To prepare for The Bard's Tale IV, crowdfunded gaming site Cliqist explores the original trillogy. Give it a read and remember, our backers will get these three games for free!
The story picks up right were the first Bard's Tale left off. You've just conquered Mangar, and it's time to grab a few frosty ales down at the pub and relax. Enter the wizard Saradon (which is vaguely reminiscent of Saruman or Sauron), who informs you that there are more adversaries to deal with thanks to the conniving archmage Lagoth Zanta. Though the narratives are mildly similar, and core gameplay isn't radically different, The Bard's Tale and The Bard's Tale II feel unique, especially with the subtle, though significant changes implemented in the sequel.
1988 brought The Bard's Tale III swinging and singing back into action. A few familiar features: being able to import characters, this time from Ultima III and IV, not just III, as well as Wizardry. The text-based adventure with select animations remains as the base gameplay, but visuals are significantly improved. By today's standards it's a bit outdated, but hey, pixelated adventures still offer some of the greatest experiences available. Don't judge a game by its graphics. An awesome new (well, at least within the Bard's Tale franchise) feature was the addition of an auto-map. I found this greatly improved in-game navigation, especially since The Bard's Tale III provides a much larger environment.
What struck me the most while exploring The Bard's Tale series was the way each game kept the fantastic gameplay elements while building upon and improving on previous entries. Changes like adding an auto-map, and features such as character import were revolutionary. The series walks a fine line of preservation and innovation, making each title appear pleasingly similar yet refreshingly different. It's a difficult balance, but The Bard's Tale I, II, and III managed the lofty feat. The forthcoming The Bard's Tale IV exhibits a massive graphical makeover, but persistent fantasy imagery and a voiceover which suggests that core storytelling will remain largely the same. With an incredibly impressive Wasteland 2, and Tides of Numenera on the way, it's safe to say we've all got high expectations for The Bard's Tale IV.