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 Post subject: The Bards Tale |8/10| XBox
PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 5:10 am 
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It sure sucks to be the chosen one.

The Bard’s Tale for Xbox and PS2 is a new title in a very old gaming franchise. Before talking about the game directly, let me tell you a brief bit about the history of its genre.

Once upon a time (80’s, 90’s), you could’ve roughly split up computer and console role-playing games (RPGs) into two groups: Japanese RPGS and American RPGS. Japanese RPGs tended to focus strongly on a plot. The game mechanics were just a mechanism to move the story forth. Character advancement was not nearly as important as story advancement. Ask anyone who has ever played any Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior game and you will find this is true. Enjoyment of the tale the game presented was the main goal of Japanese RPGs.

American RPGs on the other hand tended to be very open adventures with a very heavy emphasis on exploration, character development, and game statistics in general. The ‘story’ of these games worked more like a general game playing guideline than a strong dramatic plot. The stories presented would give you a rough idea of what needed to be done next, but would rarely push you into doing anything in particular until you really felt like unlocking some new area or getting some special item. Players would often run around the game world trying to build up their character statistics as high as possible. The emphasis of these games was enjoying the gameplay, not the story. Two series that were the hallmark of this type of game were Wizardry, and The Bard’s Tale.

This trend has even continued into the new century. Just compare Morrowind to Final Fantasy X: an open book versus a staged Soap Opera. Both titles are good games, just very different.

The original Bard’s Tale was a classic example of one these open, statistic driven American games. You created a party of characters using Dungeons and Dragons like statistics. Then you would run around a pseudo 3D dungeon, kill monsters, and collect treasure. After that, you would return to the inn to gain levels, heal your party members, and then repeat the whole process over again.

This new Bard’s Tale eschews that type of design completely, opting for instead a Diablo type action RPG style of control and play. The menu based combat of old is replaced with good ol’ hack and slash button mashing fun. You control a singular character from an overhead view, while partaking in multiple story and non-story related quests.

Another difference with this Bard’s Tale is that it is a humorous game. Unlike the previous titles which had somewhat serious stories to follow, this game is a laugh all the way through. It parodies other games in the genre, picks on common elements such as killing rats, opening random treasure chests, chosen ones, and has a very witty script to back it up with. I found the Bard’s dialog to be a constant source of amusement. The character you control and the games narrator often banter with each other, usually to humorous effect. This humorous script writing even shows up when you engage other characters in dialog. You are often give at least two response choices, a nice response, and a ‘snarky’ response. You quickly find out being nice doesn’t help you get what you want.

And, in another departure from traditional RPGs, the character you control isn’t your typical hero. No wide eye farm boys, elven princesses, or honor seeking knights here. He’s a roguish bard who takes advantage of people whenever he can. He is very fond of beer and the ladies, and doesn’t have any loftier goals than finding a warm bed to crash in at night, preferably accompanied with a barmaid. This is an attitude that never changes in the game, fortunately.

The basic story is that your character of the Bard gets drafted into being ‘The Chosen One’, and ends up trying to rescue to a trapped princess. You quickly find many other ‘Chosen Ones’ who have met a sad fate, and also discover that all is not as it seems…

The controls are fairly simple. You use the primary buttons to attack, block, jump, and activate things with. The left and right trigger buttons activate your summoning spells. Summoning can get a little tricky in the heat of battle so you generally want to do that in advance. Over all I found that the controls worked pretty well.

I was happy with the graphics. Nothing overly special, but nothing shoddy either.

Other than the script writing and humor, the other place this game shines is the sound effects and music department. The sounds always seem to be on cue, and I loved all the amusing sing-a-long songs they had in the game.

Overall, I really enjoyed this game and highly recommend.

One would never think that such drunken lout would make such a great chosen one.


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