PC REVIEW: THE BARD'S TALE

The Bard's Tale is not a remake or a sequel to the popular RPG of the 80s although the original three games are included in this package. You would have to be a real fan of ancient RPGs to appreciate the repackaging of these three games. Back in the 80s I didn't even know what a RPG was - I was still interested in girls. I'm married now so that's not an option anymore.

Now, I'm an authority on RPGs. Not that I'm any good at playing them, but at least I know what's going on - and that took a while let me tell you. The new version of The Bard's Tale kind of mirrors my own life in many ways with the exception of it taking place in the Middle Ages - and him killing all those freaky skeletons with swords and stuff.

The Bard is a traveling musician who is more interested in picking up chicks than saving the world. Not only is he hedonistic but he's downright rude and crude with a nasty sense of humor. I won't give this game my stamp of approval because there are a lot of missed opportunities in the gag department. This game could have been so much more hilarious if I had a hand in producing it. Not that I would have even contributed one joke to the whole project but I would have severely limited the input from that one nerd on the development team with the immaturely developed sense of humor. There are some things in this game that will make you cringe. Just as the Bard is insulting people and making fun of RPGs in grand fashion, he turns around and does something so out of character that you just know that the boss's kid was giving suggestions during the brainstorming sessions with dad looking on approvingly. I could be wrong but I just don't understand why 75% of the material is good and the rest just sucks. It's too inconsistent to not be the work of the boss's nerdy son.

Basic conversations allow you to choose reactions and remarks that are either nice or rude. The game is not linear as your decisions will determine what adventures may befall you. Even though the game makes fun of traditional fantasy-based RPGs, it uses this exact genre as a gameplay foundation with hack and slash combat, dungeon crawling, leveling-up and performing various missions and side quests to acquire money, upgrades, weapons and information. It does tend to treat these elements in a shallow way so don't expect a very deep adventure. It's more of a lampoon.

You will encounter wizards, druids, elves, monsters and other freaks on your journey. To simplify things there is very little micromanagement to concern yourself with. You'll only be allowed to carry whatever you pick up. The other items you have on hand will turn to silver which you can use to purchase things at the store. You'll always have an abundance of cash to buy just about everything you want. This may offend some traditionalists but it plays right into the Bard's spoiled brat persona. It's like walking through the game with one giant cheat code up your arse.

There are lots of diverse environments from villages to forests and creepy dragons' lairs. There isn't a lot of detail but there's good depth perception in the backgrounds. Some of the special effects are very aliased and artificial looking. The animation isn't smooth with lurching and jerky characters that look like puppets controlled by Michael J. Fox. The cutscenes are always a treat to look forward to so that you can see what hostile situation the Bard will find himself in and what his irreverent response will be.

The voiceacting is great but the writing isn't so hot in places. More than a few times I was scratching my head and it wasn't because of the lice. Musically appropriate, the game is filled with the lighthearted melodies of lutes and flutes although there are some musical numbers that take center stage and overstay their welcome.

The Bard's Tale is a relatively short RPG that could be conceivably finished in a weekend unless you want to play those moldy, oldie, 80s classic games that come with it - the same games you wouldn't play if you got them for free with a printer at Staples.

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System: PC
Dev: InXile
Pub: VU Games
Release: June 2005
Players: 1
Review by Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.0
GRAPHICS
3.0
CONTROL
4.0
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
2.5