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Which October Game Are You Looking Forward To The Most?

Super Smash Bros. 3DS
Alien: Isolation
Sunset Overdrive
WWE 2K15
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel


Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
7.0
Visuals
7.0
Audio
7.5
Gameplay
6.5
Features
7.0
Replay
7.0
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
PlayStation 2
PUBLISHER:
inXile entertainment
DEVELOPER:
inXile entertainment
GENRE: RPG
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
October 26, 2004
ESRB RATING:
Teen
IN THE SERIES
The Bard's Tale

 Written by Chris Reiter  on January 12, 2005

Review: Ridicule, Pacifism, and Groping -- that's?how a?Bard's supposed to "RPG".


We've all heard of (or rather seen) many film parodies before. Yeah, they're those kick ass films that make fun of some of our other favorite movies, which in themselves (the parodies I mean) become even better than the original (sometimes they do...or maybe not). Comedic greats in their own agenda, Scary Movie, Hot Shots!, and everyone's favorite, Spaceballs, are some of these classic examples. Inevitable by design, parodies poke fun at the movies we love, and in return we go, "Oh hey, I didn't even think of that before!" And then the laughter ensues. Video games have been going Hollywood for years now. There've been game adaptations of films. There've been movie actors voicing game characters. There have even been actors who've been dissected to look like, sound like, and act like the character they're based around (like in The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, for instance). Now we come to a new evolution for games -- one that we haven't seen of just yet. Just the idea of a game parody isn't movie-related (but in a way it is) puts a new emphasis on how we look at games. For the first (at least of what you can figure) RPG that pokes fun at RPGs, here's a look at inXile entertainment's The Bard's Tale.
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"O where thou art my Prince Charming? O where shall ever he be? O where thou is thy man who would dare cross river of sand, forest of dark, and cave of a thousand dangers to reach my castle window and call out, 'Here I stand my fair Princess! Your Prince Charming has come to rescue you!'" And then the Bard says, "He's back in the pub, where I mugged him!" That's the Bard, all right. A foul scoundrel of the most disreputable ways, the Bard is a traveling musician/hero type who doesn't just rescue damsels in distress. He rescues them because they're wealthy and have beauty to boot. The Bard is the opposite of your typical adventurer who out of kindness and courage, would stick his neck out for the little guy. A bastard, maybe, but this Bard is the only type of rescue guy this smarmy RPG world's got.
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Funneled through a licensed Champions of Norrath engine from Sony, The Bard's Tale comes from the makings of the series' father, Brian Fargo. Originally, Brian's vision for The Bard was brought to life on the Apple II computer system back in 1985. Since then Brian's formed his own company (inXile entertainment, as it would turn out to be), which for its first project retells the storied vision that Brian relayed so long ago. Like Champions of Norrath, The Bard's Tale as you can figure is a hack-n-slash type of RPG. The Bard is your hero (or anti-hero in this case) who travels from one town to the next accepting quests that involve danger, but more importantly cleavage or coin. For, the Bard is actually not your usual type of hero who wants all good for the mankind. Rather, this Bard is in this tale for himself and him alone. As long he's getting his cut, the Bard is willing to give enemies their "cut" -- if you follow my meaning.
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Danger costs time and money, and the Bard is after just one of those things for his troubles in the least. And the Bard will get his rewards, for there is always danger to be braved and beaten. There are two types of quests in The Bard's Tale. There's the main quest, which means the tasks you'll complete to get the story moving along. And then there's something else...something called side quests. Er...but those are obvious tidbits, obviously. Anyway, the Bard can find and finish both aspects for experience, treasure, and silver naturally. By either defeating enough enemies or completing his given task, the Bard's experience can be spent then on upgrading his statistics (health, power, luck -- you know the drill), and from time to time new skills as well. These skills specifically give to the Bard abilities that let him equip certain items like two-handed swords or flails, it grants him a shielded bash property, or even allows his dog companion to attack enemies along his side. This mutt by the way is an optional and unkillable