erfahrene RPG-Solisten, die Ihr Lieblings-Genre gerne mal auf die Schippe genommen sehen wollen, müssen unbedingt zugreifen!Apr 14th, 2005 · Xbox · read review
1UP (7 out of 10) (70%)
It may be called The Bard's Tale, just like the Amiga roleplaying classic, but the true ancestor of inXile's enjoyable action-RPG is Earthbound. Like Nintendo's cult classic, it's a game with likable characters, a sharply-developed sense of humor, and somewhat perfunctory gameplay.Jan 19th, 2005 · Xbox · read review
Jeuxvideo.com (14 out of 20) (70%)
En misant tout sur son ambiance décalée et sur le caractère acerbe du personnage principal, The Bard's Tale parvient à se démarquer des autres hack'n slash du moment malgré d'énormes simplifications de gameplay. Les nombreuses invocations apportent d'ailleurs beaucoup à l'intérêt du jeu, même si celui-ci ne nous fera pas oublier les titres de Snowblind.Mar 24th, 2005 · Xbox · read review
Xbox Gazette (68 out of 100) (68%)
Un peu moins de 20 heures seront nécessaires pour atteindre la princesse, une durée de vie raisonnable comparée à la concurrence, mais qui se trouve considérablement augmentée à cause d'une difficulté trop élevée par moment. Pour les habitués, ce sera probablement une promenade de santé, mais seront-ils prêt à se lancer une énième fois dans un jeu du genre certes rigolo, mais globalement ennuyeux. Le déjà vu déborde de ce soft, si vous souhaitez un RPG évolué, préférez les récents Jade Empire ou Kotor II, plus jolis, plus longs, plus sympas, plus mieux.May 10th, 2005 · Xbox · read review
GameSpot (6.7 out of 10) (67%)
The Bard's Tale is a decent dungeon crawler that invests some energy into lampooning role-playing games and high fantasy in general. Despite the fact that it bears the name of a much-loved mid-'80s computer role-playing game, and despite the fact that it's the handiwork of one of that game's creators, InXile's reenvisioning of The Bard's Tale is not a nostalgia piece for fans of old PC RPGs. Borrowing Snowblind's Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance engine, as well as its overall structure, The Bard's Tale is a decent dungeon crawler that invests some energy into lampooning RPGs and high fantasy in general, but like a stand-up act about airline food or the line at the post office, its perspective isn't very interesting, and it lacks any real follow-through. If you're not looking for the sequel to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and can see your past a few problems, you'll find that The Bard's Tale is a fair action RPG.Oct 25th, 2004 · Xbox · read review
G4 TV: X-Play ( ) (60%)
The Bard’s Tale could’ve been a great game, but focuses more on being funny and irreverent than being a solid action/RPG and ends up being pretty average. While humor and good writing is a noble goal, it’s something that enhances a solid game, not mitigates a less-than-stellar one.Mar 24th, 2006 · Xbox · read review
Detroit Free Press (Freep) ( ) (60%)
"The Bard's Tale" is one of the few games that is downright funny, and there were honest laugh-out-loud moments sprinkled throughout it that kept me playing. But this isn't the best use I've ever seen of the "Baldur's Gate" engine, and the action and animation seemed dated and awkward. It gets three stars for the fabulous story and acting. If only the game didn't get in the way.Dec 5th, 2004 · Xbox · read review
Joypad (6 out of 10) (60%)
Ce mois-ci, Ubisoft édite deux hack'n slash, et, bien évidemment, c'est le jeu Champions: Return to Arms qui a eu notre préférence. Mais il ne faudrait pas non plus passer à côté des tribulations de ce si sympathique barde. Ce serait, pour sûr, se priver d'un petit jeu d'action/aventure pas trop mal fichu, un peu vieillot certes, mais loin d'avoir été programmé avec les pieds. Ne serait-ce que pour son ambiance taillée dans un humour exquis, le titre d'InXile parvient à attirer notre attention malgré la rigidité de son personnage principal dans les combats. C'eût été mieux avec un mode multijoueur aussi...Apr 2005 · Xbox · read review
Eurogamer.net (UK) (6 out of 10) (60%)
