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“The Bard's Tale - A great way to look at this...”


written by skillz on 03/11/2004

The Bard's Tale - A great way to look at this role-playing game is by the defining the word - Bard.

BARD - a: a tribal poet-singer skilled in composing and reciting verses on heroes and their deeds b: a composer, singer, or declaimer of epic or heroic verse.

The main character of this game is, in fact, a Bard. He's also a wisecracker and a somewhat reluctant hero. He wields sharp weapons and an even sharper tongue, which makes for some fairly funny cut scenes throughout the game but, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start out with the basics.

Through a non-gamer's eyes:
"The Bard's Tale" is an RPG or role-playing game. Meaning that you are playing the role of a character within a story. As the story progresses so does your character. By becoming stronger and wiser you eventually reach the story's ending. This particular story is set in a mythical, medieval England-type of setting.

The game is seen in third person viewing. This means that the camera angle, or screen view, of your character and the party that helps him along the way is roughly 40 or so feet above and slightly behind the character's head. The camera angle is adjustable with the right analog stick, but will always fall back behind the character when you begin walking. The camera angle has a few irritating glitches that I will explain below under the "complaints" header.

The fighting is based in real-time. There are no taking turns during battle. If you're faster on the trigger than your enemy, you can get in a few hits and still block whatever he throws at you. It is, however, difficult to master.

As with most other role-playing games, you get to decide what attributes you want to allocate the attribute points you receive when you advance to a new level. You are awarded 2 attribute points for every 1 level gained. You gain levels by accumulating experience points for doing such things as completing tasks or killing roaming groups of baddies. The attributes that you can adjust are Strength, Vitality, Luck, Dexterity, Charisma, and Rhythm.

I'll give you a quick rundown on the attribute system (most experienced RPG gamers know most of this already, but there are a couple of unique ones for this game)

Strength - The stronger the Bard is, the more damage he does with melee weapons, such as sword, knifes, maces, etc.

Vitality - The higher the Bard's vitality is, the more damage he can take in battle before needing to be healed or dying.

Luck - This attribute is said to have a subtle effect on many aspects of the Bard's adventure.

Dexterity - A higher dexterity allows the Bard to do more damage with ranged weapons, such as bows.

Charisma - Shopkeepers in the game offer greater discounts to a Bard with higher charisma.

Rhythm - This attribute allows the Bard to play his magical tunes with greater skill, enhancing the attributes of the creatures that he summons to help him along his way.

The game also lets you decide on a series of talents that you want your Bard to have. You get to choose only 1 talent when you create your character, but you get to pick a new talent to add to your list for every 2 levels that your character gains.

The talents are as follows:
Two-handed weapons - lets you equip a two-handed weapons (duh!).

Dual Wield - lets you equip a weapon in one hand and a dirk, or dagger, in the other.

Flail - lets you equip a flail.

Shield Bash - makes you automatically bash an enemy with your shield after a successful shield block.

Riposte - makes you automatically counter-attack, knocking enemies down, with a successful non-shield block. This is a dual wield talent only.

Heavy Parry - same talent as Riposte but for two-handed weapons only.

Shield Charge - a powerful charging attack that stuns the enemy for a short time.

Blade Dash - a deadly charging attack used with dual wield weapons only.

Spinning Smash - a spinning attack used with two-handed weapons only.

Whirlwind - another spinning attack but with flail equipped only.

Power Shot - a powerful ranged weapon shot that inflicts greater damage than a regular shot.

Arrow Storm - a ranged weapon shot that fire multiple arrows at once.

Critical Strike - increases chances of hitting an enemy with a more deadly critical hit.

Improved Critical Strike - same as critical strike but with an even higher chance of critical hit.

Treasure Hunter - gives you bonus coins for any treasure you find.

The last thing that I should cover here is the ability to conjure creatures with your musical instrument. Being a Bard gives you the ability to conjure a variety of allies to help you along your way. You can conjure fighting, protecting, and healing creatures. These "creatures" come in the form of everything from Humans to Insects, depending on what your need is. You simply pull the trigger, scroll through your list of song spells, and click on what you want. As you progress in the game, so does you song spell list. Plus, better instruments mean more creatures you can summon at one time. You start the game with a lute that can only summon one creature at a time. If you need a different creature you have to un-summon the first one and then summon the one you want. Be careful, you can't fight and summon at the same time. You can summon while being attacked but you can't fight back until you put your instrument away and pull out your weapon.

That explains the character basics. I'm sorry if I bored any of you advanced RPG gamers out there, but I have to write a review with the thought that the reader may have never played an RPG in their life.

The Story
In The Bard's Tale you play the part of the Bard, obviously. There isn't any back-story on where you're from or how you became a Bard. It just dumps you into the beginning of the game.

You find yourself standing outside of a tavern in the little village of Houton. Upon entering the tavern you are greeted by a large-breasted tavern wench that directs you onto your first quest.

:::I only mentioned the "large breasted" portion because the Bard keeps looking down at them and insinuating things as they chat:::

I don't want to give away anything about the first few quests because they are there for you to learn how to use your weapons and conjure spells and they are funny.

