The Bard’s Tale Trilogy, remastered from the 1985 title and the two subsequent titles that followed, is an amazingly difficult experience that anyone who appreciates hardcore RPGs should check out. The first version of The Bard’s Tale Trilogy, Tales of the Unknown, is out now. The second volume, The Destiny Knight, is scheduled for release in fall of 2018, but as of this writing has not come out yet. The last volume, Thief of Fate, is scheduled for winter 2018.
You begin with a short introduction about the cataclysmic world taken over by an evil necromancer. There’s a slight tutorial that covers the absolute basics, but you’re mostly left on your own to figure out the details. Immediately, an external guide might be necessary to sort out some of the nuances of this piece.
There’s a great deal of random-number generation involved, both in character creation and in combat. You create your party at the Guild of Adventurers by selecting between seven races and eight classes. You’re then able to roll their stats until you get a good spread, and there is no limitation on how many times you can reroll.
TIME TO PARTY
Once you have a full party of seven or eight members, you trek into town to gain experience and gold. Combat happens as you explore the map and enemies will engage you if you’re walking around or just standing still since you are playing in real time. The difficulty of enemies is not necessarily bound to your level, meaning you may end up running from certain encounters if you get in over your head. For instance, you may encounter one to eight goblins, a pack of stone golems, or a dragon that will decimate your front line.
Arranging your fighters in the front of your group is paramount to your survival. Your group is maintained in list format, with those on the top half of your list getting struck down by the enemies before the bottom half gets hit, generally. Placing your casters in the back row will keep them from being killed off too quickly unless an enemy has a ranged spell or your front line has been killed.
If your party gets wounded or killed, they can be healed at a temple in town for gold. Spellcasters as well must recharge their spell points at a mage’s tower, though waiting in the Guild of Adventurers will slowly recuperate your points. Each successful encounter will grant you gold and items to be sold or used by your party members. Some items are quite strong; a Fire Horn found in town and used by a bard could easily destroy most enemies encountered in the beginning levels.
IT’S ABOUT THE CHALLENGE
In terms of fun, the first edition of The Bard’s Tale Trilogy is not traditionally fun. Rather, it offers an incredibly difficult dungeon crawler that will have you relying on your wits and knowledge over the ability to know your environment or engage with the story. The maps are labyrinthian but luckily the remastered version has a mini-map feature, along with many quality-of-life improvements the original title lacked. With five different dungeons to explore, you’ll be glad to not have to draw the map yourself like the old version made you do.
Those who have an interest in old-style RPGs, traditional MUDs, or even text-based adventures will have a blast exploring the updated artwork and capabilities of this remastered title. When you buy the original trilogy you’ll also gain access to the other two parts of the trilogy which will be released by the end of the year. The experience will be similar across all three titles. There’s also a legacy mode for a more hardcore experience. In fact, the party you create in the first installment of the trilogy will be available to you for the next two installments, allowing for a fully immersive and significantly challenging RPG experience fit for the most hardcore gamers.
The Verdict: Great
The difficulty of The Bard’s Tale Trilogy is high, but that’s one of the great features of this classic. The personal reward of setting up a strong team and getting through the numerous waves of enemies as you explore is higher than what many titles offer these days. Don’t think you’ll have your hand held as you explore the various levels — you are mostly on your own to figure out how the world and story work. Despite this, the old-style charm and personality that The Bard’s Tale Trilogy offers are well worth a check out by RPG connoisseurs and those wanting a challenging, low-graphic RPG.