I missed The Bard’s Tale when it came out in 2004, but did play it a bit through the OnLive service on my PC. I’ve missed a lot of single-player titles, mainly because my normal favorite subject (before getting my first Android, of course) is massively multiplayer titles. I’ve noticed how the number of older titles being brought back to life thanks to mobile devices and the Play market keeps rising. It’s very possible that many of these titles will be seen by a new generation and possibly have more impact than they did originally, thanks in large part to their new, portable nature. I know that I was more impressed with The Bard’s Tale this time around because I was able to hold it in my hand. What would have normally been older looking graphics now look sharp and crisp thanks to the smaller, higher-resolution screen.
The controls are a bit wonky, though. Once again it’s easier for me to set my Nexus 7 tablet down and control the game with my two index fingers. Using my thumbs for primary control gets tiring fast, and I wonder if a BlueTooth controller or keypad might help the situation? The directional pad was a little sensitive as well, making me run off when I would rather walk off. It only occasionally landed me into trouble.
The game is pretty easy to understand although admittedly I did not play until the very end. I imagine there is much more to see, guessing by the four gig file size I had to install. It took quite a while to download, even with my fantastic internet connection, and I had to dump several other games to make room. If portable games are going to start requiring laptop-sized hard drives, I’m not sure how successful they will be until much larger drives become the norm. Luckily most titles on the Play market do not require massive amounts of space like The Bard’s Tale does.
The music system employed by the Bard is really just a mechanic for casting spells and summoning creatures. I appreciate simplicity but don’t understand why the Bard needed to be a Bard. I would have enjoyed myself more if the game was a bit more serious and the silly lute my hero carried was replaced by a crossbow or some other typical fantasy weapon or tool. I mean, here is my hero looking rugged and talking tough much of the time, whipping out his handy lute to play a tiny tune with. Of course it’s his right to sing and dance all he wants, and I do appreciate the fact that he’s not a completely typical fantasy hero, but even after playing the game for hours I am a bit confused about the design choice. I’m not really a fan of the humor in the game, either. It’s not as though I’m asking for supremely dark and depressing gameplay but I would have rather things been treated a bit more seriously. Humor is fine, of course, but in games like The Bard’s Tale it feels more like an attempt to cover up a shoddy story, all while being pretty much unfunny much of the time.
So, I spent my hours running various tasks for locals, summoning electrical monsters with my lute and healing myself using piles of crystals. Occasionally the game is frustrating but not because it is too challenging. It is rather boring a lot of the time, and feels too loose. The bard is interesting but feels stuck between genres. Is he part of a humorous romp through a fantasy world or a hero out to save the world? While I was able to make choices between interacting with NPCs in a positive or negative fashion, I didn’t feel as though my decisions made much of a difference. Would those decisions come back to haunt me? Possibly, but I didn’t see how so far.
The Bard’s Tale is an easy-to-understand, sometimes silly and often frustrating fantasy title that feels like it should let down the smart-alec routine and just concentrate on taking us through a fantasy adventure. Many of the locations are very pretty and the combat is generally easy to survive. Casting spells using the lute and bard’s music seems straight forward enough but it’s possible that it comes more into play later on. If you enjoy pretty standard quest-runners, go for this one. The main drawback is the sheer size of the file, something that will really effect smartphone players or those who have smaller hard drives. Of course you can always do what I do and delete the game after you’re done with it. Don’t worry, the Play market will always let you download it again later if you need to make a second run.