The Bard's Tale Review
- Absorbing atmosphere; rich, period perfect sets populated by strong characters.
- Amusing storyline; not as funny as the first time around, but still pointed and relevant to today's RPGs.
- Unique magic system; summon creatures to do your bidding and stab the enemies from behind.
- Camera perspective constantly problematic; changes randomly between zones and requires babysitting in dungeons.
- Loose combat; no real snap or impact to blows or strikes, hard to keep track of fights.
- Unable to step through dialogue - watch it all or none of it; sometimes no option available (stores).
The Bard's Tale is a near perfect adaption of the 2004 original and while this means players can expect a quality title, it also means people who disliked it the first time around are unlikely to be persuaded to enjoy it this time around.
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There's a song and a dance to be made about the release of inXile Entertainment's classic title The Bard's Tale, but then we'd have to talk about puns and that's Dave's forte, not mine. So, over seven years since its release on home consoles and eventually the PC, we iOS gamers get a chance to check out this 3D Action-RPG title.
Weighing in at around 1.7 GB installed on your iDevice, you'd hope that the game was uncut, and thankfully (or is that regrettably) it is. What this means for gamers is a seriously adult presentation, complete with dry humor suited to a particular kind of patron (such as fans of British comedy), that pokes, prods, and lampoons the genre in a way that has since become a rather regular gag. As such it loses its sharpness, but touches such as picking up family photos of the person you've just slain or slagging off an angry citizen only to have them attack you close to the end of the game in revenge are not lost.
However, I'm getting ahead of myself.
You play the role of 'The Bard', a true anti-hero whose only goal in life is to be as self-serving as possible. If people happen to be helped in the process of questing, then the upshot is possibly not being run out of town quite so quickly.
Like any good Action-RPG the game revolves around its combat, which in this case involves summoning a variety of companions (the game's equivalent of 'magic') and welding a weapon or two as long as you have the skills for it. Sadly it falls in to the same trap of many other titles of the day, with combat being repetitive and at times a chore as you dance around doing nothing while waiting for your summons (who are extremely fragile) to be replaced.
Thankfully you won't have to manage your inventory as 'trash' items are immediately converted to a monetary value, while weapons and armor are exchanged with the best available as they're found. This may eliminate some fans of the genre from the field as the addiction of harvesting various treasures can be powerful, but for those interested in the story (which is quite amusing over its 20 hour span of gameplay) it's a welcome change of pace that keeps things moving forward.
Despite its amazingly adept conversion to the iOS platform, the game isn't without its flaws, notably the camera becomes a nuisance as it changes perspective seemingly at a whim (enter a building with the map oriented north, only to appear with it oriented east), while dungeons become tiresome as you constantly adjust to see where you're going. Other issues include the dialogue being entirely skipped if you touch the screen, which is a shame when vocal talents like Cary Elwes and the indomitable Tony Jay are on show.
The Bard's Tale hasn't quite survived the ravages of time intact and much of what was witty and charming about the game in 2004 is now droll and a bit of a running gag. It's a shame the game didn't receive more in the way of polishing to make it fit in with today's crowd, but if you're after a solid and occasionally chuckle-worthy game to eat up your spare time, give this game a go.