The main plot to this story is your basic damsel in distress. An evil wizard has captured a magical princess and it is up to you, The Chosen One, to rescue her. She is being kept in a magic force field atop a high tower. She is using her magic powers to communicate with you through a group of oddball clerics in the town that she hails from.

You will be given more mini-quests during the game than I care to mention. How you represent yourself to the characters that you meet along the way will play an important role on how easy or difficult your objectives will become. You can be polite and nice to everyone you meet or you can be a real A-hole. Being nice all the time doesn't necessarily mean you will have an easier time. Some characters see politeness as a weakness and will walk all over you.

During cut-scenes, when the Bard is chatting with another NPC (Non Player Character), you will occasionally be given the option of responding. Two masks at the top of your screen represent this option. The mask on the left is an angry face and the mask on the right has a smile. All you do is click on the corresponding mask as to how you would like to respond.

Did I fail to mention that you're not the first "Chosen One"? Along the way you will find the corpses of other "Chosen Ones" and perhaps helpful items on their persons.

What sets this story apart from all of the other "damsel in distress" RPG's is that it's funny. The Bard isn't your typical hero. He's an egomaniacal smart-alec that's just in it for the money and he's not ashamed to remind people of that every time they send him off on another errand.

Also A guy who obviously doesn't like the Bard, and takes every open opportunity to make him look bad, narrates the story. There is a few times during the game play that the Bard will interrupt the narrator to tell him to mind his own business. They even argue with each other from time to time.

I spent a lot of time laughing at the things the Bard says during this game. His rogue attitude towards others is downright hilarious at times. Which brings me to

The Voice Acting:
Usually, I couldn't care less about the voice-acting in a game unless it's so bad it makes me want to mute the television. The Bard's Tale has some of the finest voice acting that I've ever heard in a video game. The rough English accents were so dead-on that it sounded like most of these actors were picked right from the back streets of some old English, poverty-stricken area.

None of the voice-over work sounded scripted. The characters' interactions with one another were very believable. About 80% of the game script is comical in one form or another. It makes for a really nice touch to a well-polished game.

There are even a few songs in the game that are sung by NPC's. Some are very amusing and some are just flat-out annoying. You can skip them by hitting the start button, but I would at least hear each song out once in it's entirety.

The Graphics and Sound:
Nothing extraordinary here. There were a couple of graphic glitches in the game, but they were during cut-scenes and could have been caused by my Xbox. It's been giving me a little trouble lately.

The sets were designed to look real and not cartoony like most RPG's seem to be lately. All of the characters had their own unique looks; even down to moles and imperfections in the skin. The Blacksmith in the village of Houton would be a fine example of that. Actually, the Blacksmith in Houton also has some of the most difficult, but still believable, dialog in the whole game. He tells you about the items in his stock the same way that a very good used car salesman would give you the run down on a car that he's trying to pitch to you.

The sounds in the game were normal. Not anything that will be up for any awards, but true to the game nonetheless. All of the sword clanging, shield bashing, bird squawking and animal grunting sounds were real enough. It was the funny voice acting that kept my attention.

Though they are few, I have to air them for you to make a proper decision before buying.

1. The camera angle - Getting a bird's eye view of your character is nice, but if you go under one of the many tall trees in the game you lose sight of yourself, not to mention any items that may have been dropped by an enemy. This is especially disturbing if you are being attacked. The right analog stick lets you rotate your view, but the camera angle is still directly above, and slightly behind, the character. You can only lower the camera toward the character by a few feet. This is still too high to get below the high branches of some of the trees in the game. I try to avoid trees during battle due to my getting killed on several occasions because of a view obstruction.

2. This one is going to sound silly, but there is one song in the game that is sung by these little creatures that you fight a lot. Every time you find a corpse of one of the other "Chosen Ones", those little suckers come out and sing that stupid song. The first time it happens you may find it funny and listen to it, but after hearing it once you've had enough. Luckily, you can hit the start button and it will end the song. Unfortunately, I had to listen to that stupid song 3 times before discovering this. I'm being kind and not letting you suffer through it more than once.

3. Fighting is fairly difficult at the beginning. Until you get the hang of the fighting engine you may be ready to put the game away. Just stick through it and you will get better. Once you get a couple of fighting talents under your belt you will find fighting a little more rewarding.

That's about it in the complaint department. Not too shabby.

In Closing:
I would like to say that this is one of the best RPG's that I've played in a while. To give you advanced RPG gamers an idea of where I'm coming from I'll quote the one's I own.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Didn't like it. Too open-ended
Knights of the Old Republic - Didn't like it. I don't like turn-based fighters.
Fable - Enjoyed it, but I beat it in 13 hours. RPG's should be longer.

If you're like me and don't trust the RPG market anymore, I would suggest renting this game first. So far, I'm finding it a very enjoyable game. I've yet to complete it. I can tell from where I am at in the game so far that its replay value will most likely be little to none. I DO know that the game-play does vary by your interactions with NPC's because I tested it with a character in the game by saving before taking a task. By responding with cheerfulness to this particular character he gave me a task that seemed harmless and turned out to be hard as heck and by responding with anger he gave me a simple quest, but one that required me to swallow my pride and let another NPC beat me in a fist fight.


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