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SummaryPlaying a "music man" is pretty darned refreshing, not to mention hilarious!
The GoodRogues, 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 BadI 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 LineMy 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!