Brian Fargo’s Eighties Disco: The Bard’s Tale IV

Brian Fargo and the inXile team’s next project will be another revival of an Interplay oldie. Following the success of Wasteland 2, the studio is now turning its attention to The Bard’s Tale, the fantasy dungeon crawling series last seen in 1988 (inXile’s own exhaustingly unfunny parody is an official Bard’s Tale game so let’s ignore it). Fargo announced the game at PAX South, where he confirmed that Kickstarter will be used for funding as with Wasteland 2. He has since taken to Twitter to state that development will focus on a PC version and that InXile will be “dialling up” the atmosphere.

The original Bard’s Tale games were never my favourites in the genre, but as RPS supporters will know from my elated wittering earlier today, I do enjoy a spot of old-fashioned, grid-based dungeoneering. I’d be chuffed to bits if the next swathe of RPG revivals includes sequels to the likes of Eye of the Beholder and Dungeon Master.

In conversation with IGN, Fargo spoke briefly about fighting systems, citing Hearthstone as a possible inspiration for Bard’s Tale IV’s revamped turn-based combat.

“You look at something like Hearthstone, for example. It’s sort of that going back-and-forth process, and you see the complexity and detail and strategy and nuance that can happen. It’s really an amazing system. I love those modern influences. I took a lot away from that, and see things we need to do with our combat system.”

Other than those hints of something new, all the talk is of bardy business as usual. The game will use the original trilogy’s Skara Brae (not the actual place or Ultima location) setting and given how the third game ended, how great would it be if the player characters from thirty years ago were the final bosses of today? Fargo says he can’t make promises about supporting save files from the eighties but has expressed an interest in doing so.

37 Comments

  1. Gothnak says:

    Bards Tale 1 was the main reason i wanted a Spectrum over the BBC B i actually had in 1985. I was so very jealous going into Boots and WHSmiths and seeing it on the shelf. In the end i think i rented a copy from somewhere and borrowed a friend’s Speccy for a couple of weeks to play it… It was awesome…

    Bards Tale 2 & 3 were also awesome (i got them on my Amiga a few years later), and then came along ‘The Bard’s Tale’ in the 2000’s, which was crap in comparison.. (Sorry Brian)

    • Maxheadroom says:

      Have to agree. Each to their own i guess but to see the original classic trillogy turned into a Benny Hill style parody with buxom barmaids and fart jokes just wasnt for me.
      Will probably back this one though to show my support and see where it goes

      • Emeraude says:

        Well, I wouldn’t have minded it myself had the humor been to my taste (I mean if it’s good, it’s good). There it felt toothless. And the game was not great to compensate for that either. Not bad mind you. Just average overall.

  2. bonuswavepilot says:

    That piss-take Bard’s Tale sequel, while it admittedly wasn’t terribly funny, actually had some sensible streamlining in it. Gear which wasn’t as good as what you already had would just convert into currency to save you the back and forth trips to town f’rinstance.

    While a lot of the jokes didn’t land, I did get a chuckle out of continually finding the corpses of previous ‘chosen ones’ who had gone before you.

  3. XhomeB says:

    That Heartstone part makes no sense, unless he just used it as an example of “rejuvenating” the rules within the genre or something along these lines.
    The combat system Fargo described sounds very Wizardry-ish, that is: phase-based, only with the decreased importance of initiative (?).

    Anyways: splendid news. After Might&Magic X:Legacy and Grimrock 2 (both excellent), I’m ready for a new, dungeon crawly experience. Bard’s Tale will be even more like the former, with towns and NPCs, so I’m excited by the possibilities. Gimme!

  4. lowprices says:

    I actually quite liked the 2000’s Bard’s Tale. There were more misses than hits, true, but it was a lot more entertaining that most other writing at the time.

    What I would have liked was for the writers of The Bard’s Tale to have written the story for Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, and made the whole thing more Princess Bride-y.

    • Wowbagger says:

      That’s a game about ‘kick a powing’ everything to death right?, maybe you could have him say “My name is montayo mckickypants you killed my house plant prepare to be kick a powed?”

    • sassy says:

      I thought it was a decent game as well. Liked how choices would come back to bite you in the arse, not something you see much in games. Mostly it was a nice take on the action rpg genre (the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance type).

      Was very short though, beat it in a single night when I first bought it. Have played it a couple of times since but never to completion.

  5. Themadcow says:

    Excellent! Bards Tale 1 was the game that got me into RPG’s in the first place – I still fondly remember that Skara Brae map on the insert of the Amstrad casette version. I’ve even played it fairly recently on Android and still enjoyed the experience, even if some of the mechanics haven’t aged well.

    BT2 was decent but BT3 suffered HUGELY from an overabundance of random fights – in some places every 3 ‘steps’ would be a random battle and it really made it hard to get a feel for navigating around. The Bards Tale Construction set was pretty good as a forerunner to todays mod/workshop tools.

    In any case, I loved MMX recently and so have high hopes that there is still a place for this kind of game on the market. I just hope they keep the gameworld fairly focused around Skara Brae, and don’t go too ‘sandboxey’. A rerun of the battle against 4 groups of 99 berzerkers ought to be in there too.

    • crowbb says:

      I totally agree. My first RPGs were Bard’s Tale 1 and Ultima IV on Amiga. I got spoiled early. I have a blown up copy of the Skara Brae map from the BT1 box framed on canvas on my wall. I am really looking forward to this one!

  6. karnak says:

    The last time Brian Fargo was involved in a dungeon-crawler the result was Stonekeep.
    I bought the game from GOG and finished it a couple of years ago.

    Great beginning, but the final part of the game was a mess.

