The Bard's Tale

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a game by FCI
Genre: Adventure/RPG
Platforms: XBox, PC (2005), Playstation 2, NESNES
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 4 reviews, 6 reviews are shown
User Rating: 9.0/10 - 2 votes
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See also: Hack and Slash Games, Games Like Baldur's Gate, Games Like Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance

Lend me your ear, young lad, and I'll tell you the tale of a brave minstrel, his band of merry men, and how they rid our fair town of the mad wizard, Mangar. In fact, this tale can be your own if you play the game known as "The Bard's Tale".

A New Role to Play

FCI's The Bard's Tale, a computer classic, combines some of the best elements of other adventure games with new innovations. Your team consists of six Dungeons & Dragons adventurers, a Warrior, a Rogue, a Hunter, a Sorcerer, a Wizard, and of course a Bard. They've got great tricks up their sleeves, like the Bard's songs and the Sorcerer's instant illusionary allies (who fight by your side). Magical abilities are based on a spell point system, so you can divvy up enchantments as necessary. Combat, like the rest of the game, is menu-driven and easy to conduct.

As in most such scenarios, Bard's Tale requires lots of beastie-bashing to build experience and add new powers to your party's arsenal. You explore dozens of map-making-required mazes, and unlike most similar titles, here you get two play views, a first-person 3-D look and an overhead perspective. While BT's visuals and music aren't much to talk about, the diverse locations throughout Skara Brae, such as the Wine Cellar and Kylearan's Tower, are a definite high point.


  • Cast the Scry Site spell to determine your compass coordinates (north and east) on a 16x16 gird map.
  • In order to enter the Wine Cellar, the first dungeon, request Grape Juice at the Scarlet Bard. Find the Cellar's stairs to the Sewers at 2 North and 15 East Next, battlee the Sewer Spider at 4 North and 9 East, and finally claim the Heretic Proof at 2 North and 10 East. Use the Proof to enter Tarjan's Temple.

A Tale to Remember

Bard's Tale isn't the best-looking or sounding RPG around, but maze trail-blazers will find this musician's song is worth a listen.

Download The Bard's Tale


System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Playstation 2

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
  • P-200, 32 MB RAM

Game Reviews

If There's one sure fire way to drum up free publicity for your latest gaming venture, it's by wheeling out an update. In the case of The Bard's Tale, you'd have to be a fairly grizzled old school gamer to remember the original and its sequels from when they first showed up some 20 years ago. This particular update isn't quite as cynical as some, though - not only is the original developer Brian Fargo involved, but he's used his return as an opportunity to send up the RPG genre.

Hard Bard

Many of the nods to the cliches of the genre are made by the Bard himself, expertly voiced by The Princess Bhde's Cary Elwes in cockney mode. A refreshingly witty but shitty character, the Bard is concerned only with earning cash through whatever means necessary, and encouraging the land's various buxom wenches to play his purple flute. Naturally, his less than noble efforts at getting his rather unsavoury end away are channelled into a more wide-reaching plot involving saving a beautiful and, of course, rich princess. Just how much of a cad the Bard is throughout the adventure is, to a limited extent, up to you, as you can pick whether to be bolshy or nice at key points during conversations.

Ready To Role?

The Bard's Tale is an action-RPG - a genre far more familiar to consoleites. It's even based on the same engine used for Dark Alliance and Champions Of Norrath, which are the console versions of Baldur's Gate and Everquest respectively. Taking into account that the Snowblind engine is effectively four years old helps to explain it looking less than state of the art, but it's by no means terrible.

The majority of the RPG elements have been stripped down to their bare bones. The loot regurgitated by vanquished enemies (one of many commonplace RPG nonsenses acknowledged by the Bard) is automatically sold, and you have to distribute a couple of experience points every now and then when you level up. The summoning system proves to be the most interesting aspect, as once you've collected some summoning-tunes, it's left to you to select the best combination of allies to call upon to help you out at any given point.

The biggest sting in the Bard's tail is that it doesn't realise that taking the piss out of the genre's cliches doesn't excuse it from relying on them. Most of the quests consist of a repetitive and sometimes excruciatingly strung-out series of battles. The fact that the combat itself amounts to little more than uninspiring buttonbashing leaves the impression that much of it is there merely to serve as padding.

While The Bard's Tale is told amusingly enough, the disappointing combat fails to lift it from the upper end of mediocrity. Although the gags fail to hold a candle to the likes of Monkey Island and its ilk, they still just about maintain your attention long enough to make it to one of the multiple endings. Ultimately it's lightweight stuff and would be a better buy if it was going for a song.

A Long, Long time ago, in a OS far, far away, there was a game called Bard's Tale. Back in the days when hard disks were rumours and DVDs things of science-fiction, this series defined the RPG genre.

