I'm Maxx Kaufman, Art Director on The Bard's Tale IV. The world of Caith is a place of fantasy, adventure, and a bit of mystery and magic as well. In our previous updates and in our original Kickstarter text and touch points document, we've talked a bit about the game's art direction, and how we are building a world that is inspired by Scottish culture.
The Bard's Tale IV is based on legends and folktales, and our artwork and designs are meant to be evocative of all the beauty and artistic traditions of the Celtic and other pre-Christian peoples of the north. This world and its inhabitants are accented everywhere with Celtic elements that we are using to bring a particular personality and design that feels unique to the game, with its own mystical and ancient flair – while also still feeling true to the high fantasy feel of the classic Bard's Tale games.
But you came here for art, so I'd like to share a few new examples of that with you today.
Characters & Monsters
The last few months, we've been churning away on new character art for the game. We've shown you a fair number of environments previously, but now we'd like to show you some of their inhabitants, too. Some of these are familiar to old fans, while others might be new faces.
With all our characters, we're instilling a sense of personality into everything, with ever-so-slightly exaggerated features that touch on their most iconic elements. We're also using things like varied clothing and equipment (with either animation or simulated physics) to avoid repetition and give a sense of physicality to them.
Note that the shots below are renders of our in-game models, but are still works in progress so may change. And, while we are peppering in some hints at gameplay ideas below, bear in mind those details may change as well.
The Trow are a mainstay of Scottish folklore, and they will be making an appearance in The Bard's Tale IV. Trow are a bit like goblins – short, a bit ugly, and mischievous, with goatlike features. They are most often found in dark places, like mounds, caves and dungeons, far from the light. We're exploring including them as playable characters in your party, but they will also appear throughout the game in other forms, including as enemies.
In gameplay terms, Trow are intended to be lower-level creatures, but still have some tricks up their sleeves. In battle, they will attack with simple weapons like clubs, hammers, and thrown daggers. We want to bring a lot of personality to our creatures in the game, and in the case of the Trow, that means they'll be troublemakers for your average adventuring party. For instance, some of them may be able to cast spells to confuse or charm the player's own summoned creatures, or summon their own magical underlings, making it important for you to deal with them quickly.
Almost everyone who played the original Bard's Tale games will remember the Magic Mouths. Found in the dungeon walls, they would speak riddles and hints for you, some more cryptic than others. We offered a glimpse at these in our initial in-engine video, so it's no surprise they will make a return, but we've been testing out a few new designs as well.
The Magic Mouths in The Bard's Tale IV will have a wide variety of styles. Some might appear from within stone blocks, while others have a bit more ornamentation around them. We want their designs to reflect the environments they appear in, rather than using the same everywhere. And like the classic games, their role will be to inform and assist you… but not always in the most helpful or straightforward way.
The Ghillie Dhu also come from Scottish folklore, but are distinctly more fearsome and mysterious than creatures like the Trow. Ghillie Dhu are large, hulking creatures that are cloaked in roots, grass, leaves and bark – though they share a little bit in common with your traditional ents and other tree-like creatures, they have their own distinct flavor that makes them feel a little bit otherworldly.
In combat, the Ghillie Dhu fight with their heavy fists or tree branches, and use spells related to the natural world, such as roots and vines that will constrict and bind your party members to make them easier targets. The Ghillie Dhu, owing to their appearance, blend into forested environments very well – meaning they might get the jump on the party at the start of combat before you even know they're there.