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Developer:
InXile
Publisher: InXile
Platform: PS2, XBox, PC
Release Date: October 26, 2004

by Jason Ferguson




Are you tired of all the clichés in RPGs? Do you yearn for something different? If so The Bard’s Tale is the game for you. Combining humor and fun with addictive gameplay and an interesting story, The Bard’s Tale is certain to satisfy your cravings.


You play the game as the Bard, a loner who cares little for anything but himself. One day, while clearing the rats from a cellar, he learns to play a magical tune that allows him to summon a creature. Curious, the Bard continues on a quest to search out more of these tunes. One thing leads to the next, and before you know it the Bard, who wanted little more than coin and cleavage, finds himself fighting evil and saving the world. The Bard finds out he is the chosen one (cliché, no?) who must rescue the princess. This is a story that is sure to make you laugh. The Bard’s antics and the humor of the narrator are hilarious. Hard-core RPG fans will enjoy it even more since many of the jokes revolve around RPG clichés, such as crushing barrels or killing rats in cellars. Not to say that many aspects of The Bard’s Tale aren’t cliché themselves, which ends up being one of the game's largest flaws.


In some ways this game is a classic top-down view fantasy RPG, but you’ll quickly see some of the differences. You’ll start the game off by allocating your stats (or having them done automatically for you). You also get to choose one of several abilities to start out with. As you level up by slaying foes you’ll be able to increase your stats, allocating two points to whichever stat you want. You’ll also be able to learn new skills, such as dual wield.


You’ll only have direct control over the Bard, but you can also summon magic creatures to fight alongside him. There are plenty of different summon creatures you can collect as the game progresses. Each summon has different abilities and fighting styles. The Knight is a strong physical attacker who will run right into a swarm of foes and fight bravely. The electric spider isn’t as strong, but can zap multiple foes at a time and occasionally stuns them. You’ll be able to power up your summons as you progress, making them even more useful. You can command your summons with the directional pad, giving them orders such as “come here” or “attack.”


You and your party of summons will travel from town to town, completing a variety of quests and progressing with the story. The world map is pretty dull, and for whatever reason The Bard moves extremely slow while traveling through it, but you really won't spend too much time there. You’ve got a handy quest log, which notes not only your main quest, but all of your active side quests. You’ll make occasional stops at a shop to buy new equipment, and you can hang out in the bar to buy drinks and listen to a bunch of drunks sing. When talking to townsfolk you’ll often get two choices on how to respond: snarky or nice. Think Knights of the Old Republic, but not nearly as deep. Still, the dialog is often hilarious, and your choices can affect how people treat you.


The dungeons are of good size, and you’ll find all sorts of items, summons and equipment spread throughout each. You’ll often have to go through several levels in each dungeon to get through it, but you’ve got a trusty mini-map to help you through it. The mini-map comes in very useful and can be zoomed in to make it easier to read. All exits as well as your destination are marked on the map. Enemies also appear on the mini-map once you’re close enough to them.


The fighting is pretty action-packed, and you can find yourself against a rather large amount of enemies. The bard can wield range weapons, like a bow and arrow, or melee weapons, like swords. You can switch between weapons with ease by pressing the black or white button to see the weapons list, and then choose a weapon. You have no real inventory, as the Bard converts all the weaker weapons you pick up to gold automatically. It's convenient because it saves you the time of having to sell it, but those who want to be able to carry around a variety of weapons may find it a bit of a disappointment. Summoning and using items is just as easy and a list of your options pops up when you hit the R trigger for summons or L trigger for items. Each weapon type has its advantages and disadvantages, so you’ll have to use some strategy choosing between them. The bow and arrow is nice for range, but at the same time it’s hard to aim with, which can cause a lot of problems. Also, you often find yourself up against hordes of foes, so battle can be pretty frustrating. If you don’t have a good fighting party out and happen to run into a group of foes, it could be game over for you! Even worse is that you have to spend time playing your lute while you summon, leaving you vulnerable to enemies. Then you have to draw your weapon to re-enter combat. By this time the battle could be over.


The sound in the game is top notch. The music fits the game perfectly, and the voice acting is not only hilarious, but is great quality. The Bard is voiced by Cary Elwes, who seems to fit the part perfectly. The game is full of songs, all of which are good. Everyone you come across will have an accent, and for a change we see a game where accents are done well. The game also features some nice graphics. The character models and environments are beautiful, and effects and movements are also well done.


Although The Bard’s Tale falls prey to some of the same clichés that it mocks, it still offers one of the most entertaining RPG experiences in recent memory. The game is hilarious and even the cliché aspects are still fun. The Bard’s Tale is an addictive and enjoyable game that RPG fans would be wise to add to their Christmas list.


Final Grade: 87%




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