Friday, April 9, 2010

The Bard's Tale: AAAAAAAARGH!!!

Bard's Tale, have you no sense of decency?! No sense of pacing?! This is not how you craft a good CRPG. You don't make it moderately difficult ("pleasingly difficult," I said a few posts ago; oh, how you must have cackled at that) for 90% of the game and suddenly introduce battles with 12 demon lords on the last level! You do not include a host of creatures--oh, those %*#$*& vampires--who can level-drain you with a single touch. Do you know how long it takes to gain levels in your game?

You do not--above all, you do not--allow creatures to stone you with one touch and not include a freaking stone-to-flesh spell! And if you do--you utter, irredeemable pricks--you do not make such battles inescapable so that the last 50 hours of playing your game boil down to entering the dungeon, climbing up five levels, getting stoned, and having to make your way out of the dungeon to heal the stoned character at a temple. Yeah, nice gameplay. Bastards.

But if you must do all of these things, must you also--hey, I'm talking to you, you heartless time-sucker--must you also make it so that healing a stoned character costs 15,000 gold pieces? Mere moves from the end of the game, must you make me return constantly to low-level dungeon-crawling to build up my finances and experience points? Is there no end to your cycle of futility?



  1. Ouch. I never played BT but this sounds rough.

    Hey, there are always hex editors...

  2. I won't even allow myself to use walkthroughs, let alone that kind of cheat! But thanks for the thought.

  3. I'm having no trouble with money, but I agree that not having a stone to flesh spell is brutal. I discovered your blog while going back to play BT. I just went up the stairs to Mangar 5, but one member of my party is stone. I'm pushing on without him. It's too much work to do the puzzles on levels 3&4 just to get 1 slot fixed up.

  4. I guess I figured that when one character got turned to stone, it was only a matter of time before the whole damned party got slaughtered. There seriously ought to have been SOMETHING to counter that.

  5. re: Level drain, I'm hoping you eventually realized the temples can heal that? (If I remember it ends up being a fast way of _gaining_ levels somehow, but I don't recall how that works.)

  6. Anonymous: AAAAAAARGH!

    (No, I didn't eventually realize that.)

  7. Heh, I'm hope for the xmas break while reading this, and my Dad was a C64 gamer, back in the day. So I've been asking him if he played any of these, as I saw Ultima III and Bard's Tale in his stuff and greatly enjoyed reading the manuals and such as a kid. However so far the only game that you've both played....has been Autoduel. As I recall from talking to him about it ages ago, he used to do duel after duel in the arena before going out on the roads. I have been enjoying these, can can't wait until you hit games that I have played. I may have to make sure that they are on wikipedia's list before you reach them though....

  8. ...which means that I'm old enough to have a son who's old enough to be "home for Christmas break." Crikey.

    I've actually more-or-less abandoned Wikipedia's list (despite what it says to the right) in favor of a more comprehensive list I put together with the help of Arcanum and MobyGames. Some of the selections are questionable as CRPGs (the upcoming Pirates! is Exhibit A) but I was missing too much with the Wikipedia list, which is why I had to do all of those "backtracking" posts in July.

    Thanks for reading!

  9. Is Arcanum a person or a place? I'm not familiar with either one.

  10. Haha! Been reading in chronological order up till now and this. Oh this. Most entertaining post so far mate! Sat here cackling away to myself, I would have spat out my tea if I'd been drinking any.

  11. Just looking at the picture of the spectre and the other shots you've placed on here...

    The graphics really were remarkable for 1985. Sure, I remember them as being excellent, but I haven't opened Bard's Tale in about 25 years. I thought they would look terrible by my 2015 standards.

    But they don't look terrible. And they're not just 'good enough', either. They're 'good'. If a modern game came out on Steam that looked like that, I wouldn't bat an eye.

    I'm playing a game called Adventurer Manager right now. It came out in 2014, is not text-based in any way, and has graphics that are worse than this.

    1. Technically, I think this was the 1987 DOS version, but I agree. The graphics look very good for any point in the 1980s or even today, at least for an independent game.

  12. Level draining by vampires and other fatal attacks are mainly responsible for me stopping to play BT in the 80s. That and teleportation fields making me draw broken maps. A few years back, when I tried to level up as fast as possible I constantly was in need of money (for healing and restoing MP) and quit again.
    The only thing I find more annoying in many (C)RPGs is permanent poisoning which can often be fatal (in the first few hours) when you lack the right resources (money, time, reagents, priest, ...) or experience with a new game.

  13. NES port report: I might have gotten lucky, but I never had any of my characters lose levels from draining. Also, there's a stone-to-flesh spell, but once again, I never had any of my guys turned to stone. There is mention of stone status effect and level draining monsters in the manual, but they may be hold-overs from the original game.

  14. Brian Fargo:
    "When we created Bard’s Tale back in 1985 we were young and excitable...more interested in mapping dungeons and torturing our players with teleporters, brutal combats, spinners, and darkness areas, than we were in telling a coherent story. We threw everything except the kitchen sink into those games - Nazis, ninjas, zen masters, robots, vampires, lizard men. We weren't exactly concerned with it making sense."


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