AI character the Bard meets that will tail him through the game to fend off against foes, or better yet dig up buried treasures like loot or weaponry along the way. But let's get back to those quests, shall we? Using both a mission log and a mini-map, the Bard is able to tell what he needs to do next in his adventure and where to go. On the mini-map, yellow circles tell the Bard where the "main" destinations always lie. White circles are doorways, reds are enemies, and those blue dots are save points. Even though it's a simple concept, The Bard's mini-map gets to be a bit of a conundrum at times when a yellow indicator isn't presented in returning to an area you'll need to come back to. Let's say the Bard heads out on a mission, does his thing, then head back to a town. Whichever building he has to stop by again is shown with a white dot for its door and a white outline for its shape, just like the rest of the mini-mapped buildings are at this point in time. Guessing what building is what, or using your memory is what The Bard's Tale leaves its players doing a lot of the time -- which is disappointing on that end.
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"But what about the missions?", you'd say. Ah yes, well there are variations of those around. In one case, for instance, Bard's journey will lead him to a run around with this quirky fella named Bodb. Only, he's not the Bodb the Bard's looking for. So this Bodb leads him to that Bodb, and then that Bodb to another one. Eventually, the Bard will finally meet the real Bodb, just after meeting this one before him. And after conveying how sickening it was for the Bard to go through the redundant effort of seeking out one Bodb when he got five, the Bard gets things sorted out. This quest leads to another quest where the Bard's got to defeat a flock of crows from a farmer's crop by taking out the once seemingly inanimate scarecrows they've been resting on. Doing so is toward the effort of finding a bell that one of the Bodbs lost to begin with, which later the Bard gets after killing a horse. With the bell, a beautiful and wealthy princess instructs the Bard to challenge himself through a deadly maze of arrow wielding creatures, and with the help of a cowardly aid to throw himself into and diminish the electrical walls blocking the paths ahead. Of course, this is all just an example of how one thing goes to the next, and always in a satirical mode. Other perils the Bard will have to bear include trekking across an enemy-infested snow field to fetch a sword in order to break free of the curse he contracted after digesting a "so-called" freeze-be-gone type of potion, to ousting a gladiator-like boss from his arena in a later phase.
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While these objectives might sound gnarly at first glance, they're actually not so much given The Bard's Tale's mediocre battle arrangements. Difficult to adapt to its overwhelming abundance, the combat in The Bard's Tale makes the game much harder than it should actually be. Why? First off, the hacking and slashing is for single players only. There aren't going to be friends around when all the Bard's got is his weapon in hand and a couple of vulnerable AI-controlled summons following him into trap and enemy-filled dungeons. These summons can be called upon at any point if the Bard has enough mana (which refuels itself) in his meter once and if one of these guys dies. The Bard can also dispel any summon he wants and call upon a new one, since summons usually get injured real fast as indicated by the redness of their representative white icons shown on the screen. The interesting thing about The Bard's Tale is that the Bard will receive all different kinds of summons, from a bow and arrow-wielding heroine, a flamethrower of an elemental attacker, to a guy that runs ahead and disarms traps for you (like spiked floors and swinging blades). At first, the Bard is given only one slot for calling upon these magical summon entities to his aid. But as the game progresses, the Bard's summon count will increase, and so will the chances of his survival in battle. Though that's just the thing: enemies are brutal in this game. They'll gang up on certain characters riding on top of bug-looking things. If you kill even one of those guys, then you have to defeat the rider that was on top afterward. There are giant wolves who travel in packs of five or six at a time. There are giant plants who snap at you. There are little gremlin things with spears and arrows flying your way. No matter what, it's always as if the Bard will be outnumbered. Usually it's best to just run away from a fight rather than stick around and mire the Bard's decreased offenses and meager block advantage (which is weak, considering you have to time the defense position just right when the enemy's blade swings).

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