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Bard's Tale IV - Review @ RPG Codex

Discussion in 'Game/SP News & Comments' started by RPGWatch, Oct 12, 2018.

  1. RPGWatch

    RPGWatch Watching... ★ SPS Account Holder

    Jul 28, 2010
    Likes Received:
    [​IMG]The RPG Codex doesn't like Bard's Tale IV so much:


    RPG Codex Review: The Bard's Tale IV

    The first Bard's Tale, released in 1985, was a graphical wonder for the time. While Wizardry was still doing wire-frame dungeons, Bard's Tale brought in a first-person view where buildings had shape, walls had cracks and characters colorful animated portraits. There was even music!

    In a sense, this is perhaps where Bard's Tale IV is most faithful to the series' roots: it's an attempt at elevating the production values of the genre, this time making a mass market AAA dungeon-crawler, with a budget of several million dollars. Sure, Legend of Grimrock I & II look great and certainly this game wouldn't exist without them, but they still have that indie-ish feel, especially in their commitment to old-school sensibilities.

    Because make no mistake, Bard's Tale IV isn't an old-school RPG.

    It's interesting to read old Kickstarter updates, when InXIle was promising a branching story, a world that would react to your party's races, all classes from the original series, exploring other realms, hundreds of monsters like dragons and anthropophagie, etc. Absolutely nothing of that is present here. You won't find the monsters that they showed on the videos, and the much-promised grid-based movement mode is still greyed out in the menu, scheduled for a future update. I wouldn't even call this a "true" dungeon-crawler, given the linear level design, but we'll get to that later.

    For the purpose of this review, I'll ignore those previous promises (we already have a forum emote specifically for those) and just focus on what the currently released game promises - a modern take on dungeon crawlers, with gorgeous graphics, tons of puzzles and a Hearthstone-inspired combat.



    When it works, Bard's Tale IV is a satisfying glimpse of what a AAA dungeon-crawler can be. There were moments of pure joy, exploring beautiful vistas, solving interesting puzzles and finding an unique enemy behind a secret door. I'd say I had about 10 hours of good moments in total, mostly in the first half of the game, when the combat and itemization still make sense, and in a few well-made areas or puzzles later on.

    But I spent almost 30 hours playing it, and the other 20 hours where extremely repetitive and dull. This is not a good ratio, and it is all due to pointless filler content, that exacerbates every single underlying flaw the game has. I had to force myself to finish it in order to write this review, because the final hours are nothing more then doing mechanical puzzles and fighting cultists over and over. The final puzzle is literally a set of four gear puzzles that must be solved to unlock a larger gear puzzle.

    And that's a shame. Even if Bard's Tale IV has nothing to do with old-school dungeon crawlers, it could still be a fun new take on the genre, a kind of "Portal RPG". However, while it was certainly hurt by a rushed release and a terrible starting area, what really dooms it is this recurrent hubris some developers have of always making the longest RPG possible at the expense of anything else, of valuing marketing selling points more than the player's time. Portal 2 is the most famous and highest rated puzzle game of all time, lasting about 8 hours long. Its mechanics are undoubtedly fun, but I doubt many people would even finish the game if they added a tons of dull low-effort filler content to make it 30-40 hours long.

    The Bard's Tale IV can't be saved by an enhanced edition or re-balancing patch, because the biggest problem isn't its systems. It needs an abridged version.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 13, 2018
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