The ultimate quest continues...

Bard's Tale 3 logo

Publisher: Electronic Arts Price: £24.99

Computer RPG fans could scarcely have failed to encounter one of the three Bard's Tale games. They are just a couple of the many Dungeons and Dragons type of role-playing games that have appeared over the last few years and each new release seems more like the granddaddy of RPG than ever.

Bard's Tale III is another of the "create a party and go and mash the monsters" RPG's, and while it's not the best in my opinion, it does have a fair amount going for it.

The quest is simple. The Mad God Tarjan is throwing his insane and somewhat humongous bulk around and not surprisingly the inhabitants of the various towns that he laid waste to and populated with evil are a little narked.
Ideally you're aiming to kick Tarjan's immortal butt out of the land but a good place to start is the local town of Skara Brae.

Players of either of the other Bard's Tale games will be able to directly port their existing character party into the latest sequel, so you can make the best use of the items of power that you fought so bravely for last time. New players should not let this put them off though because BTIII may be played by beginners to RPG's.

The screen display never changes. It's a series of windows with information on the party and its surroundings. To view a character you merely press a key and the stats are called up. Unfortunately this also calls up a picture of the character as well which takes some time.
According to the manual you can skip this by holding down SHIFT and pressing the number but this didn't seem to work. A shame, because it makes swapping of booty and checking of condition very tiresome.

Should the party meet a monster, a picture of it is displayed in the top left window. The name of the monster is told and you are given various options. You can attempt to run away, hide, or advance. If you have bowmen and spellcasters in the party they can fire from within range but the monsters have the same options as you so eventually you'll get up close.
A commentary on what everything is doing and how much various people are hurt appears in the top right window.

Spells are cast by clicking with the mouse on the spell name and then pressing a key for the target. I did find the game somewhat confusing to control as the designers couldn't decide whether to plump for the keyboard or mouse as a form of control and have come to a compromise. This means switching between mouse and keyboard quite a lot and I found it awkward.

Rolling characters was also tricky. You have to select sex and race of the character and then a series of stats is chosen randomly and displayed. If these are acceptable (which they often aren't) you then press a key for class. If they are not you have to press escape and go through the whole process again. A system similar to other RPGs would be better, with a single key-press re-rolling statistics.

Bard's Tale 3 logo Amiga Joker Hit

Seit fast drei Jahren treibt sich der dritte Teil der Barden-Saga nun schon auf allen möglichen und unmöglichen Systemen herum - bloss uns Amigianern hat man bis heute verheimlicht, wie schlecht es um das geliebte Skara Brae bestellt ist...

Im zweiten Teil waren die kampferprobten Haudegen ja ausgezogen, um den Archmage Lagoth Zanta zu vernichten; nach getaner Arbeit kehren sie nun in ihre Heimatstadt zurück - und erleben eine bitterböse Überraschung: während sie auf Abenteuerurlaub waren, hat irgendein gemeiner Kerl Skara Brae dem Erdboden gleichgemacht!

So eine ruchlose Tat darf selbstverständlich nicht ungesühnt bleiben, also gehen unsere Helden mal nachschauen, ob sich der Spitzbube vielleicht noch in der Nachbarschaft herumtreibt. Doch durch die Ruinen von Skara Brae schleichen nun ein paar versprengte Monster, vom Täter selbst ist nichts zu sehen. Dafür begegnet die wackere Truppe dem letzten Weisen des Review Boards - und schon hat man wieder einen Auftrag in der Tasche! Im Unterschied zu vielen Rollenspielen neuerer Machart, ist Bard's Tale III immer noch überwiegend nach dem guten alten Hack & Slay Prinzip augebaut; Rätsel sind nach wie vor eher Mangelware.

Wie gewohnt müssen in erster Linie Monster gekillt werden; das aber nicht zu knapp: das aber nicht zu knapp: Sage und schreibe 500 verschiedene Monsterarten tummeln sich in den insgesamt 84 Dungeons! Um dem greulichen Zoo stilgerecht zu Leibe rücken zu können, dürfen etwa 100 Zaubersprüche gemurmelt werden.

Die Auswahl bei den Spielercharakteren wirkt dagegen direkt bescheiden: es gibt sieben Rassen und dreizehn Klassen, wobei die magische Karriereleiter gegenüber dem Vorgänger um zwei Sprossen erweitert wurde (Chronomancer und Geomancer). Natürlich können auch altgediente Recken aus den früheren Bardensagen übernommen werden, was bestimmt kein Fehler ist - das Abenteuergewerbe wird schliesslich auch nicht leichter...

Weitere Errungenschaften des Programms sind Automapping in den Dungeons, und die Möglichkeit, Spielstände immer und überall abspeichern zu können. Ganz allgemein ist der Bedienungskomfort tadellos, beispielsweise müssen die beiden Disks kaum gewechselt werden, und wer über 1MB und eine Festplatte verfügt, kann das Game sogar auf letztere installieren.

Auch in allen übrigen technischen Disziplinen macht Bard's Tale III eine hervorragende Figur: Farbenprächtige und komplett neue Monster und Animationen, sowie chice, wenn auch nur gelegentlich ertönende Bardenmusik begleiten den Spieler durchs Heldenleben.

Mach auch die Monsterschlacht(erei) so manchem Rollenspieler nicht mehr ganz zeitgemäss erscheinen - dieses Game hat einfach einen ganz speziellen Charme, der nicht nur eingefleischte Alt-Barden in seinen Bann zieht. Wer also im nächsten halben Jahr nichts Besonderes vorhat, dem sei der Besuch in Interplays düsteren Verliesen dringend angeraten! (mm)

Bard's Tale 3 logo

The Bard is back in Thief Of Fate, but it's still the same old song.

