by Azoloth in
Classic Gamer Corner Comparison Review

The Bard’s Tale Trilogy is an epic remaster of one of the greatest video game franchises of all time. I rank The Bard’s Tale Trilogy number 6 on my Top 10 Favorite Games List and number 5 on my Top 10 Favorite Game Soundtrack List.

Your party starts out trapped in the city of Skara Brae by the Mad Wizard Mangar. Your party must explore dungeons; gathering gold, equipment, and experience while solving devious puzzles to finally defeat him. Following the defeat of Mangars; Your party must set out to find the seven pieces of the Destiny Wand and reforge it. The wand once reforged by the Destiny Knight must be used to face the evil Archmage Lagoth Zanta. Your party must then face the Mad God Tarjan. Mangars master has returned to Skara Brae and destroyed the city. Your party must fight monsters, travel through dimensions, and become embroiled in a war between Gods. In the end can they save the entire world?

 

Sargon’s Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)

Game Play:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Spirit of the Original:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Visuals:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Audio:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Other Thoughts:4 out of 5 stars (4.0 / 5)

Buy now on Humble Bundle

Video Review

The Bard’s Tale Trilogy Rating 4.8

My brother first introduced me to The Bard’s Tale back around 1988 when I was just 7 years old. He was playing it on his Tandy 1000 (with deskmate!). It was the first RPG games I had ever played, and to this day it is one of my all-time favorite games.

My brother eventually gave me the computer, however, he kept his games. Years later he bought me the game on the Nintendo Entertainment System and I loved playing it there. Then years later he bought me the Ultimate RP Archives. This Archive had several games which have long since became favorites of mine.  Fast Forward all of these years: I now play the original series using D-Fend as it will not run on most modern computers without DosBox. Dfend just makes it easier to install.

Recently Krome Studios has remastered this classic tale. I finally checked it out and see what I thought of the new remastered version of the game. I admit that I am enjoying the remastered version more than I enjoyed the original. As I will explain below in more detail, the original version was a long grind. I do not play games for their difficulty usually. I play them to immerse myself in an interactive story. Of course games of this era needed the grind. There was not enough space on those older computers to fit 50 or more hours of gameplay. They could not have someone beating their game in a single afternoon and justify their prices… hence the grind. In hindsight, it is hard to say if grinding or devious puzzles were more annoying in old games.

Visuals 5.0

The Bard’s Tale: Tales of the Unknown

 

The Bard’s Tale: The Destiny Knight

The Bard’s Tale: Thief of Fate

 

I have always loved The Bard’s Tale Artwork. Back when I first played the game I felt it had some of the best graphics I had seen in a video game. Of course, my experience up to that point had been playing old Atari and Nintendo games. Now that I look back on those visuals, I still feel they held up well. They are pixel are, but I love pixel art.

The remastered version stays with the spirit of the original while enhancing the graphics very pleasingly. I cannot say if I enjoy the new or old art more. One thing I have noticed is you can have more party members in the new game. In fact, if you have a full party you cannot use summons or accept monsters into your party due to that.

Audio 5.0

I have always loved the music in The Bard’s Tale. Even back when I first played the DOS and NES versions I found the music enchanting. I almost think I enjoy the old music scores for the DOS and NES version more than I enjoy the remastered works for The Bard’s Tale Trilogy. However that may just be my nostalgia talking. The music for The Bard’s Tale Trilogy is truly a masterpiece. I would include it among my top 10 favorite video game soundtracks.

Game Play 5.0

The game-play is masterful.

Some mechanics have changed from the original The Bard’s Tale games. It is now easier to level up your characters. Gold is easier to earn.

I have seen some discussions on Steam say that this has taken away from the game and that they wish the game played more like the old version did. I disagree with this line of thought. One of the biggest problem with many of these older RPGs is how much grinding it took to actually progress in them.

It maybe I play these games for a different reason than the people who miss the old grinds. I play these games to immerse myself in the story, and to build a world in my head as my character’s adventure. Hours of pointless grinding takes away from my enjoyment of the game.

For those who do enjoy pain though… they do offer legacy mode.

I will offer a reminder that the reason for the grind was because of how limited the space was. They did not have the room to fit as much content into many of these older games. The space limitations forced developers to find inventive ways to extend how long it would take you to beat the game. It is only a guess, but I would say if they had created this game today you would see more content and much less grinding.

Spirit of the Original 5.0

What has truly impressed me about The Bard’s Tale Trilogy is how close to the original they kept the games. While I noted under game play how they have made some aspects of the game easier I do not think this takes away from the game at all.

The music, art, and game play all are a throwback to this wonderful game of old.

The game mechanics mostly feel the same as the old version of the game. All the parts that have changed have only made the game better. For instance, you no longer have to refer to a manual and type in a 4 digit acronym to cast spells. You get to select spells from a list and by mousing over them you can see exactly what the spell does. You also can see how much gold your characters have, and it is now pooled between all characters. The same is true for un-equipped items. These enhancements keep.

Legacy Mode

For those who want the updated visual yet a more classic game-play legacy mode is available.

The nicest part about how the Legacy Mode Options work is that you get to select each piece you want to turn on and off. Want to level slower so you need more XP? You got it! Want to disable the auto mapping feature? No problem!

Auto-mapping I think is one of the best parts of this game. In the spiritual successor to The Bard’s Tale Trilogy, Dragon Wars, you have an auto mapping feature by default. I would imagine that if it had been possible in the earlier games, they might have included one as well. Of course, it is true that some puzzles involve complex mapping. Yet they found a great way around this with the mapping they include.

Legacy Mode
Legacy Mode

Other Thoughts 4.0

The user interface is beautifully designed and very easy to navigate. I love the ability to see how much gold I have and how many items I am carrying right in the UI. The way they show when a party member is ready to level up does away with tedious XP tracking by hand.

I love how they set up spell casting and handle the auto mapping feature. It is a genuine thrill when in a dungeon, and suddenly something happens and your map vanishes for a time! This to me feels much more realistic than using a hand-drawn map, you honestly feel lost.

Where is the documentation! I had to take a point off here. It would have been nice if The Bard’s Tale Trilogy had included some documentation to show how leveling, spells, or anything else worked. For some details I found myself googling old information, which doesn’t always match up with how the remastered version works. However, all in all this is a minor issue and only important if you really want to min/max your characters.

The Bard’s Tale Trilogy Summary

In Summary Krome Studios has remastered The Bard’s Tale Trilogy beautifully. The art, audio, interface, and game play are all beautifully handled. They have also kept with the spirit of the game while removing some of its rougher edges. Yet even for those who crave those rougher edges the ability to turn off the enhancements will make this an enjoyable game.

The Bard’s Tale Trilogy is well worth the $14.99 it is currently priced at.

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