The Bard's Tale
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The Bard's Tale

    Megan MacLean

If you’re looking for a stunning game chock-full of action as well as some mind bending puzzles, this is it. The Bard’s Tale is a unique game, and it combines witty, sarcastic humor (on the narrator’s part) and some humorous, sometimes crude, but snide comments, mostly on the Bard’s part. You can choose how to allocate the attribute points at the beginning of the game and when the Bard levels up, or have them auto-allocated. If you pause to listen to the Narrator talk about each character attribute, he will also make his own witty comments, depending on how much or how little of this particular attribute the Bard currently has. This is quite amusing to listen to and adds a lot to the flow and enjoyment of the game. The game’s objectives change frequently, with new ones being added depending on whom the Bard talks to, and what other tasks he completes. The game options are pretty straightforward. You can turn the subtitles and vibration function on or off, adjust the audio and video, set map preferences and toggle the combat display text on or off. The game controls are easy to learn and easy to remember, even in the adrenaline-pumping heat of battle, and there is plenty of this action to go around here.

Character control is simple and easy. The one thing that bothers me is the frequent angle changes during the combat engagements. If you’ve equipped the Bard with weapon such as a bow, the constant switch in perspective makes aiming at the enemy rather difficult, especially when they’re heading right for you. Combat is also pretty easy, and very quick to pick up, and once you know what you’re doing, your enemies don’t stand a chance. Now, I should point out that not every enemy is a total piece of cake. Many times you’ll need both brains and brawn to defeat your opponents – so don’t rely totally on the Bard’s combat skills and go heroically charging into some of the fights, especially if there are large groups of them. It would be wise to devise some strategies and tactics for some of the more difficult and more challenging chapters. Personally I’d stick to ranged weapons rather than melee. If you die, the game has a nice little option of allowing you to load your last saved game, cutting out the hassle of having to go to the main menu and a completely new setup. This will be especially appreciated by novice players that will unfortunately die a few times before they get the hang of how to play the game successfully.

Game play was simply put, incredible. I at first was dubious about the merits of a game that boasted as being a ‘quest for coin and cleavage’, believing that it would offer only shallow and monotonous hack-and-slash action. I was pleasantly surprised that some areas of the game required a good deal of mental powers. You had to think, and then fight, in order to progress. I am, however, deeply disappointed in how the game’s developers chose to play into the typical male stereotype, as this game is highly skewed towards the 16-25 year old male demographic, playing up heavily on the hormonally-driven male fantasies of overly buxom, brainless babes in almost nothing at all. As a 20 year old female who greatly enjoys action/adventure/RPG games, I find the fact that this stereotype is still in use slightly offending. More and more females in my age group are becoming addicted to action/adventure and RPG genres in gaming, and I think the old Pamela Andersonesque figured, brainless female character no longer has a place in the genre. They should instead realize not every female is interested in cutesy games. Some, such as me thoroughly enjoy a good sword-slinging adventure game. It is my belief that as long as game development still continue to cater to these puerile fantasies, they will not be able to court the female fans of this particular genre. Still, if you can get past this, and in the heat of the battles it is easy to do, you will find yourself playing an interesting game.

I loved the game. From the moment I got it, I could barely put it down. There are several infectiously funny, silly songs scattered about the game, and the comments exchanged between the Bard and the Narrator are hilarious, and had me laughing time and again. The Bard’s Tale was completely spellbinding visually. The graphics blew me away in their sophistication and complexity, especially in the landscapes and characters. Overall, it was richly detailed and captured my interest right from the start. Considering the content (sexual innuendo, violence, alcohol usage, coarse language) I’m amazed it was rated ‘T’ for Teen and not ‘M’, Mature. There’s enough of all the aforementioned content to validate putting it at that rating.

In all the game will provide many hours of enjoyment, even for the female game enthusiast. There is a realistic route for character development and an understanding of how to get a player hooked on the game. It is reassuring that a game system goes beyond the mindless action that so many games default to and includes a requirement to think about what you are doing. So, put down your blast way games and pick up a game that will test your mind as well as your reflexes.

Posted 12/18/04

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