The raunchy self-aware RPG offers an addicting playing experience.
Super charged by fantastic voice acting, The Bard played by Cary Elwes and The Narrator played by Tony Jay, this whacky adventure is every bit quirky and self deprecating as it is a flat out adventure.
The Bard’s Tale is an overhead Action RPG, hack-n-Slash game released in 2004 by inXile Entertainment. Other notable releases are, Hunted: The Demon’s Forge and Wasteland 2. It’s palso interesting to note inXile as created by two programmers from Interplay with over thirty years of experience at the company between the two of them and The Bard’s Tale was there first title release.
The story begins with our unnamed anti-hero, The Bard, during his initial quest for wine, women and wealth. Where predictably he is inadvertently thrust into a save the princess/ save the world trope.
One of which he does eventually go along with but certainly not quietly. Refusing to do any heroic deeds until at-least promised riches and more from the princess, herself.
The humor is corny and low brow most times but it’s refreshing coming from a genre that typically takes itself deadly seriously. The writers break the fourth and freely acknowledge that certain aspects of the plot are going to be cliché while also having some really, English silly humored side quests.
The game itself plays more like a hack n’ slash than a traditional RPG. The RPG elements are casual with a max level of 21. You have your typical stats to upgrade with each level (Strength, Vitality, Luck etc) and every other level you learn a new skill (Power shot for arrows, Two Handed skill, Treasure hunter). The one more interesting aspect of the game is the musical system – that allows you to play songs with your Lute to conjure up a variety of different party members to aid you. From an old crone who heals you and your other party members to mercenaries, each level and situation usually requires the use of a different party member.
With that said however, the AI for your party members can be downright dreadful. Between standing in traps until they die, charging into enemies ahead of you or just barely fighting alongside you at all for no apparent reason, sometimes your party members can leave you very vulnerable. Especially because you will take in hordes of enemies with the expectation that you are not alone and summoning a party member after one dies is normally not an issue, it does leave you defenseless for a period of time. Which is plenty of enough time to be overrun by hordes of enemies.
Another qualm with the summoning menus is that there are more than one and it can be hard to remember which hotkey brings up which summons menu. Leaving you running around from enemies in circles flipping through screens trying to find the spell you want. You don’t have very much downtime when it comes to battle and the game can be cruel in how quickly it can and will kill you. But, luckily save points are placed generously all over each area.
Other then the typical fatigue that hack slash games provide after 8+ hours straight, the voice acting and the story is clever and charming enough to keep you engaged throughout. I had my doubt going into the game but was pleasantly surprised after being patient with it and mastering its gameplay. I would even go as far as to say this game is a forgotten gem of the PlayStation 2 era. If you can find it cheap, which shouldn’t be much of an issue, I highly recommend picking it up.
Overall: 84% (BRONZE)