Video Game / The Bard's Tale

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"A quest for coin and cleavage."

Take your standard Heroic Fantasy, except replace that hero with an Anti-Hero Jerkass, "a sardonic and opportunistic musician and adventurer, driven by carnal rather than noble pursuits". The Bard (who is never identified by a specific name) is not interested in saving the world, his humble motivations being strictly "coin and cleavage". Then have his quest narrated by a mocking, biased man who cannot stand him.

The Bard, after getting burned by and subsequently slaying a giant, fire-breathing rat, ends up being recruited by an old man to help free a princess named Caleigh. As a result of this, the Bard finds himself being attacked by an assortment of fanatics from a Druid-like cult, sent to dispatch him by a being called Fionnaoch. On the way to complete his quest, the not so valiant anti-hero will have to overcome the truly terrifying challenges of three monstrous guardians, break-dancing corpses, spontaneously melodious goblins and a giant, fire-breathing rat.

Has nothing to do with the games of The Bard's Tale Trilogy (the first game being titled The Bard's Tale [1985]), although it does have a few shout outs to it (and some editions include the earlier games as an extra). To be fair though, this game was supposed to be a remake of the original game, but inXile Entertainment didn't have the rights to the original game as Electronic Arts held the rights to the series. The game was developed by inXile Entertainment, who are now also working on The Bard's Tale IV, a true sequel to the original trilogy.

