Review Code Provided
Strange things are afoot in Skara Brae, an extremist religious group known as the Fatherites are rounding up and killing magic users or other “undesirables” and putting the squeeze on those that are sympathisers. Those in the Adventurers Guild are particularly being sought after and it’s up to you and the merry band of misfits you gather to find out why there’s a conspiracy to do away with the very people able to do something about all the recent evils.
The Bard’s Tale IV is easy enough to get to grips with and there are a number of options to choose from if you want to tweak your experience, for example you can choose to move along a grid system like in the original games or you can turn off puzzles that affect doors. I tried it on a grid system but I have to say I didn’t notice too much of a difference compared to normal movement, except that I couldn’t run up and examine every corner that I saw, so I turned it off again. There’s also an ability to turn the head bobbing on and off, it’s off by default so when I turned it on to see how it looked, it was a little jarring after getting used to not seeing it.
It’s a very simple game to play in that you don’t have to execute any complex movements and anything that’s in your way, if it can be bypassed, is done so with an item from your inventory so if you want to climb a tower then you would use a grappling hook and press the button to climb it and you would ascend automatically. There’s no jumping to be done and no other buttons to press during exploration except X to interact with the world around you, you can go into your inventory and tinker with things in there but the buttons are always displayed on the screen so you shouldn’t have any trouble navigating the game. There are dialogue options but so far as I saw there was never a moment where it was one choice or the other and a lot of the time it was more about gathering information so you could always select all of the dialogue options, that way it’s best to extract all the details you can about cabbage, carrots and errr potatoes.
There’s plenty of humour in The Bard’s Tale IV and it’s one of the main reasons I enjoyed it so much, in your party as you walk around they will talk to one another for no real reason other than to chat and even in the battles your enemies will shout things out to you, mostly to comment on your possibly terrible singing or the fact one of your people has just had a mouthful of alcohol and thrown their mug at their opponent’s face. You might even wonder as you explore the land what the cabbages are really up to, there are some scenes you’ll come across and diaries you’ll find that allude to them being more than they seem.
I would say with a great deal of certainty that The Bard’s Tale IV is an RPG for the thinker, I mentioned earlier that there’s an option to turn off some of the puzzles but I don’t know why you would want to since it’s one of the cores of the game. There are so many different kinds of puzzles that’ll have you scratching your head as you wander about the dungeons and such, personally I felt it made the exploration feel far more involved, like it was my adventure and I wasn’t just guiding some unknown hero about as they did their thing. There’s truly all manner of puzzles about, some lead you to new equipment and treasures while others will help you progress in your quest, there are even some associated with certain weapons that will unlock their potential when you solve them. InXile have also placed around monoliths that have a constellation theme requiring you to use a handy item almanac and a web based code wheel to solve them for even more in game goodies.
When it comes to the battling, you have your party laid out on one half of a 4×4 grid with your opponents on the other half and you have to choose when you move and what attacks to make use of to the best make full use of the opportunity you have available. Since you only get a limited number of opportunity you have to decide which characters would be best suited for the fight and what attacks or skills you want them to use before you run out and the enemy takes their turn, if you go in unprepared or let the enemy get the drop on you so they get the first strike it could be over in a matter of seconds, sending you back to the last place you saved the game. If you are struggling in a fight and keep entering the same one, you do have the ability to switch up your formation while not in combat so you don’t have to waste opportunity moving certain characters where you want them and you can also attempt to attack your enemies from behind which will cause their formation to flip. I found a lot of the battles, especially later in the game, have a kind of trial and error feel to them as you adjust to a winning style but even then you can be thrown off by wizards who can summon in more allies or skeletons who’ll get back up at the next turn if the battle isn’t over, having said that though I did find some moderate success with two bards with healing songs and two armour rending rogues which has allowed me to conquer some very tough foes, though I still don’t always win on my first attempt.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this game, it has an air about it that immediately pulls you in, it may not be the best looking game graphically speaking but the environments are nice to look at and there are a lot of nice little touches that really help to bring the world to life. It feels like more of an adventure to play than something you might compare it to, Skyrim for example. Where they’re both great games, Bard’s Tale IV is slower and more methodical so you have to think about the things you’re doing, not just in battles but as much in the world too because it’s filled with puzzles and brain teasers and there’s plenty to solve and think about rather than charging in chopping away and pressing the odd hidden switch here and there.
There’s no better time to get into it if you’re an Xbox One player since it’s available on GamePass as well as the original trilogy if you want to experience the whole set.
If you want to learn more about this game you can visit InXile’s website or you can visit one of the links below to buy it;