    I’m cautious about this one. My experience with dungeon-crawlers says that they’re either:
    a) Very well done and instant classics.
    b) After a while they turn into obsessive-compulsive combat/grinding, like most japanese RPGs.

  7. Uglycat says:

    That screenshot makes me glad I played this on a monochrome Hercules…

    • thekelvingreen says:

      “Doth my ghoulish flesh offend thee sire? Mayhap a song will improve thy mood! Hey nonny nonny!”

      • Uglycat says:

        The Beserker is hit for 65 points of damage!
        The Beserker is hit for 58 points of damage!
        The Beserker is hit for 96 points of damage!
        The Beserker is hit for 66 points of damage!
        The Beserker is hit for 69 points of damage!
        The Beserker is hit for 74 points of damage!
        The Beserker is hit for 70 points of damage!
        The Beserker is hit for 88 points of damage!
        The Beserker is hit for 82 points of damage!

  8. ran93r says:

    I must get back to my Grimrock 2 playthrough.

    If they can match the quality that Almost Human brought to the table, then I’m all in.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Jiskra says:

    I actualy loved inXile version of Bard’s Tale, there is lot of fun and some of dialogies with narrator are gem. I am still playing it time to time on my OUYA and listen to soundtrack when i need to brighten my day.
    So i am bit sad that they are not bringing that comedy factor to new Bard’s Tale.

    • DrManhatten says:

      Yeah I agree the narrator is the best thing in the game.Well guess some people just don’t have a thing for humour

  10. Emeraude says:

    I picture this being a much harder sell on Kickstarter.

    Would really love for them (or anyone working in the genre, really) to find an elegant way to add an Etrian Odyssey like map-drawing feature that fits the PC platform.

    • malkav11 says:

      No kidding. I never played the original Wasteland, but it was clearly a bona-fide classic with design ideas that were still very applicable today, and the inspiration for the fantastic Fallout series. Meanwhile, as far as I can tell the Bard’s Tale games were extremely undistinguished hack-n-slash grindfests with barely any personality or narrative. Could I enjoy a modern take on the general genre they fell into? Sure, I suppose. Etrian Odyssey being a good example. But I have zero investment in Bard’s Tale as a license and little real interest in Kickstarting such a game when I could wait and see if it’s actually something I would care about. I suppose I’ll have to see their pitch, though.

  11. Janichsan says:

    Sweeeet! The Bard’s Tale was one of my first cRPGs on the C64. Glad to see it coming back in its classic form.

    What the game will need is an option to import the characters from BT3. ;)

  12. Brosecutor says:

    MIBL!

  13. Bluntaxe says:

    I was just thinking of Bard’s Tale last week, then this pops up….. (Was thinking thinking of the large class selection list which is something that most games don’t do anymore).

    • jrodman says:

      Is it large? It doesn’t seem like it to me.

      As a list…

      Warrior
      Paladin
      Hunter
      Monk

      Bard
      Thief

      Mages (Conjurer, Magician, Sorceror, Wizard) which really kind of function as 4 “progress trees” for one class, IMO. Technically four more.

      So I guess depending how you count, 7 or 10. I suppose that’s a lot compared to the type that offer four. By the later games I guess we add Archmage, Geomancer, Chronomancer, though I feel archmage is just the default for mages giving us a total of 9. Others might say 13.

      Of course 9 is still a lot I suppose, compared to many games that offer numbers like 4. WoW, for example, offers Paladin, Warrior, Death Knight, Hunter, Shaman, Rogue, Druid, Mage, Priest, Warlock, Monk for 10. Final Fantasy Tactices offers a crazy amount of “jobs” at the upper end, of 20.

      What are typical games in your experience?

  14. Noviere says:

    So this is likely to be a Grimrock/EoTB first-person dungeon crawler rather than an isometric game, huh?

    • malkav11 says:

      Well, except that those games are real-time and the Bard’s Tale games weren’t. It makes a really big difference.

  15. Rolento says:

    I adored Bards Tale 3 on the c64. I remember being stuck on one puzzle for about 5 months. I never did manage to finish it my dad sold the C64 for an Atari ST:(

  16. commentingaccount says:

    I must be the only one here who loved the “new” Bard’s Tale…

  17. DrManhatten says:

    Well good luck with the Kickstarter don’t think it will anywhere near as successful as Wasteland 2 was. They maybe get a first initial good few days and then it flatens out by the second week well below the 1 million mark. The hey days of Kickstarter are gone.

  18. racccoon says:

    From bards tales of pixel time they were brilliant, but last attempts at trying were friggin just like early access crap please don’t fuck up again. try going back and making things from one pixel at a time. it actually was better than lego. ;) until now, now lego wins.. :)

  19. honuk says:

    this guy is just going to take kickstarter money to make the same game over and over for the rest of his career, isn’t he? or at least until he runs out of old properties to appropriate that no one would care about without brian fargo telling them they should care about them.

  20. Mr_Blastman says:

    And thus it began. Because of The Bard’s Tale I have forever been hooked on RPG games.

    I’d love to see Michael Cranford come back and work on it. Too bad Brian Fargo screwed him back in the 80s.

  21. Mintjulep says:

    Confession is good for the soul:
    I remember borrowing Bard’s Tale 2 from a friend to play on my Amiga and accidentally saving my progress on the actual game disk instead of the data disk, thus rendering it unplayable. When he asked why no longer worked I never got past a shrug and a mumble ‘Dunno….’

    Maybe the new one can have a feature that wipes my hard drive to simulate that panicked sinking feeling I had 25 years ago.

    • jrodman says:

      How was it not write-protected?
      The game shipped on a floppy that lacked the little plastic slider to make it writable, IIRC.

      This would make sense on a pirated copy (I pirated it on the Amiga after buying it on the C64, myself), but in that case why didn’t you make a copy for yourself?