Currently playing: Nox Archaist

September 23, 2011

Next revisit: Bards Tale 3 - Thieves of Fate

While I was struggling to get Crystal Dragon to work on WinUAE it was so much easier to start up Bard´s Tale 3 instead. And though I´ve followed CRPG Addict and his attempt to try on this game and my own failure to appreciate Dragon Wars to its fullest, I still want to give this game a try. Perhaps my nostalgia is so strong I cannot resist to have the opportunity to perhaps, just perhaps experience the feeling of the old good times again.

Interplay released this third installment in 1988. It was the same year it was released on tape for Commodore 64 and the game that brought me into computer RPGs. I remember being totally lyric and engulfed by this game. It was such a new experience at that time.

The story goes something like this. The mad god Tarjan was so angry of his minion Mangars defeat in the first game that he has ruined the whole town of Skara Brae and unleashed all of his evil minions again. The only one able to try to resist this great evil is of course you and your group again.

According to the specifications, the game contains a whopping 84 dungeon levels, more character classes, more than 100 spells, 500 monsters, automapping feature and more advanced puzzles. The huge big improvement are that you can save anywhere. While readin the features I cannot but chuckle to the line "Colourful, animated graphics so real you'll want to tickle the dragon's chin.".

The creator Michael Cranford was not part of the development for this third installment. Michael Stackpole created the storyline and the maps and are today a successful writer.

You have seven slots to use to create your party but since you would probably want the last one for NPC:s or summoned monster I let that be empty. I think I´ve spent 3 hours to create my characters by endless re-rolls, and yet I am not sure my group will be strong enough.

The graphics in the IBM-PC version is really nothing to write home about. It is functional but nothing more. There are no sounds at all. Only when the bard plays a song. It is quite ridiculous because even the C-64 version looks and sounds better. The programmers must be ashamed. If you don´t believe me take a look and these pictures.

The intro is an animated story on the C-64
I created a party of 6, reserving the last slot for summoned or joined creatures. My party consisted of:

  • Gort, dwarven fighter
  • Vilja, human bard
  • Snirfor, human thief
  • Canisa, elven magician
  • Sentar, elven magician
  • Ansgar, gnome conjurer

I am not very strong in melee but I hope to make up for it by my mages. I choose the fighter because he receives extra attacks. Nothing was mentioned of that for the Paladin. Thief, or rather Rogue, seems to be essential and a bard likewise. I could go for two conjurers instead but opted not for.

I started out outside of the ruined city of Skara Brae, a wilderness that lacked almost everything. The first thing that strikes me is the incredible frequence of random encounters. Almost every third step yield an encounter. Fortunately you could run from most of them, even when the bard is not playing the song specifically attributed to flee enemies. By choosen my fight and explore Skara Brae early I managed to increase a few levels. Skara Brae doesn´t contains anything useful except for the place to increase in levels and the priest in the Mad Gods Temple that requries the word Tarjan to descend into the catacombs. You see, my first task was given me from the priest who oversees my advancement. He said I have to kill an evil person deep down in the catacombs under the Mad Gods temple.

Almost all the monsters have unique names that cannot easily be related to. That is a shame since it in earlier games creates atmosphere just by recognising them and you could easily recognise your opposition if they would have followed traditional names. Nevertheless, they drop items from time to time and that part is always interesting since you could always hope to get better weapons or armour or even magical items. But what stroke me after a few hours was that I couldn´t find any shop to get disposed of my items. Instead I have to discard them. Tháts not good.

Catacombs under Tarjans Temple in Skara Brae

The review board in which you advance in levels
After reaching level 4 I got down to the catacombs. The fights was ridiculously frequent. I couldn´t even turn without getting into a fight. Fortunately I got a NPC follower, a Zephyrlord who had very good values. The idiotic thing with him is that he insists of summoning creatures in almost every fight though he should know there are no free slots available in our team. That is a mistake of the developers I think.

In the beginning I had quite fun with the game but then I realised that it got quite tedious and that the only goal of the game seems to be to grinding to increase levels all the time. It might have worked in the 80:s when you had long holidays and no duties as a teenager. But it is certainly hard to motivate oneself now if this is the only aim.

Still I don´t give up so easily and played for a few hours more and mapped out the first and level before descending into the second one. And now I am beginning to notice what CRPG Addict told in his gamethrough. That the spellpoints regenerate extremely slowly. If I don´t find any magic staff or anything that will regenerate my spell points undergrown I will not accept to have to wait for 15-20 minutes in real time to heal up. No way.

So far I´ve given this game around 6 hours or so and I am getting a bit hesitant of continuing this. Mostly because of the hard thing to regenerate spellpoints. And no, I haven´t found any place to do that for gold either.

The music in the game is non-existent except for the bard songs. The graphics is a disappointment, although functional.

Grinding in Skara Brae for catacombs level # 2
 I have heard  I have to complete the first quest until the main adventure begins. I might have patience just to clear this first dungeon out. My next posting will decide wether I will continue or not. At least 6 hours have gone to the game so far.


  1. It's a shame about the random encounters every third move - in pracice nothing changed about going from calculating chances in real time to calculating chances per move. You still have to fight a gazillion meaningless battles.
    IMO the Bard's Tale game are the old CRPG classics of the 80s that have stood the test of time least well, due to this.

    BTW, there are supposed to be "soul gems" or something similar that will recharge your mana, but the frequency of them dropping seems to be quite large between the various version, with the DOS version having very few. IIRC the C64 version is the most "true" one.

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  3. I have read about these gems on CRPG Addicts blogcomments as well but found none so far. I have also read that in BT1 + BT2 there were some mage staves with SP regeneration. They would be extremely sought after.

    I agree with you about Bard´s Tale. It was good when it came but games like Might and Magic and of course SSI:s sereis of AD&D are superior in comparison.