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Playstation 2



Role-Playig Game



Vivendi Universal



InXile Entertainment



T (Teen)



Q4 2004



- Everything the Snowblind engine does well

- Unique sense of humor

- Summoning creatures and controlling them works well, fluidly



- No multi-player

- Limited Options

- Lacks the sense of involvement necessary for an RPG to achieve greatness



Review: The Bard's Tale (XB)

Review: Champions of Norrath (PS2)

Review: Baldur's Gate - Dark Alliance II (PS2)



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The Bard's Tale

Score: 7.8 / 10


I'm a huge fan of the Bard's Tale series.  I still have Bard's Tale I through III on floppy disk in my attic, and I still fondly remember using graph paper to map out on the towns and dungeons of those Commodore 64-era originals.  So, I'm among the handful of gamers who actually got excited when I heard that a new Bard's Tale game was in the work.  And, I wasn't even disappointed when I found out it was to be a dungeon-crawl as opposed to a full-featured RPG.  Heck, I've loved dungeon crawls from Rogue through Champions of Norrath, so I was actually stoked to hear the game was supposed to be both a dungeon crawl and a parody of dungeon crawls and RPG's that had come before it.  Unfortunately, now that I've played through the game, I have to say I'm a bit disappointed. Bard's Tale isn't a bad game, certainly, but it is a flawed one that comes nowhere near the greatness of the best dungeon crawls (Diablo, the aforementioned Rogue and Norrath).  It isn't even all that funny in the end, though it has its bits here and there.  Regardless, it's nice to have the Bard's Tale name out there again, and the game is certainly good enough to find a set of fans (maybe even a large one) and that should mean more Bard's Tale products in the future.


bard's tale ps2 review          the bard's tale ps2 review


Bard's Tale is built on Snowblind's great Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance engine and anyone who has played that game will have a grasp on the look and feel of Bard's Tale.  I can't really tell how much the Snowblind engine has been tweaked graphics-wise, but the game looks great and it is immediately clear why they decided to make use of the engine rather than starting from scratch.


Game play, however, is far different from the BG:DA series or their superior first cousins, the Norrath series.  Instead of choosing from a variety of characters that specialize in either long-range or melee attacks, the player's only option is the titular bard, this makes sense thematically, but really hammers the game's replay value.  The Bard is a poor close-in fighter, but he also sucks with ranged weapons.  Luckily, he has friends.  The basic game play in Bard's Tale involves summoning creatures using songs and letting them do the dirty work.  At first, I found the combat to be unique and rewarding (it feels a little like a RTS as you maneuver your summoned beasts around the battlefield), but, in the end, I really missed the sensation of getting stuck in the middle of a massive battle with a nearly all-powerful character.     The farther along in the game, the cooler the beasts at the Bard's disposal, but there is really something disengaging about depending on hirelings to whack the bad guys.





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Much of the game's marketing has been focused on the humor of The Bard's Tale, and it does have it's moments.  Certainly, there are many conventions of the RPG that are ripe for parodying, but after the first ten or so swipes at obvious targets, the humor grows stale.  I don't think I even chuckled after the first four hours (though, to be fair, I found quite a bit of the first sections of the game to be hilarious).


A much bigger problem is how far The Bard's Tale 


diverges from the games it parodies.  One of the great treats of dungeon crawls is finding new items and putting them to work on the bad guy or selling it to buy even bigger, badder weapons.  Bard's Tale, however, completely removes this element from the game.  Dead enemies will leave cool sounding items behind and treasure chests will open to reveal a dragon's horde worth of goodies, but the items immediately convert to cash.  Worse, there really isn't anything of value that the Bard can use the cash to buy.  Compare this to the hundreds of different items on the other games that use the Snowblind engine, and Bard's Tale has a serious lack of customizability and variety.


bard's tale ps2 review          the bard's tale ps2 review


In the end, Bard's Tale was a bit of a disappointment.  I wonder if I would have liked it better without the Norrath games to compare it too, but, any gamer who has played those games will make the same comparison.  Where Bard's Tale is different, the humor and the creature summoning and control, it really separates itself from competing products.  Whether the game is a must-buy or a rental likely comes down to how interested you are in those two elements.


- Tolen Dante

(February 17, 2005)

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