The Bard’s Tale IV: Bar­rows Deep

Games TM - - CONTENTS -

Some­times RPGS, even ones with mod­est bud­gets, emerge fully formed, per­fectly crafted and able to sat­isfy the in­ter­ests of sev­eral dif­fer­ent kinds of play­ers. then there’s The Bard’s Tale IV. it’s rougher than a bad­ger’s arse, as we’re sure the game it­self would agree.

the Bard’s tale series hasn’t had a proper en­try since 1988’s Thief Of Fate and we think that’s key to ex­plain­ing why this is a dun­geon crawler in the most clas­sic sense. De­cep­tively lin­ear and in first per­son, this has you inch­ing your way through elab­o­rate mazes full of turn-based com­bat and puz­zles. For mod­ern play­ers, this will evoke the likes of grim­rock, but de­spite be­ing part of an old series, Bar­rows Deep feels a lit­tle less bur­dened by the past than some. the grid-based move­ment sys­tem isn’t there, let­ting play­ers move around freely. it comes across a bit el­der scrollsesque, a com­par­i­son that re­ally is un­fair, not least be­cause The Bard’s Tale IV clearly does not have the mas­sive bud­get that Bethesda’s ti­tles have.

it’s cer­tainly ca­pa­ble of lush scenery, but for ev­ery won­der­fully lit un­der­ground lair there’s a drab flat square of mud and rub­ble that looks like it needed more time in the de­vel­op­ment oven. it’s a fun world to ex­plore at least, with new abil­i­ties un­lock­ing new short­cuts and se­crets at a nice steady rate, though it does mean re­tread­ing a lot of the same ground for a while.

Where it shines is in its com­bat. though its pre­sen­ta­tion here – 2D sprites laid out in first per­son against 3D en­e­mies – will be off-putting for some, there’s lit­tle deny­ing that it works in ex­e­cu­tion. You start with your tit­u­lar bard (a lass named Melody is the de­fault but you can make your own), who can drink to bol­ster their mu­si­cally themed pow­ers. then you have a mot­ley party of fight­ers, rogues and wizards all laid out on a grid.

Who goes in front and the dis­tance from en­e­mies are all tac­ti­cal de­ci­sions that shape the course of each skir­mish, de­ter­min­ing which abil­i­ties can be used and who gets struck by at­tacks. as in the best of things, it’s sim­ple to un­der­stand but grad­u­ally blos­soms into lots of com­plex en­coun­ters, with you man­ag­ing a larger group of char­ac­ters over time while get­ting in longer and more in­volved bat­tles. it’s a shame that it takes so many hours to get there, though, be­cause the com­bat is the game’s main strength and the ini­tial hours hint at none of it.

so, it’s a mixed bag, though true to it’s name, very deep. it’ll last a long while too, well over 50 hours if you want to have a go at ev­ery­thing. You’ll just have to look past a lot of rough edges.

the BARD’S tale (2004)

leg­end of Grim­rock

Above: The in­ter­face for com­bat is a lit­tle odd but works sur­pris­ingly well. Right: Some­times, when the light­ing is just right, The Bard’s Tale IV looks ex­cel­lent.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.