The Bard's Tale Review
A Quest for Coin and Cleavage? Where do I sign up!?! That is the slogan for developer's Inxile's first game The Bard's Tale. So pretty much right off the bat you know that this RPG is going to be slightly different than the standard fare. If that wasn't enough of a hint, they give you another clue on the disc label with the rather insulting “For A Really Disturbing Image...Flip Disc Over.” (It might take you a second but just remember that the other side of the game disk is almost as reflective as a mirror.) And so goes much of the actual game itself, never really taking itself very serious. But should you take it serious enough to play it? Let's see...
The Bard's Tale will bring back fond memories to many old school gamers and for some it may have been the first RPG they played. Originally release in the mid 80's I remember a lot from this game including the square gray box it came in with the picture of chubby bard playing an instrument and singing for a bunch of drunken people around a fireplace. Now his tale has been updated for the 21st century and also takes a lighthearted approach to what is, at times, a genre that can take itself too seriously. So in a way it's the Naked Gun or Space Balls of RPGs.
|Keeping the wolves at bay.|
In the Bard's Tale you play, well...the Bard and this character is not your normal hero. He is, in fact, more like the rest of us with maybe just a tad more self-centeredness. The last thing on his mind is saving the world or even anything else that doesn't have a direct affect on him. Hmm, come to think of it, you would think that saving the world would have a pretty direct affect on him... Anyway our Bard is looking after himself and only takes up a quest to rescue a princess once he learns of the great reward and that she's hot. Kind of reminds one of a Mr. Solo from a galaxy far, far away.
There are two areas in the game where The Bard's Tale really shines. The first is that it takes a very playful look at itself and other RPG's. I'm always a big fan of just about anything or anyone that can laugh at itself. For example, you finally find a good reason to go around smashing barrels. After a encounter and conversation with a barrel-maker you make a deal where he will give you silver for every barrel you break. You like breaking things and he gets to make more barrels, so everyone wins! There are many more traditional RPG actions that are mocked throughout the game.
The other strong point in the game is the voice acting. It finally seems that companies are starting to use quality actors to provide character voices. In this case the Bard's voice is done by Cary Elwes, from The Princess Bride fame, and he does a wonderful job. There are even a few times when the Bard will directly address the player or the narrator...one such conversation with the narrator involves how and why in the world is there so much stuff inside the wolf you just killed.