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Gameplay 8.5
Graphics 8.5
Sound 9.0
Value 8.5
Distributor: THQ
Review Date:
March 2005
Andrew B


Bard's Tale

I remember in the old days (1985) when Bard's Tale was something of a first on the Commodore 64 that was truly one of the most unique role-playing game (RPG) experiences of all time. Not only did the original Bard's Tale have state-of-the-art 3D graphics but it also contained one of the most involving storylines that kept my friends and myself up for hours upon hours. Although Bard's Tale spawned a variety of sequels and of course a plethora of imitations, the series soon vanished from the face of the planet until the original creator, Brian Fargo, decided to re-release the game to a new audience that also promised to take RPG titles to the next evolutionary stage... with humour being a key player.

As with all good console RPG's (Baldur's Gate and Fable), the successful diet of a good adventure game contains a healthy dose of action and of course a variety number of puzzles. The game is extremely reminiscent of the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and transforms the player into a "loveable" bard who must use his wit and his magical instruments to defeat a plethora of different enemies in order to win the heart buxom wenches from around the realm.

As mentioned earlier, Bard's Tale revolves around a reluctant bard who has become the unwilling hero to a hero less land. Unlike the standard hero archetype, our character is more interested in bedding women and finding out where his next ale is coming from. As you can see, Bard's Tale is a humorous take on the world RPG titles and surprisingly enough, the mix of humour, action and RPG mend quite well. Fortunately the extremely talented
Cary Elwes lends his talents to the voice of the Bard who actually makes the game more interesting than its actually is. For those uninitiated to the genre of RPG's, the first level or area of Bard's Tale is basically a tutorial about the game and teaches the player how to manipulate the character in this RPG world from fighting to spells.

The control scheme is straightforward with the left stick controlling the Bard and the right stick used to manipulate the isometric camera or view different scales of the world map. The face buttons are used to attack, defend, jump and to access a context sensitive action function. Where the system is unique is in the many summon abilities that the Bard will learn through tunes and gifts. This is both a blessing and a curse as the system works well, but it can be a bit cumbersome to actually use. For example, a quick pull of the right trigger will show categories of tunes that the Bard has learned and then pressing the appropriate face button will summon a particular creature or character.

Depending on the Bardís rhythm attribute, the greater the summoned helper will perform. The problem is that the action doesnít stop while you are trying to navigate the series of trigger pulls and button presses. Therefore most of the battles become a repetitive sequence of run, summon and attack. And donít even think of taking on enemies solo or you wonít get far due to their tenacity. Melee attacks prove useful (far more so than ranged attacks), but all actions seem to stutter a bit between the time you press a button and the actual execution. Being that the enemies donít seem to suffer from the same delay, youíll need to rely quite a bit on summoned characters to survive.

For those gamers that are looking basically for a hack-n-slash game with just a sprinkle of RPG elements, then The Bardís Tale should be your first choice. What RPG aspects the game does have are scaled back quite a bit. The game does stick to the standard health, mana and experience system of other action RPGs and the Bard does have 6 main attributes that can be levelled up to your liking. Youíll be able to learn a number of talents that will increase the Bardís effectiveness during quests; things like dual-wielding and the Blade Dash. Tunes, which are essentially the equivalent of magic are also acquired and subsequently added to the Bardís list.

Graphically, Bard's Tale is a rather impressive looking game on the XBox and contains some extraordinary background environments that sometimes appear almost photo-realistic. The characters in the game also contain a fairly high polygon count with some realistic textures for that extra realism. There is also a variety of special effects in the game from particle lighting to some of the nicest looking lighting to have every graced an XBox game. The only downside to the graphics are the sometimes annoying camera angles (that fortunately can be moved) and also the rather "dodgy" looking cutscenes that use the in game graphics engine to push the storyline along. Apart from that, Bard's Tale has a rather sturdy graphics engine, although a little dated in some parts.

The musical score of Bard's Tale uses the traditional RPG style of music that even though the game is more humorous than serious, it actually suits the genre of the title. The main draw card of the audio department is the talent of Cary Elwes who plays the bard himself and match that with some other first class character actors such as Tony Jay and you truly have one excellent sounding game. The sound effects of the title contains all the usual grunts, squeals and screams of various monsters that flawlessly goes in hand-to-hand with the graphics.

In conclusion, Bard's Tale is a rather interesting game that contains enough elements of humour and RPG to make this one addictive game. Unfortunately some gamers may find this mix unsuitable for the genre but it does help increase a much needed boost of originality into the RPG market. The average gamer will take around 25 to 30 hours to successfully complete this game and I would recommend this title to anyone who enjoyed the Baldur's Gate series of RPG titles for this is the only fix they will get for a long time. Check it out!.


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