Looking to relive the glory days of the Bard's Tale? You might not find it in this new take on the series.

User Rating: 7 | The Bard's Tale XBOX
Those of you out there who belong to the "Old School" of Gamers will remember a series of RPG games on the Commodore 64 known as the Bard's Tale. For their time, they were classics, involving exploring many dungeons, and slaying many beasts - a now tried and true style of gaming many of us still enjoy. Today's version of this series pays homage to these games, but in not much more than name. The game itself is quite enjoyable in it's own right. My experience with the Bard's Tale was marred by several changes in the release date - from November to January to eventually March. I was also intrigued by a lot of the hype surrounding this game, particularly it's sense of humour and different take on a lot of roleplaying conventions - some of which were not all they were perhaps intended... The Gameplay of the Bard's Tale is simple enough. You run around, having conversations with the many and colourful characters in the game. You explore dungeons, forests, mountains and towers to find as many items and treasure as you can. You complete quests given to you by many of the characters you meet. And of course, you hack many varied monster types into bits. Sounds pretty familiar, right? You can upgrade your weapons and armour either in the field by discovering them during your adventures, or by purchasing them at the various shops scattered through the land. An interesting twist on most RPGs is that you don't have to carry around huge amounts of precious items and weapons to be sold at a shop - something that can be somewhat tedious at times. The Bard's Tale just converts everything you find into silver, so you end up only carrying the items that are the best in any given area. Your old weapons are similarly converted when better versions are discovered. This is convenient, although some of the game's humour is lost for those who do not watch the NAMES of some of the items discovered carefully - keep an eye on the things you pick up to have a quiet chuckle from time to time. Combat is nothing terribly different from other games in the genre. Find an enemy, then hit it with your sword / flail / axe until it dies. The various weird and wonderful summoned allies you can call to the battlefield with your music assist in most cases, although sometimes their AI seems to get them lost off screen, particularly when you are moving at some speed. I also experienced the occasional problem in finding myself (or enemies) when walking through places when the tree cover obscured the battle. Realistic? Sure. At times annoying? Absolutely. The graphics and animations are quite good. The various locales you visit are varied and detailed, with some nice animations for the various Artifacts you use. The creatures are varied and well animated in their actions. Some of the effect is lost in the top down view, but considering you can zoom in somewhat, this isn't a big problem. Where the game shines for me is in the sound, or more particularly - the dialogue. A lot of people have scorned the game for it's lack of conversation options when interacting with other characters, but I must admit I quite enjoyed merely listening to what was being said. Now, don't get me wrong - there's not much in the way of side-splitting humour here - but the conversations are witty, and more often than not poke fun at many roleplaying conventions that many of you are familiar. (Why AREN'T Princesses kept on ground level, anyway? *grin*) The Bard's "snarky" sense of humour is good for a few laughs, and Cary Ewles does a good job of voicing it, with the occasional hiccup. The comments thrown in by the Summoned allies are also amusing from time to time, so make sure you listen out for them. One of the funnier aspects of the game is the love-hate relationship between the Bard and the Narrator, someone whom only the Bard can hear - a fact used to deliver a few jokes during the game. The almost constant banter between the two - including the constant put-downs by the Narrator and the snappy comebacks of the Bard - are a source of more than a few chuckles during the game. :) In the value for money stakes, there's probably not enough new features in this game to warrant purchasing it for full price. Sure, the gameplay is easy to pick up and the graphics are nice. The sound's even pretty good, with enough humour to cause the occasional laugh. However, those familiar to RPGs will find another fairly solid entry in the genre. Well worth checking out, but perhaps rent before you buy.