Having cut my role-playing teeth on the original C64 version of The Bard's Tale a few years ago, I was pretty keen to see how things had changed two games and one computer on. The short answer is 'they haven't much', but we'll get onto that later in the review.

For the uninitiated, the Bard's Tale series offer a computerised version of the fantasy role-playing games so beloved of sixth-formers everywhere. The player control one or more alter-egos, and guides them through a make-believe world, collecting treasure, fighting nasties and generally having an adventurous old time.

Assuming you don't rabidly loathe role-playing on sight (and plenty of people do) it all sounds like it'd make a pretty effective formula for a computer game, doesn't it? And it does - the only problem being that lots of people seem to have realised this, meaning we've got fantasy role-playing-style games coming out of our ears.

To really make its mark then, a new one has to be something pretty special, which is where The Bard's Tale III falls down. It really is business as usual, I'm afraid. From the character creation sequences (where you choose fighters, bards, magic users etc and modify their attributes) to the Dungeons & Dragons-style combat sequences, the whole thing gives a curious feeling of deja-vu. Yes, we've seen it all before, and yet... and yet, I have to admit it still makes for a damn satisfying game.

You're certainly not short changed as far as places to go and things to do are concerned - there are potentially months of playing time in here - especially as new areas of the game open up to you as you go on.

Unfortunately, lack of innovation aside, The Bard's Tale III falls down in a couple of areas. The first is presentation - simply put, it looks and plays like a C64 game, and you really should be able to expect a bit more for this sort of money. The other problems is the disappointing lack of atmosphere. One of the most important aspects of successful fantasy role-playing is the feeling of 'being there' and the creation of a sense of wonder, all too often forgotten in computer versions. A bit less of the fighting and a bit more of the old character interaction would be nice.

Overall then no disgrace to the genre, but (as they say in all the best school reports) they really must try harder.

Bard's Tale 3 logo CU Amiga Screenstar

After a three year wait, the third part of the classic Bard's Tale series has finally arrived. Thief Of Fate boasts more character classes, more spells, eight multi-level dungeons and seven dimensions.

This time you and your merry band of heroes are called upon to rout the Mad God Tarjan, who holds the seven dimensions in his evil grip. The first thing to do is create the characters who will form your party, or download them from the previous game. Initially, you can employ rogues, bards, warriors, monks, conjurers, magicians, paladins and hunters, but as the game progresses and characters gain experience, a further six classes can be selected.

Every time the party wins a battle they gain experience points. Once they've gained a certain amount they can go to the review board to have their powers enhanced. As they increase in skill, characters gain special abilities: warriors have extra attacks; rouges can hide in shadows; and magicians get extra spells.

The first place to visit is the city of Skara Brae, a ghost town with only three visible locations. There's a secret weapons cache opposite the city gates which contains many items crucial for an early success. Just off the main square is the old review board. Here's where you'll get information on your quests and have your characters advanced. The training dungeon for new characters is situated on the main square, the object here is to defeat Brilhasti Ap Taj, one of Tarjan's lieutenants.

The control system is remarkably easy. A graphics window in the top left of the screen shows you the surrounding area plus any enemies. Clicking either side of the window turns the view by 90 degrees, and clicking at the top moves the party forward. All other commands are accessed with a single key press.

When the party encounters the nasty slathering beasties that populate the realms, the game automatically switches into combat mode. The first four characters can physically attack and be attacked while any others either sit back or use magic. There are only a few options: attack the enemy; attack someone in your party; defend; cast a spell. Bards can sing one of their magic songs and thieves get the opportunity to hide in shadows., which allows them to sneak up behind monsters and knife them in the spine.

Exploration accounts for a large part of the game. The dungeons tend to be large, multi-level affairs with hazards like invisible walls and gas traps. Occasionally, you're required to answer questions relevant to clues you should have found earlier on. If you answer incorrectly, you have to backtrack your steps until you find the solution.

Each of the seven dimensions has its own theme. There is a mechanical world where you're pitted against robots, an ice world, a forest world and a war zone containing Stalingrad and Berlin from World War II as well as other famous battle grounds. It's this variation in style that separates BT3 from its predecessors - casting a Nuke spell on a group of Nazi stormtroopers is good fun.

As the game progresses the opposition and the puzzles become very difficult, it becomes necessary to visit earlier sections of the game to slaughter a few dozen denizens and build up experience points.

The inclusion of an automatic mapping feature is a major asset. Every time you move to a new location the mapper records it and updates your new position. The character and monster graphics are very well drawn and nicely animated. The 3D scrolling that featured in the previous game has been omitted, though this doesn't affect the gameplay at all.
Thief Of Fate is very well presented and easy to get into. Back ups of both disks have to be made before the game starts as information on the characters is constantly updated.

This is definitely the best in the series. It's playable and very absorbing. Let's just hope that this isn't the last we're going to see from the singing Bard.

A balanced party should contain a Bard, two mages and a rogue as well as two other characters. Each class has its own special abilities which should be exploited.
  • Paladin - Can use all weapons and has a high resistance to magic.
  • Warrior - Gains an extra attack every four levels.
  • Hunter - Has a critical hit ability.
  • Monk - Very good armour class and multiple attacks.
  • Rouge - Can disarm traps and hide in shadows.
Mages play the most significant role. Conjurors and Magician have very limited spells, but as they gain experience they can become wizards, sorcerers, Archmages, Chronomancers and Geomacers. The spells obtainable at these levels can do anything from summoning demons to crushing the life out of every enemy you face.