The Bard's Tale
System: PC, XBox, & PS2
ESRB Rating: Teen
Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Developer: Inxile Entertainment
Rating: 8.5 of 10
Review by Brutilus
SpeechlessThat's not a word anyone would ever attribute to the Bard.
Loud, crass, lecherous, and rude, but never speechless.
Our hero, known simply as "The Bard", is a semi-competent adventurer, entertainer and an incorrigible ladies' man.
When first we meet our "hero", he is standing outside the world class establishment known as the Drunken Rat. His scheme is to release a summoned rat into the tavern and then run in to save the beautiful, buxom widow McCrary from the horrible beast appealing to her better nature for payment of services rendered. With any luck, later that night he'll also get to test her "gratitude."
The Gritty Details
This is the best game that you didn't put on your Christmas list.
What with other HUGE titles like Half Life 2 on the market, The Bard's Tale managed to slip in under the radar.
The Bard's Tale takes the anti-hero approach to telling a story. The Bard (who manages to get through the game without ever getting a name) is an obnoxious loudmouth and a lout. He has very little respect for anyone, especially the narrator. The narrator of course takes every opportunity to blast the Bard with scathing comments. It's almost like an old married couple arguing.
Where do I start with singing the praises of the Bard, and more specifically, Inxile Entertainment? Let's
start with the voice acting...
Leading the cast of dozens is the ever entertaining Cary Elwes. His rise to fame started with The Princess Bride and continues today. Other credits in the medieval genre include Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Bram Stoker's Dracula. As a credit to his talent, I could not tell it was him. He is smug, rude, and not the least bit smooth, but still a VERY entertaining character.
The narrator is played by Tony Jay, who's deep and commanding voice has been featured in 24 video games and countless cartoons. He had held such roles as the Overlord in Savage Dragon, the Elder God in the Legacy of Kain series, and Chairface Chippendale in The Tick. His repartee with Elwes is biting, cruel, and immensely humorous.
From a technical standpoint, the Bard's Tale is nothing spectacular in this day and age. For an Xbox game, it has above average graphics and animation. Watching the characters speak in the cut scenes (which are done real time) is a little off, but no one has mastered CG character speech yet.
The enemies are all well animated and original if not plentiful. The main antagonists are an order of Druids bent on keeping the Princess locked away in their tower. There are also mechanical golems that are shaped like gladiators, giant plants that spawn seedpods when they die, and beautifully rendered octopus spawn called finfolk.
The most impressive effects produced by this engine are their water effects. The ripples and wakes created are flawless. The fact that they made a semi-reflective surface for the water while maintaining transparency is also very impressive.
Much credit should go to the musical staff. Nowadays, game producers have realized that the score for a game is almost as important as the gameplay itself. The music written for The Bard's Tale makes a perfect backdrop for our hero's story. Included in the game are chances for the Bard to jam with some drunks. One of my favorite folk songs (Beer, Beer, Beer) is sung by the drunks in the first town of Houton.
Having praised the story, music, and technical aspects I would be remiss if I told you that they gameplay was spectacular. It is, in truth, a little plain. It is almost exclusively hack and slash with no puzzle solving. While this keeps it from getting annoying like the Zelda games tend to, it also keeps it from reaching the heights of gaming nirvana.
That said, for an almost pure hack and slash game, it rivals the Castlevania series for fun. With all of the built in action the progression of the story is maintained with integrity and without feeling forced. Replay value is even maintained by giving you the challenge of going back through and finding all of the items, tokens, tunes, and extras that you missed. On my first run through of the game, I found less than half of the tokens, only 2 of the art galleries, and all but one of the tunes. I have no idea how many of the weapons and instruments
that I missed.
Why did this game not blow up during the Christmas season? Answer: Half Life 2 and Halo 2.
This is the best action-adventure game to come out in the last 6 months and is most definitely worth 40 hours of your life to play through.
The Bard's Tale is available for your PC, XBox, and Playstation
2 at Amazon.com.
All images are property of Inxile Entertainment and Vivendi Universal. Article ©2005 MillionairePlayboy.com