Reviews - Updated on April 12, 2022

RPG legend Brian Fargo continues his crusade to revive classic RPGs. We have already seen Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera, and now The Bard’s Tale IV and Wasteland 3 are in production at inXile Entertainment. And personally, I’m more looking forward to the continuation of the famous bard saga – apparently, it can pretty much refresh the dungeon crawler genre.Bard's Tale IV обзор

Up to six characters can participate in battles, but there are also two additional slots for summoned creatures.

Return of the bard

Let me remind you that the original The Bard’s Tale came out already in 1985. She was largely inspired by the Wizardry series, but she also brought a lot of new things to the formation of the then young genre of “underground” RPGs with a first-person view. Take at least the very appearance of such a class as a bard with jokes and songs that inspire allies.

The player collected a batch of characters of different classes, explored the labyrinths of dungeons, fought in turn-based battles, solved riddles, found and bought new weapons and armor. And, of course, it was “pumped” – experience points for winning a fight were equally distributed among the surviving members of the squad.

Then there were the second and third parts, and in 1990 Electronic Arts released The Bard’s Tale Trilogy. Fourteen years later, in 2004, a rather strange continuation or restart appeared – the isometric role-playing action The Bard’s Tale.

So, the fourth part is created precisely in the tradition of dungeon crawler and the entire original trilogy in general – there will be a view from the eyes, a party and turn-based battles. Although it will not do without innovations – in some places very radical ones.

Smooth movements

The action of The Bard’s Tale IV will again unfold in the city of Skara Brae, but a century and a half after the finale of the previous game. Territories, of course, there will be more tasks, humor and non-linearity – too. However, here you can still find taverns where quests are issued, and guilds of seekers. Between drinks and wits, our bard and his group will have to go down into the dungeons to fight monsters, look for treasures and overcome traps.Bard's Tale IV обзор

In battles, the background is not static, but very much alive – maybe even some spider can run past the goblins.

There are plenty of reasons for this – take at least the hooliganism of the mad god from the first part, who brought destruction to the surrounding islands, and now takes refuge in the throne room of Hangskall Castle. The king asks us to take it back.

This is where the fun begins. We will travel not only underground, but also on the surface – very violent and colorful, which is very different from the gloomy tones of the original games. At the same time, the movement will be much freer than is customary in the classic dungeon crawler – based on all the same cells that can be visualized if desired, but we move more smoothly.

Place to step into battle

In turn-based battles, a lot of attention will be paid to the positioning of your wards. In classic games, as a rule, everything is predetermined in advance: “tanks” are placed in the first row, magicians and archers are behind. And there is practically no room to maneuver.

In The Bard’s Tale IV, you can knock enemies back, lift them into the air and move them around. You can, for example, grab the leg and drag some funny yelling goblin upside down closer to our warrior so that he can hit several opponents at once with one blow. Only first you have to remove your own magician from the line of fire.

There is also a dagger attack called Slinking Strike, which moves the fighter one square back, allowing the thief from the front row to switch places with the fighter who will cover him. Additionally, some melee effects also use the movement mechanic. For example, bleeding inflicts wounds precisely when the character moves. And if you force the enemy, who is in this state, to change position, you will quickly alleviate both your own and his suffering.

Bard's Tale IV обзор

This time, the authors pay more attention to the development of the game world and the races inhabiting it.

Finally, another interesting innovation is the appearance of a common pool of skill points that will allow you to spend on the active abilities of the characters. That is, you can at least use everything for the spell of one or two fighters, believing that it is they who are more important now. And you can do it differently – here again there is room for tactics and creative experiments. By the way, there will be no regular attack and defensive stance at all – on their turn, each character must use one of the four skills or move. And this is also very unusual for the genre.

Refresher courses

But the role-playing system is planned to be more familiar. Character development in the original trilogy was based heavily on skills closely related to the starting class, while still offering an interesting concept of specializations. The Summoner eventually became a mage, wizard, spellcaster, and archmage. The Bard’s Tale IV, according to the developers themselves, will remain true to tradition and retain a strong emphasis on class skills. The authors have improved the development of all classes, endowing them with unique sets of specializations.

Initially, the game will have four basic archetypes – fighter, practitioner, rogue and bard. Classes are lines of specialization in each archetype, which will be from four to six. For example, the commander is in the fighter archetype, and the wizard is the practice. Each class has its own skill tree. Therefore, at a glance, you will distinguish a wizard from a magician, a thief from a murderer, a keeper from a commander. With each new level, the character receives a skill point that can be spent on learning a new skill. The number of development options increases with the level of the character.

In the original game, the “pumping” of the level was implemented in a very funny way. Characters ready to “level up” had to return to Skara Brae to appear before the Qualification Council and get (or not) their approval. If the council recognized the character as worthy, new opportunities were opened before him, granted by the next level of the skill tree.

Bard's Tale IV обзор

Apparently, the style and artistic taste of the authors will be all right.

Previously, we had to go to such an exam with every promotion, but since in the fourth part we will have to travel far beyond Skara Brae, the developers decided to give players the opportunity to spend skill points right away. Although this does not negate the fact that at key moments, the squad or some individual characters will still need to appear before the local examination board.

Riddles and promises

In addition to more than twenty dungeons connected in “hubs” of five, in the vicinity of Skara Brae there will also be neutral settlements – cultural centers where you can trade, chat and get new quests. At the same time, the tasks themselves and the ways to solve them are far from always banal and obvious. For example, in order to get to the aforementioned Hangskall castle on a date with the mad god, you will have to communicate with the ghost of the castle builder, and then go to the torture chamber – there, on one of the bodies, you need to find the key to the hidden passage.

We will be allowed to explore Skara Brae and its environs at will. That is, no one will forbid you to poke your head into some especially dangerous place intended for high-level characters – rake the people, remember this location, and then come back here to take revenge on the bastards and literally destroy them with your bare hands. The authors attach special importance to such “motivational content”.

Like riddles. To solve some, you will have to use special bardic songs, which, for example, are able to restore destroyed bridges and stairs. What’s more, The Bard’s Tale IV will even feature unique magical weapons. To unlock the full power and new effects of a superstaff, you will need to solve a certain puzzle associated with the symbols on its different parts.

Bard's Tale IV обзор

And the trolls are big…

***

The Bard’s Tale IV, funded through Kickstarter, was supposed to be released last October, but then the release was postponed to 2018. And rightly so – judging by the quality of some of Fargo’s previous work, the more development time he has, the better. But from the new adventures of a cheerful bard, a really strong, interesting game can come out, which, while maintaining the traditions of the genre, is not afraid to bring fresh ideas to it. Therefore, it will be doubly disappointing if everything does not work out here either due to a lack of time or resources that will be spent, for example, on Wasteland 3. In general, we are waiting for the second quarter of this year and hope for the best.

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