The Bard’s Tale is a fantasy game that doesn’t take itself too serious. The title is basically a humorous take on the original “Bard’s Tale I – III” games.
I can honestly say, at first I thought it cannot be a good title, because usually games that are “spoof titles” aren’t too much fun.
My thinking automatically wandered in the direction of comparing it to movies, like “Scary Movie” that was a spoof of the movie “Scream”.
So needless to say, I wasn’t super excited about it, at first.
But my curiosity got the better of me. As a huge fan of fantasy games, especially middle-age themed, I couldn’t help but downloading The Bard’s Tale to give it a whirl.
The Original Games
The original Bard’s Tale titles are actually also available from inside the game menu. You can download them for free to experience a 80’s throwback.
The Bard’s Tale: Storyline
You are “The Bard”, a man without name, a weapon wielding adventurer with a fondness for beer and fair damsels.
The story begins in the small village of Houton, particularly inside “The Drunken Rat”, which is the village’s watering hole.
You, the bard, came up with an ingenious plan. Conjuring a rat to scare the Pub’s owner Mary, probably to get some free drink and meal.
After some quick bantering, you’ve got yourself your first quest: Get rid of the rat problem in the cellar…
After deposing of the “small” rat you’ll find lurking in the cellar, you’ll be getting new quests that lead you to many different locations very quickly.
The Bard & The Narrator
The Bard and the Narrator are both heavily into sarcasm and witty exchanges.
When was the last time you’ve played a game, and when standing around for two or so minutes, the Narrator becomes impatient and says something along the lines:
So, the Bard settled down with the next peasant girl he met, took a job sweeping out the local stables, and raised six children…The Narrator
To which the bard reacts, by looking up in the camera and replying:
Oh no, I didn’t! Stop with the make believe!The Bard
There are countless exchanges like this throughout the game. It’s a really refreshing and funny addition to a game, that I haven’t encountered in this form before.
Sometimes the exchanges were so funny, I actually had to pause the game for a second because I was laughing so hard.
The quests you take on are mostly pretty easy and don’t involve much traveling.
Some of the longer quests will reward you with “Tunes”. Tunes are used to conjure up various companions the Bard can use to assist him in fights.
The quests aren’t boring, but also not especially challenging. Picture Diablo III style quests as a comparison.
What would a Bard be, without a musical instrument?
So, also this particular Bard has of course one, which he can use to summon up to four companions to fight alongside him. The number of companions depends on how expertly crafted his instrument is.
The good stuff is found later in the game, I found a sword that acts as instrument at the same time as being a very high damage weapon.
Over time you build up a music sheet of 20 different Tunes, each Tune represents another companion. Each companion has different stats which you can see in detail inside your Tunes menu.
Over time the Bard can hone a selection of his talents. Every time you level up, you can learn another talent. But not all of them, so you should choose talents that fit your fighting style and / or current equipment.
This allows the Bard to specialize in in certain skills, for example my personal choice: Dual Wielding.
The talents range from dexterous skills like the Dual Wield, over Melee talents like “Two-Handed Weapons”, to specialization in ranged combat with Bows.
The Bard’s Tale makes use of the classic fantasy game character attributes:
You can adjust each attribute with points, whenever you level up. After playing for a while you will be able to get almost all of your attributes over the 20 points maximum per stat (With modifiers from Weapons and Armor).
The Bard’s Tale uses a classic top-down perspective in the game, you can adjust the camera angle by making a circle motion with two fingers.
But this is barely needed as the game is doing a great job keeping the camera in a good position.
You can zoom in and out using the usual two finger movement, fingers apart for zooming out and fingers together for zooming in. I would recommend zooming out as much as possible though, it’s easier to spot your enemies in time that way. But hey, if you like a challenge, zoom ‘er in 🙂
Camera movement is very fluid, and overall I haven’t experienced any lag or jitter. The cutscenes are often extremely funny and full of action. When playing the game for the first time, it’s definitely worth watching every scene until the end.
But once you start playing a second or third time, it becomes a little annoying that you can’t cut the scenes short completely. Sometimes there is a “Skip” icon in the upper right corner, but it won’t skip the entire scene immediately. Sometimes it still takes a good 10-20 seconds for gameplay to resume.
Overall it’s a very engaging and rewarding gameplay experience though. Random dialogues between the Narrator and the Bard are the sugar on top and make for a really addictive gameplay where you don’t want to stop because you can’t wait what happens next.
By default, you have the usual joystick controls on the left side which are used to maneuver the Bard.
On the right side you have a button to attack, and defend. Holding the attack button for 2+ seconds, charges your weapon and release a devastating attack that hits multiple enemies at once.
In the top left corner you’ll have a small pause button, over which you can access the game menu. Below that is your health / mana / stamina displayed and tapping it leads you to the character options where you can also access your inventory.
The “Instrument” button is where you can quickly summon one of your companions to assist you.
Tapping on a summoned companions symbol makes them disappear, this is very useful if one of your companions is very low on health and will die soon anyway. Remove it, and quickly summon again to continue with a companion at full health.
You can easily give your companions commands, just like in the PC / PS2 versions of the Bard’s Tale.
Use your right finger (Or left with inverted controls), to make a quick swipe in one direction:
- Swipe Right: “Come to me” (Companions follow you)
- Swipe Left: “Stay where you are!” (Companions stand and wait)
- Swipe Up: “Attack / Charge” (Companions attack your enemies)
- Swipe Down: “Back off!” (Companions stop attacking and follow you)
Overall the controls are super-responsive and easy to master. Attacking is a bit repetitive though and doesn’t require “Skill”. But it doesn’t really have a negative impact on the fun!
The graphics in the Bard’s Tale are surprisingly sharp, nothing is blurry or pixelated. It’s really a joy watching your companions fight.
Some companions like “The Knocker”, are a bit small on a mobile screen.
The landscape is beautifully animated, you can see light beams, weather effects and water reflections. The graphics remind a little bit of Diablo III.
Overall the Bard’s Tale has amazing visuals, and can keep up with newer games.
Now, I know this is a dividing topic that makes a lot of people get highly emotional.
The Bard’s Tale is a paid for game, that also offers in-game purchases, which aren’t just of cosmetic nature.
The items sold range from enhanced skill points, to weapons and armor sold.
Normally I would say this is a big no-no, but after having played this game really for a while now I can say that any item you are able to purchase in the store, will also be found in the game. Some items take a while to be found, others maybe even a few games.
So in this case, and also because it is a single player game, the in-game store is more something for impatient people who like to “Kick A**” right away without having to wait for a good item drop.
The Bard’s Tale is a beautifully designed game, with tons and tons of great audio content, daft humor and an amazing storyline.
There are a few minor details that could be improved, like for example the duration of cutscenes you have watched already for the nth-time.
The fact that the game has an in-game store that let’s you purchase items that give you an edge in the game, might be a turn-off for you. I’m neutral on this though, because I now know you’ll get all the items sold in there, also for free eventually.
If I had to rate this game though, overall I would give it a 9/10 simply because you can see how much love went into creating the game. When I say love, I don’t mean work, I actually mean love. The guys at inXile Entertainment really put their heart-blood into this title, and it shows.
If you love fantasy & RPG games, and can live with the few cons I’ve listed here. Go ahead and download the Bard’s Tale, I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did, and still do.