For those of you old enough to remember, the original The Bard's Tale was released for the Apple II computer way back in 1985 and was later ported to other computer platforms. One of the first games released by Interplay Productions, Tales of the Unknown, Volume I: The Bard's Tale was a big hit for PC gamers and spawned two popular sequels, The Destiny Knight and Thief of Fate. The producer of the original title, Brian Fargo, moved on to form inXile Entertainment in 2002 and a remake of The Bard's Tale is the first title from that new company.
The story of the original Bard's Tale was pretty cut and dry. An evil wizard and his evil minions cast an evil spell on a countryside full of innocent townsfolk. The bard and his band of adventurers must set off to release the spell and bring peace back to the land. It is unclear how much the remake will resemble the original in terms of plot development. In fact, the developers tell gamers to "forget the quest to save the world, our hero is interested in just two things...coin and cleavage." Whether or not these humble desires could launch the bard into a more dramatic adventure remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: the bard's penchant for humorous debauchery is likely to permeate into much of the game's story.
Gameplay in The Bard's Tale is typical action RPG in line with the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance series. In fact, the combat engine is based on the same one used in Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath. Unlike these titles, no co-operative mode is available in Bard's Tale. This does not mean that the bard will be forced to venture alone. During the course of his adventures, the bard will be able to summon a slew of magical creatures to fight along side of him. These creatures, of which there are sixteen total, range from common bar rats to exotic lightning elemental spiders.
The bard is fairly customizable as far as an RPG hero goes. Stats are broken down into strength, vitality, luck, dexterity, charisma, and rhythm, the last of which affects the power of summoned creatures. From the start, the player can customize these statistics as they see fit, and more points can be distributed as the bard levels up. At the beginning of the game the player is also prompted to choose a "talent" for the hero. These talents include the abilities to wield two-handed weapons, dual-wield weapons, find additional treasure after combat, and counterattack, among others.
The bard has a variety of weapons and special abilities at his disposal, as well as an array of magic via the aid of his summoned creatures. Hopefully the variety of skills will alleviate some of the tedium encountered in other titles in the genre. A few things have been addressed to remove some of the annoying aspects of other top-down dungeon crawlers like Baldur's Gate. For instance, useless loot dropped by enemies is automatically converted into currency so the player isn't forced to return to town every five minutes to unload inventory on the local shopkeeper.
The dialogue of The Bard's Tale is one aspect that sets it apart from any other entry into the genre. Throughout the story, the player controls the response of the hero by choosing between a snarky or nice attitude. Both tend to be sarcastic, but the former can give the bard a good excuse to really rip into a NPC. The decisions that the player makes can have an effect on the story later on. If the player gets on someone's bad side, there is a good chance they will attempt to get back at the bard in the not-too-distant future.
Appropriately, graphics in The Bard's Tale seem to be a slightly upgraded version of those seen in Baldur's Gate and Champions of Norrath, so expect them to get the job done well. The voice-acting in the title is reported to outshine just about any other RPG on the market. The bard is voiced by Cary Elwes (from The Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men in Tights) while the narrator of the story is Tony Jay who provided voices for Xantam The Beholder in Dark Alliance and Magneto in the recent X-Men Legends. The two talents interact quite a bit during the story, resulting in a lot of witty banter.
The Bard's Tale looks to be a solid entry into the action RPG genre with a sarcastic and humorous edge that is sure to set it apart from similar titles. Look for its release on October 26th.