The 2004 game provides examples of:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: In the Starter Inn, being nice to the Innkeeper would get you nothing. Berating her for the huge rat in the basement actually gets the Bard some nookie.
  • All Men Are Perverts: How did Caleigh get the bard to go on the quest when lures of money and power weren't enough? She offered sex. Lots and lots of sex.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The Nuckelavee isn't a monster made up for the game but an actual mythological creature from the Orkney Islands' folklore.
  • Anti-Hero: Deconstructed in the Evil ending. The Bard has no particular stake in saving the world, so siding with Caleigh really is the best choice for him. Though the same could be said for the neutral ending, wherein the Bard leaves and gets drunk with some zombies. As it turns out, The Bard doesn't make to be any sort of hero or villain at all, and the undead apparently make great bar buddies (and definitely good dancers, too).
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The consequences of the Nuckelavee's return, according to "The Tale of the Nuckelavee" song:
    The village is burned and the taverns are missed and the beer is all gone and the elders are pissed.
  • Being Good Sucks: The good guys don't quite get the fact that the Bard likes to be paid, and doing the right thing doesn't leave him with anything gained for the adventure.
  • Blatant Lies: The Narrator loves to engage in these, to the chagrin of The Bard.
  • Bottomless Magazines: No limit to those arrows!
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: At least in the Android version of the game. You have the options of buying packs of items, stat points, talents and in game currency with real currency if you want to. Its all stuff you can acquire in game and its single-player so you're just paying to speed up the game.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Jacques and Jean, a pair of French guys, who give you the run around after offering a tune, will accept your challenge to a fight, then surrender as soon as you draw your weapons.
  • Chosen One: Parodied in various ways.
    • The Chosen Wannabe: Throughout your quest, you will encounter many other chosen ones, most of whom are either dead or arrested.
    • The Chosen Zero: Not only is the Bard an unlikely hero (and has this pointed out to him), there are many other "Chosen Ones" (people who think the are, anyway note ) who end up dead or worse. And after you come across them, some trow come out and sing about it!
    • The Chosen Many: At one point you'll even encounter a couple dozen of them. They've all been locked up so they don't hurt themselves.
    • The Unchosen One: Guess who manages to make his way past the challenges and manages to get a chance to confront the Big Bad?
  • Continuity Nod: In a conversation early in the game the Bard proclaims that he's had enough adventures, involving, among other things, cities locked in eternal winter. This was the plot of the original 1985 Bard's Tale.
  • Cow Tipping: There are a number of cows in Houton that the Bard can push over and if you tip enough of them, a very angry cow will attack him.
  • Crate Expectations: Parodied. When the bard smashes a barrel early in the game, the barrel maker comes out and chastises him for smashing his barrels. He then offers a deal: smash all other barrels the Bard sees so that the barrel-maker can sell more barrels. Also, the game guide lists that the Bard's previous profession was as an assistant to the barrel maker, however he was fired for producing inferior barrels which "... shattered with a mere whack of a sword." And his mentor chased him out of town for such shoddy work, saying that "A key won't even be safe in these things."
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: The Bard is a selfish and sexist jerk more interesting into getting "coins and cleavages" than performing heroic deeds, but that doesn't mean he is not a very competent fighter when he has to.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • The Bard, whenever you go with the snarky option in conversations.
    • The Narrator gets in a few zings.
  • Determinator: In the town of Houton, there is an old man who will demand an apology from you if you bump into him. If you refuse, he'll just keep insisting, even following you into a dungeon full of zombies to do so. Refuse enough times and he'll swear to chase you all the way into hell until you say you're sorry.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The Rogue will use this, although it won't stop the bad guys from attacking, it will just stop them from attacking you. Also, the Bard is so wrapped up in his desire to sleep with Caleigh that he never stops to think about the whole thing.
  • Dual Wielding: The Bard can learn to dual wield a sword with a dirk in the off-hand.
  • Evil Pays Better: Sometimes you're better off being mean. Also, the evil ending has what could be considered the happiest ending for The Bard.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The boss towers.
  • Follow the Bouncing Ball: Every single Crowd Song in the game.
  • Funny Foreigner: Anybody who doesn't speak with an English accent.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: You can summon Caleigh to heal you even if you choose to fight against her in the final battle. If you summon the healing spell during said battle, she appears without any transformation.
    • Possible explanation: The being summoned isn't actually Caleigh, but rather, Caleigh just took on her form because she thought it would be great for getting horny idiots to buy into her plight.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • The Bard, mostly from his own past experiences (if you take the word of a self-serving liar and crook like him, anyway).
    • The Narrator acts like he has never seen a fantasy game before, given his shock at some standard tropes.
  • Glass Cannon: The Vorpal Rat. Highest damaging summon, but it only has 11 hit points and no armor. The attack, easily over 110 points, enough to smash all but the most hardy mooks.
  • Groin Attack: If you're snarky to one of the women in Finnstown, The Bard will get a knee to the jewels for it, while the Narrator laughs.
  • Guide Dang It: Almost all the tokens are Missable, and you never know which conversation option will yield the plot.
  • He Knows about Timed Hits: Parodied once again. The Bard thinks the guy giving the tutorial is just plain crazy, but plays along, anyway.
    Old Man: Ye've already proven that ye know how to move around and attack with your weapon. Let's talk a wee bit about jumping.
    The Bard: 'Course I know how to walk around! And jumping? Heh, I know how to jump!
    Old Man: Press the Triangle Button.
    The Bard: Wha'? What're you on about? What button? You're completely insane, aren't you? Y'know, I ran into this other guy once; he kept talking about mice I couldn't see!
  • Secret Level: Four extra dungeons can be unlocked by finding a Trow randomly appearing on the world map and buying his very expensive maps. Each dungeon contains a Token which will permanently improve your stats and tons of loot.
  • Seen It All: The Bard. By the time you get to the last tower, he gets pretty tired of hearing idle threats. Also if you skip a scene, you'll sometimes hear the Bard give a dismissive "Next" or "Heard it already".
  • Shield Bash
  • Shmuck Bait: A chest in the middle of nowhere is obviously a trap, but the Bard goes "oh, what the hell" and loots it anyway. The dialogue with the two men from Finnstown also makes it quite clear that the town did not bake you a cake. The most literal example, however, would be princess Caleigh herself, and her ready acceptance to give you whatever you want, including money which she shouldn't realistically have, and all the sex you want.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Side Quest: Mostly of the, "Let's poke around in this old ruin full of monsters and inexplicably well-maintained traps" variety.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: Fnarf had a tendency to speak with alliteration.
    The Bard: "I've had just about enough of these atrocious alliterative announcements... Now I'm doing it!"
  • Summon Magic: A big part of gameplay. Several of the summon spells you get are plot-important.
    • First, you can summon various creatures and warriors to back you up in battle, spending energy out of your Mana Meter. They stay with you until they're killed or banished.
    • Second, you can use magical artifacts in combination with a limited supply of adderstones. These artifacts call Caleigh or one of three tower bosses to cause some instant or temporary effect on the field.
  • Stripperific: The first female summon has an armour or sorts, which of course includes very low neckline, Zettai Ryouiki and Bare Your Midriff. Then you get another female summon, who just has a brown bikini and high-heeled boots. And the outfit on the flighty barmaid McRary is hilariously ridiculous, especially the shoes. It all fits the world, though.
  • Take a Third Option: After being offered two choices for every action throughout the game, you are offered a third at the very end, and you have good reason to take it.
  • Theme Naming: Many of the names and characters are influenced by Celtic mythology and the stories of the Orkney Islands.
  • Up to Eleven: The sound options can be set to 11.
  • Vendor Trash: All sorts of it, among it Wanted Posters of the Bard himself, but thankfully, it's all exchanged for silver as soon as it's acquired.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: The Tale of the Nukleavee and Here's To The Bard (Viking remix). Both about the Bard screwing stuff up. Every song but the one about beer, really.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Oh, plenty—
    • Watching the "Chosen Ones" (a small army of teenagers) get killed in stupid and hilarious ways is one of several running gags.
    • You can also kill chickens and push over cows in Houton. This serves no purpose (the chickens give you minimal experience, and only occasionally drop a nugget worth 1 piece of silver, and the cows getting tipped is only there for poops and giggles) and will get a very angry cow and chicken come after you if you do it enough times.
    • Count the number of times that you can arbitrarily swindle, abuse, or threaten people to get money or goods. Don't make a drinking game of it though; you'll make yourself very sick.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Averted. You'll run into a guy with a very thick Scottish accent, loves to go to Pubs, but doesn't ever once engage in an act of violence.

Alternative Title(s): The Bards Tale

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