For a genre that takes itself seriously to a fault, it's amazing that it's taken all this time for someone to poke fun at RPGs. In those bad old good old days when computers used to be steam powered [we really have come full circle -Ed] and required smacking like naughty children every now and then, Fergus McNeil and his Delta 4 gang were always taking the rise out of chin-stroking fantasy adventures, and for good reason. The comedy value in these mystical, dungeon-roaming, spell-casting epics is there for all to see. From the clichéd dim-witted yokel characters and hackneyed storylines of princesses stuck in towers to the faintly ridiculous game mechanics that see animals coughing up coins upon their death and the ritual destruction of barrels. RPGs may have gotten away with all manner of unselfconscious nonsense for the past quarter of a century, but no more.May 5th, 2005 · Xbox · read review
Just Adventure (C+) (58%)
If you’re a real RPG junkie (which I freely admit I am), the fresh, irreverent, humorous tone of Bard’s Tale may be entertaining enough for you to ignore the fact that it’s sitting on top of a pretty mundane, flat game experience. If you aren’t as seduced by the jokes, you’ll probably be better off by playing any number of meatier RPG choices out there.Jan 11th, 2005 · Xbox · read review
Game Revolution (C-) (42%)
Want to really piss off the D&D geeks in your school, dorm, office, or extended family? Then try this: the next time they’re planning a rousing game of pen and paper, ask politely to join in the festivities. Don’t worry’ they’ll let you come along even if you’re a total D&D newbie (a new party member IS a new member, after all, which at the very least means there will likely be a dead, lootable body in the immediate future). Obviously, you’ll show up unprepared and will have to create a new character.Nov 2004 · Xbox · read review
Dull game in a slightly funny outfit
A role-playing game that is a comedy all the way through is a rare beast. I can't think of anything else but Knights of Xentar, the classic of parodies, and perhaps Anachronox, with its share of humor exceeding usual limits. Tengai Makyō games probably had too many serious elements to be taken as true comedies.
The "new" Bard's Tale aspires to be humorous all the way through. The writing here is sometimes similar to such classics as Space Quest - laughing at the hero, breaking the fourth wall, etc. The humor focuses almost entirely on conversations. There are by the way quite nasty bits, almost reminiscent of GTA games. The two characters who steal the show are, of course, the Bard himself, and his omnipresent companion, the narrator. Bringing back the narrator, whose presence in games I missed so much since Quest for Glory IV, was one of the best decisions this game has taken. He can't stand the Bard, and he keeps teasing him with ironic narration of the story. There is something very British about the narrator, he has dry wit and is always skeptical of the Bard's success.
The game also boasts excellent voice acting and, as the icing on the cake, features musical performances. The "beer song" will stay in your mind long after the game has lost its appeal. Overall, if the musical theme were pursued more thoroughly we could have ended up with a pleasant comedy alleviating the boredom of the gameplay.
Speaking of which, the one element of the gameplay I liked was summoning. You don't have magic, but instead can summon various creatures who act like your party members. You can issue general commands to them, and the intended goal here is to build a balanced party with the most effective combination of skills and abilities. Not all summons are just given to you: some are found in optional areas, and their upgrades are particularly worth hunting down.
The "snarky" and "nice" options in conversations are a nice idea as well. Sadly, it is barely implemented, since most of the time your responses either do not affect the gameplay at all or result in insignificant rewards or penalties. The choice of three possible endings, however, is a definitive plus.
There are many things wrong with Bard's Tale, the most obvious ones involving what are, in my opinion, the pillars of game design: gameplay and game world. I'll get to those soon, but first I'd like to point out that - apparently unlike many other reviewers - I don't think the game can even be enjoyed purely for its comedic value.
