The Bard's Tale
Even mediocre endings don't lower the game's black "humour" level
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.
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.
by POMAH (65968) on November 12th, 2009