An Average Action RPG That Is Worth The Price of Admission Thanks to the Jackass Protagonist
The Bards Tale is a weird game… in an era where every action RPG not named Zelda or Kingdom Hearts sucks, The Bards Tale is a welcome breath of fresh air, for one reason alone…its plot. No it’s not that the plot is complex and full of shocks like Alundra’s, the thing that makes the Bard’s Tale plot fresh is that the game is to Zelda (and other RPGs) what Space Balls is to Star Wars.
It’s a parody of general RPG conventions and therefore it will appeal to most RPG fans, hard core or not, there is something about the humorous dialog in this game, that will probably make everyone laugh.
To start as I said before the plot is simple, you are the Bard, a total jackass and an opportunist, who will not miss an opportunity to score some cash and some cleavage. Woman and Money are his primary goal through the game. Unlike Link who unselfishly risks his life to save Princess Zelda every time out, the Bard will risk his life for Princess Caleigh only because she promised him many riches and well…herself to do as he pleases. The Bard’s faults as a human being are many, luckily the sarcastic narrator never misses an opportunity to point them out.
Perhaps the Bard’s plot is more realistic than that of Zelda in the sense that very few humans would actually put themselves in peril without expecting anything in return. The Bard rarely makes any friends thanks to the way he treats and scams people. The Bard constantly points out throughout his quest, that he feels annoyed by the fact that he has to go through long dungeons facing hordes of enemies before facing the boss, as he would very much prefer to get it over with by just fighting the boss right at the beginning of the dungeon.
Then there is the whole affair with the chosen ones, as it seems every youngster in the game thinks that they are the chosen one, of course the game makes fun of this concept (which is overused by many RPGs) by killing the chosen ones, and then to add insult to injury a trio of little Trow (goblin look-alikes) sing a song that ridicules the entire chosen one concept, it goes some what like this “Oh it’s bad luck to be you, don’t think for just a second it isn’t true, when your life is run amuck, you will see you are just a schmuck…” And it goes on; the lyrics are slightly different with each chosen one, but amusing none the less.
All in all, the game never loses its touch of heavy humor and sarcasm, it is the reason why I kept plowing through the 28 hour stretch that it took me to reach the endings, yep there is three endings, and the conclusions will be surprising, the story will probably remain engraved on my mind for years to come, if only because it’s really the first action RPG I have played that makes a parody out of the entire genre.
GENERICGAMEPLAY=MANY MANY BATTLES, WITH BORING STRAIGHT FOWARD DUNGEONS. ZELDA THIS IS NOT!
Gameplay wise the Bard’s Tale doesn’t break any new ground in fact is as simple as Hack and Slash action RPGs can get. You make your way through (what it seems to be by the time the game is over) an endless amount of areas hacking away at equally numerous foes, the battles are sometimes challenging, but if you dedicate yourself to fighting everything eventually your character will become so strong that most common foes will be a cinch.
The repetitiveness and frequency of which combat occurs will eventually grow tiresome, it is at these moments were anyone would be forgiven to simply stop playing the game, but the humorous plot had me hooked enough for me to keep venturing back into the game.
The Enemies, are not too smart, yeah they block and what not, but if you run out of their area most enemies won’t give chase and turn their backs giving you a few free hits, also they attack the same way all the time, I never ran into trouble with 4 enemies or less, things get tough when they overwhelm you with numbers.
You can summon allies which at times help when you are taking on a whole group of enemies, though I will say right here that it is very possible for a player to beat the game with out ever using them during battles, the only spell I found useful was the healing one, which I only used at later boss battles, by the time I reached the top of the last tower, I had about 85 magic crystals left.
The game does give you a choice of sorts to use a double handed or single handed sword, or a bow. The bow comes in handy when you need to attack enemies from a distance in order to conserve health. The Bard will have these weapons at his disposal the entire time, but how proficient he is at them largely depends on what attributes you allocate level up points to when the Bard levels up.
Players walking into the game thinking they will run into Zelda like dungeons will be disappointed for the only challenge that lies in them are the enemies. Really “Generic” is the perfect word to describe how the game plays, the gameplay isn’t broken but it isn’t necessarily fun either.
There a few mini-quests here and there, only one of the quests was actually worth my time, and that was the one where I slaughtered an entire Viking Village, not only did I leveled up but I also got hold of a few useful weapons.
The game has a small over world map that screams Final Fantasy more than it screams Zelda, but there is nothing to really do on it, since the story is very linear and everything happens in the villages, and dungeons.
TOMMY TALLARICO DOES FINE
The Music in the game isn’t FF caliber or even Zelda, but it does a fine job in presenting the fantasy world. Tallarico the composer did the best he could with what he had, after all the Bard doesn’t have any epic love scenes, or tragic moments.
The Voice Acting however is by far the best thing The Bard’s Tale has going for it (Besides the funny dialog). It’s the best acting I have heard in an RPG so far. Unfortunately there are only two actors that deliver Oscar earning performances Cary Elwes as the Bard, and Tony Jay as the narrator. Everyone else forgiving a few exceptions deliver mediocre performances. All the enemies have different voices which strangely enough never got old through the 28 hour stretch.
All in all the sound department is the one are where the game can stand on its own two legs against any RPG out there right now. Musically its good but the acting is up there with most of the offerings from RPG giant SquareEnix.
MEDIOCRE VISUALS GALORE!
The mistake made by the developers here was to use a top down view, the same view that 2-D master pieces like Alundra once had, but in this day and age, the behind the back 3rd person mode is to be expected, from this kind of game, I mean Zelda did it in 1998?
The environments are bland and devoid of any real artistic prowess, as everything seems generic, the character designs while ugly in their design actually look okay while in game. In the in- game cut scenes the camera closes up on the characters showing nice facial detail in the models. Solid comes to mind when describing the visuals.
AGAINST MY BETTER JUDGEMENT I CONSIDER THIS A MUST BY FOR RPG GAMERS
Strange but true, even though the game is average in pretty much every category that counts, the fact that the game so cleverly makes a parody out of pretty much every RPG ever made, makes it a must buy for fans looking for a good laugh, it is very possible the developers knew this too, so they didn’t take the game seriously enough to go with mind blowing music, and jaw dropping visuals, after all the The Bard’s Tale appeal lies in its hilariously funny dialog. Not a bad purchase for RPG fans.
Gameplay: 6.0-No puzzles, very little actual exploration, just pure hack and slash action RPG gameplay. It gets repetitive towards the end.
Graphics: 7.0-It could have looked somewhat better, but given the subject material in the game maybe it wouldn’t have mattered much.
Music: 9.0-Like the graphics, the music does the job but doesn’t impress, the acting however is some of the best.
Story: 7.0- It relies solely on its humor, everything else is typical run of the mill RPG fare if it wasn’t for the witty dialog the game wouldn’t be worth playing.
Addictiveness: 5.0-Truly only worth playing once, after that you probably would have seen all there was see, and even if you missed something it probably isn’t worth playing the entire game again.
Overall: 6.5-A worthy buy, if you are looking for a quick chip trill, doesn’t have replay value or the technical finesse need to get in to the coveted 8 and up territory, not a game for everyone.
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