Interplay’s original Bard’s Tale trilogy was a little before my time. With the first game launching in 1985, when I was two years old, I wasn’t quite ready to crunch numbers and map my own dungeons. Maybe today’s remastered release of The Bard’s Tale Trilogy will help me fill in some of the blanks in time for the release of inXile’s The Bards Tale 4 on September 18th. While the second and third remasters are due in autumn and winter respectively, the first Bard’s Tale is available now.
The original Bard’s Tale is a numbers game. Roll the dice until you’ve got a big blob of stats resembling an adventuring party, then explore first-person, grid-based dungeon maps until you’ve got the required experience and loot to progress safely. Nowhere is safe, not even the central hub city of Skara Brae, home to the adventurer’s guild where you build your characters. It’s so packed with bandits that you’re liable to be attacked at any time – while combat plays out in turn-based fashion, exploration is in real-time, so there’s a chance of being jumped even when stationary.
While these remastered versions (developed by Krome and published by inXile) are trying to recapture the look and feel of the old DOS-era originals, there are some quality of life improvements made here. Automapping is the biggest addition. You can pick whether you’re a dude or a lady in character creation, and spell and inventory interfaces have been cleaned up and made more mouse-friendly. For those with deep nostalgia for the originals, they’ll be rolling out Legacy Mode later, an alternate playmode for those who prefer to draw their own maps on graph paper.