The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep takes you back to the world of the classic Bard’s Tale games first released over 35 years ago. 150 years after the end of the last series the land is in need of a hero once more. Hidden forces seek to gain control over Skara Brae and the surrounding world and it’s up to you to stop them.
This game features over 40 hours of gameplay, over 100 pieces of atmospheric music and 350 voice acted NPCs. Much of the lore in the classic series is still present in The Bard’s Tale IV although much of the gameplay has been modernized, for better or worse.
After the short tutorial you’ll have the choice to customize your own character. Choose from either a Bard, Fighter, Practitioner (magic user) or Rogue. Each have their own special abilities and up to 70 skills to unlock. As you progress you’ll be able to unlock unique sub-classes for each class.
Your party starts with a single character but you’ll find more along the way. Some will join you for a short time and others you can hire for a price.
The graphics are beautiful although not as pristine as some of the other more recent games with freedom of movement. Some of the inventory items use the same graphics for different, but similar, items and some of the NPC faces could be reworked. Hopefully upcoming patches will add more detail to the game.
The combat system uses a 4 x 4 grid with your party on one side and the enemies on the other. You can see how difficult the battle is going to be when you get close to an enemy by the highlight color when you hover over them. Green is easy, red is impossible. Combat is turn based. If you click on them before being spotted you’ll charge into battle, giving you the first swing, if not they’ll attack first.
There’s a wide range of attacks, spells, skills and potions to use while in battle. You’ll need to think about your strategy if you want to win some of the tougher battles. Each attack has its own area of effect. Some attacks let you target one square, others will attack all enemies in a line and some let you attack to the front and the side.
Damage is not randomized so you’ll always know if your attacks will hit and how much damage they do. This simplifies combat somewhat but also takes away some of the excitement and makes you think about your strategy more. You can combine skills and spells for powerful combos if you have the spell points available and the right positioning.
Ratings for Bard’s Tale IV have been mediocre. Most of the complaints are due to slow loading times and low fps. Hopefully future patches will sort these issues out because I am looking forward to playing this one to completion.
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