I don't think the game was really funny. A lot of people were delighted when the hero was breaking empty barrels at the request of a shop owner who wanted to make a profit out of it or when the narrator icily commented on the implausibility of wolves dropping gold bags. Unfortunately, this pretty much sums up the humor style of the entire game. The Bard half-heartedly mocks RPG cliches, the narrator keeps telling us how much of a loser our protagonist is, and... that's it. Sure, it's amusing at the beginning, but it grows old really fast. There are no funny characters to remember and no real wit in the dialogue. Without those, humor loses its significance, particularly when it keeps being applied to the same thing over and over again.
The real problem is the fact that while the humor in cutscenes and dialogues is present no matter what, it has absolutely no effect on the gameplay. Even worse: the gameplay is actually what the game laughs at! The dialogue constantly mocks stale RPG conventions, and the gameplay keeps following precisely those conventions in the most conservative way imaginable. It is as if the developers wanted to make it easier for themselves and turned to humor as an excuse for poor design.
Seriously: The Bard's Tale is a by-the-book action game with a semi-RPG system slapped onto it, as generic as they go, without anything to distinguish it from the very games it tries to lampoon. What is the use of satire applied to a situation where you have to climb a long boring tower to face a powerful boss if the game actually forces this same situation upon you right away? And this happens every time, everywhere. Take away the humorous cutscenes and you'll be left with monotonous, unimaginative hack-and-slash that makes Diablo games look like epitomes of sophisticated role-playing.
Whoever says The Bard's Tale is a "funny Diablo" fails to see that the heart of Diablo was not at all in its massive doses of repetitive action, but in its obsessively vast item-collecting opportunities and customization. Compare the limitless outfitting of Diablo to The Bard's Tale with its paltry selection of equipment, where a "stronger" sword directly replaces a "weaker" one and where all items automatically convert to silver coins! Compare the wealth and fine-tuning of character classes of Diablo II to the paltry sword-flail-bow choices of this game, of which none makes much difference anyway.
Indeed, The Bard's Tale is "streamlined" in that infuriating modern (some would say "console-like") way, when everything is all too convenient: all the stuff you'll ever need is being neatly laid at your feet, whatever you do leads to easy victory anyway, and exploration is just a matter of following an obvious corridor or clicking on a map icon. Why bother pumping up your strength if you are guaranteed to find a more powerful amulet that renders anything you've found so far obsolete? Why search for that perfect combination to give you the edge in combat if all you need to do is just follow the general direction of the game?
The only trouble you'll ever have is guaranteed to come from the game's atrocious perspective. The Gauntlet-like top-down view is absolutely unsuitable for a 3D action game and ruins even the simple pleasure you might have had from hacking your foes to pieces. I hope you like clumsily waving your sword around trying to figure out when it actually connects, or aiming your bow at red dots representing your off-screen enemies, pressing the fire button to hit them automatically regardless of your skills. Combat is simply not satisfying, badly needing dynamics and drama that come courtesy of a free-roaming 3D camera this game unfortunately hasn't heard about.
Perhaps as a result, the game suffers from a serious lack of atmosphere. You do not feel the beauty of open fields or the fear reigning in demonic caverns. Predictable layouts, mediocre graphics, and the aforementioned overhead view greatly diminish immersion in the game world.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, The Bard's Tale is good only for a few laughs, and even those can't last long. The actual game behind the humorous facade is a completely run-of-the-mill, antiquated top-down slashfest with a shallow RPG angle. It is one of those games you'll be curious to check out, but never compelled enough to come back to.
by Unicorn Lynx (180537) on Mar 14th, 2014 · Xbox
Contributors to this Entry
Critic reviews added by Wizo, Big John WV, nyccrg, Jeanne, Yearman, Patrick Bregger, Cantillon, Alaka, vicrabb, ryanbus84, Vovo 30.