I’m excited to finally be able to show you our vision for how exploration and combat in Bard’s Tale IV will be presented and played.
Combat is the core of a dungeon crawler and our goal has always been to make sure that it is tactical, deep and pays off visually. We also knew to stay with our roots with combat being party based and phased based, yet we’ve come up with a unique way to present this style of gameplay. You’ll note that we still support six characters for the player to command along with two empty slots for summoned creatures.
Obviously, this is still in development and there are things we’re not in love with yet. Namely, the characters on the HUD are still at a first pass. We will be updating their visual look and likely not have them bouncing around as they speak. And the visuals will only continue to improve as we layer on more VFX for world atmosphere, spells and combat effects, add additional post processing, upgrade the materials for the character models and greatly dial up the ambient life in scenes. Already you can see small touches in our use of planar reflections in the puddles of water, and what you can’t see is our system for dynamically corrupting the forest based on the actions of the player. We want you to feel the effects you have on the world constantly.
Additionally, though the camera movement allows for and shows off free movement, we have laid the maps out such that you can snap into grid movement as well.
Getting personality and character into games is paramount to me, and you get a small glimpse of one of the moments when the party runs across the goblins. Expect more of these small scenes that show the world operating outside of what the player chooses to do.
Welcome to the Dungeon
The video above is a select portion of the Fichti Forest, one of the areas we've been building for the game. Our goal with it is to show you a number of the game's elements and give you a feeling for how the it will actually play out. Doubtless, many of you are wondering about some of the things you're seeing. So I'd like to clarify a few of the points in the video. Many of these are aspects of gameplay we hinted at in previous updates, but now we're able to talk about them in more detail.
Exploration Tools & Abilities
One of the defining features of the classic Bard's Tale games was the use of exploration-focused songs and spells. This is a feature that will be returning in The Bard's Tale IV. Songs of Exploration and Adventurer's Tools were discussed in an earlier update, and can be thought of as specific puzzle-solving or traversal tools that you'll use when going through the world. This includes usable items you will collect, such as keys, torches, and more, as well as special bardic songs that you can play. The song you're seeing in the video, The Stone Remembers, allows the party to rebuild certain rune-emblazoned pieces of architecture, opening up new paths and routes.
Part of our expanded CNPC system stretch goal for the game comes in the form of our party chatter system. As you explore the world, your characters will banter among themselves, offering personality-filled insights into the events you are seeing. You can also bet some of these will feed into side content, like hidden treasure or secret rooms and puzzles in the depths of our dungeons.
This is what many of you have been waiting to see. We talked about some of our high level ideas in previous updates, specifically with respect to our grid-based system. Now you are seeing it in action. On the game HUD, you can see your party occupying 2 rows of 4 spaces each. Enemies will line up on the opposite grid with the same number of slots. The exact positioning of enemies, as well as your own party, will determine which attacks can land, and which will swing wild past their mark.
Another system you are seeing in place is opportunity. The blue and yellow gems on the HUD represent your party's and your enemy's opportunity. Opportunity is a shared resource that each side has, and it is granted each turn in combat. Unlike some other games where you will be forced to use action points for each character (or skip their turn), opportunity is a bit like a shared action point pool. The flexibility of this system means that party members can set up multi-hit combos, reposition for multiple attacks, or evade danger more effectively.
One thing that is harder to see in the video is our input queuing system. When you take an action in combat, you can begin ordering another party member before the action has played out. Although we intentionally slowed things down for the video to keep it a bit easier to follow, in practice this keeps the flow of combat moving along faster than a traditional turn-based system.
There's a lot more to talk about here, from the way elements like health, mana, and armor interact with each other, how channeling abilities and focus work, the way that temporary status boons can affect a character's functionality, or how positional tactics can let you set up more devastating damage. These open up a lot of subtle possibilities, but we'll save more of those details for future updates.
It seems it's crowdfunding season again, and a number of great projects have been taking off lately.
The first is Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, by Obsidian Entertainment, whose crowdfunding campaign just launched. Pillars shares a certain party-based, fantasy-oriented lineage with The Bard's Tale, albeit from a different sort of perspective. We loved the first one and are excited to see what Pillars II will bring to the table. The campaign quickly passed its goal but it's still possible to back if you are interested.
I also wouldn't want to leave you without a quick mention of The Banner Saga 3, which has recently launched on Kickstarter. Stoic Studio has made a name for itself making these gorgeous turn-based tactical RPGs over the last few years, and now they want to finish the trilogy. Many at inXile are fans of the first two games and this next one is looking great as well, so take a look!