'The Bard's Tale'
By: Vivendi Universal
(PS2 / ASIN: B000189K3E / Rated: T / $49.99)
Features: Third person action RPG that casts you as the Bard, musician and adventurer. Based on the original 'Bard's Tale,' the grandfather of all role playing games. Snarky/Nice conversation system lets the players choose the tone of the Bard's interactions. Get immersed in an environment alive with interactive townsfolk, original music, birds, animals, rustling trees, waving grass, and trickling water. For 1 player.
Description: You are the Bard, a selfish rogue weary of pointless sub-quests and rat-infested cellars. Through magical song you summon characters to join you in battle-waging attacks, healing your party and taking damage on your behalf. Ready your weapon as you embark on a quest for coin and cleavage.
Verdict: "The Bard's Tale" is a terrific, funny story almost ruined by a mediocre video game. The game is an action-role playing hybrid, and anyone who's played one of the gazillion games with "Baldur's Gate" ties will recognize it immediately. Swords, sorcery, mobs of bad guys, the overhead three-quarter view of your character - it's all here.
What sets this game apart is the story line. The Bard is a nasty, grumpy, sarcastic self-server, hardly your typical hero, and he doesn't pick up any redeeming qualities midway through the action. That makes him a hoot to play, and his spoken responses range from mildly sarcastic to downright biting.
The voice acting in the title is wonderful - the Bard is Cary Elwes, Mr. Hunky himself from 'The Princess Bride' - and the lead character actually talks with the narrator throughout the game. The dialog is terrific, and the voice script is easily the best thing about the game.
Alas, as an update of a PC game released ages ago, the gameplay of "The Bard's Tale" feels dated. The graphics are strictly average for current Xbox titles, and the mini-scenes between the action are cringe-worthy in terms of animation.
The combat effects are fun, and offer the unusual twist of allowing the Bard to summon other helpers to tackle the bad guys. Unfortunately, the button and trigger combination to do that is a bit clunky, and attacks move quickly enough that you almost always end up retreating to successfully get a summons off without being beaten down.
"The Bard's Tale" is one of the few games that is downright funny, and there were honest laugh-out-loud moments sprinkled throughout it that kept me playing. But this isn't the best use I've ever seen of the "Baldur's Gate" engine, and the action and animation seemed dated and awkward. That said, it does have a fabulous story and great 'acting'!
Reviewed by Jon Kuhn
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