Twenty years later this re-imagining delivered 3D graphics, Carry On... humour, and a sharp headbutt to fantasy tropes. Take this: the tutorial mission in has you killing a giant rat in the cellar of an inn. So far, so cliche you think, until you see this giant rat would dwarf a rhino and breathes fire.

Added to this healthy disrespect for all things Tolkien is double-entendre laden dialogue; a dickish anti-hero of a main character; and squad-based combat that lets you use an imaginative range of a dozen or so summoned allies. But this good work is gutted by The Bard's Tale being the laziest console port we've seen. WASD don't move the Bard, they zoom the camera in and out and turn it Moving the Bard involves rightclicking the destination, but this only works if there's nothing in the way. As there's no pathfinding Al, if the Bard walks into an object he stands frozen.

Add to this is the camera's angle (a few degrees from top-down, creating a vertiginous sensation) that can't be adjusted, which makes looking around areas impossible. Especially annoying when the Bard runs behind a wall, and is blocked from sight.

The final insults are a checkpoint save system (there's no excuse for this, as keyboards have over 800 key combos that could be set to quicksave) and ugly, PS2 graphics. This is a decent game destroyed by really lazy porting.

This game was a breakthrough when it was first released by Electronic Arts for home computers in the mid-1980s. To begin with, it was one of the first RPGs that let you select commands from a list or "menu" of possible actions. Most earlier RPGs required players to type their commands on the keyboard. (The typical command was a short two-word sentence, such as "Get lamp.") The Bard’s Tale also offered a "view window" on the screen with a first-person perspective. The view window, a small screen-within-a-screen, gave players the illusion of walking through a mysterious city and its underground mazes.

The background story in The Bard's Tale is pure RPG. It seems that the city of Skara Brae is under a curse of perpetual winter. Its people are locked behind the city gates, held in the frozen grip of a creature known as Mangar, the Archmage. Their only hope is the Adventurer's Guild, an ancient organization of heroes. To save the people of Skara Brae, a small group of adventurers prepares for a dangerous descent into the catacombs of the city. Their mission: to search for the keys to Mangar's tower and the powers to defeat him.

The game begins in the Adventurer's Guild, where you create a band of six heroes by choosing from the six different professions available (wizard, rogue, warrior, and so on). Once the party is assembled, you exit the Guild Hall and travel up the street toGarth's Equipment Shop, where you outfit your characters with the best weapons and armor you can afford.

But you're not ready to take on Mangar just yet. When you begin the game, your characters are relatively weak. To gain combat experience, you have to fight monsters - lots of monsters. The computer version of The Bard's Tale was also one of the first RPGs that forced you to battle against whole herds of evil creatures. The Nintendo version is much the same. You can't walk ten steps anywhere in Skara Brae without being attacked.

In fact, winning The Bard's Tale doesn't depend as much on finding the right items as it does on fighting your way to them. The key is to manage your characters' powers well enough to survive. This is both the game's strongest and most annoying feature. While there are hundreds of monsters and lots of interesting weapons, there's no way to keep the battles from getting boring. Eventually, you'll probably wish you could just find what you need without having to stop and fight every two minutes.

In many of the computer RPGs which have followed The Bard's Tale, game designers have tried to keep the constant fighting from becoming so tedious. Some games require less fighting; others make the combat more integral to the game's storyline; and some just make the battles more interesting to watch. The NES version of The Bard's Tale, however, simply duplicates the original combat system found in the computer game. The same strategic challenge is there, but so is the monotony. Still, The Bard's Tale isn't a worse offender than the Dragon Warrior games, for example.

The Bard's Tale isn't as large a game as Dragon Warrior, but it's still got the goods, and it'll probably take you quite awhile to finish. In fact, it's surprising how well the NES game compares to the computer version. True, FCI has made a few changes: Skara Brae is a little smaller, there are fewer classes of characters, and a new on-screen display more or less eliminates the need to draw your own maps. But otherwise, everything is much the same.

If you've never played this sort of game before, The Bard's Tale makes a good introduction. If you're already an RPG veteran, you should find enough here to hold your interest.

Where monsters finally face the music!

You'd expect a great role playing game to have plenty of monsters and creatures for you to conquer. You'd expect the band of six hardy adventurers you create to have magical powers and weapons to wield in battle. But only The Bard's Tale brings you the unexpected - the awesome weapon of magical music! Though each of your team has unique skills, the Bard's songs have devastating effects on your fearsome foes. Dragons, spiders, trolls, and orcs face the music each time they encounter your freedom fighters. Hone your skills in magic and combat as you search for gold through the incredible maze of the city's 16 levels of dungeons and catacombs. Destroy the monsters with magic and music. Let The Bard's Tale begin!

Save Oceana from the evil rule of Namtar. As a brave traveller,you are thrown into the perilous maze created by Namtar as he bids to rule the islands of Oceana.

Snapshots and Media

XBox Screenshots

PC Screenshots

Playstation 2 Screenshots

NES/Famicom/Dendy Screenshots

See Also

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