The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep - Michael@inXile
Hello everyone,

We have just released a hotfix to solve the following issues:
  • German - Fixed the issue where cogs were unintentionally stacking as a single type versus three different types. The tooltips aren't localized at the moment, however, all new German players will not be blocked. For German players with previous save games, please adventure to Boar Temple and Skyhenge to find additional cogs waiting for you so you can progress your adventures.
  • Fixed players having a small chance to suffer odd behaviors, including crashes, when using a Practitioner’s Dragon Breath & Conjurorer’s Mark on groups of skeleton enemies.
  • Fixed an issue with Fairy Powder Bomb that would cause hangs with multiple wave combats.
  • Fixed an issue with the Zanta fight in regards to killing multiple skeletons in the first turn of combat.
  • Fixed a crash during combat when stacks of ‘On Fire’ are damaging Yadis and Primeval are also on the grid.
In addition to the fixes, enemy difficulty on hard mode was increased to +60% enemy difficulty over normal mode, up from +40%.

We apologize for the inconvenience. Please keep letting us know if you are still having any issues with The Bard's Tale 4: Barrows Deep.

The team at inXile
The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep - paul_inxile


Hello everyone!

Today, we are pleased to get you the latest patch for The Bard´s Tale IV: Barrows Deep.

Patch 3 introduces additional enhancements to graphic settings, character art, localization, as well as further addressing remaining issues like ability bugs, optimization of loading times, and stability across the game.

With Patch 3 done, please allow us a few personal words: Here at inXile, we are always committed to making quality RPGs, and we are totally devoted to what we are doing. The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep is a game that we poured our hearts into, and every single one of us is very sad that the release of the game we are so proud of was overshadowed by performance issues. Of course, we wish that we had caught these things at launch and have been working overtime to correct them as quickly as we can. For those of you affected, we are truly sorry for any bad experience that you might have had.

We hope you will enjoy the changes and if you do, we would be very grateful for a user review if you haven't written one yet. Of course, the same applies if you were forced to write a negative review in the past, but would be so kind to reconsider now if the issues that prevented you to enjoy the game were addressed in the meantime.

Thank you very much for your patience, and your ongoing support. It means the world to us.

With Patch 3 being released, we are now focusing on our original goal of enhancing the game by adding many additional features after launch. Legacy Mode, controller support, and grid movement will only be some of them and we will talk more about those items and more in the near future. Friends of Mac and Linux will also be happy to hear that we are working on those versions as well.

For details on this patch, please check out the notes below:

Stability:
  • Improved how our graphics benchmarking determined the correct graphics settings for your system.
  • Several optimizations for improved performance.
  • Players who played in non-English languages and encountered issues with placing cogs into gear puzzles and had their save files corrupted should now have working save files again.
  • Fixed a crash related to using Jarnel’s Eyes in certain dungeons.
  • Fixed a crash related to skipping the post combat screen after defeating Mangar for the 1st time.
  • Fixed several combat placement bugs across the game.
  • Fixed a crash in the Cellars of Kylearan's Tower caused by defeating Mangar and then defeating any remaining fights in the dungeon.
  • Fixed a bug relating to how push-blocks reset themselves after being pushed into a hole multiple time. They'll now properly reset each time Stone Remembers is sung.
  • Fixed a crash relating to using Mangar’s Mind Jab in the fight against Mangar.
  • Fixed several issues relating to certain performance actors not saving properly after escaping to main menu.
  • Fixed an issue in which players could not access vendors after reloading a save game under some circumstances.
  • Fixed an issue in which hidey bides wouldn’t work correctly if you exited the game before looting the cache or the cache reset itself.

Gameplay:
  • Fixed several issues where certain doors and puzzles were not saving when exiting to the main menu or to desktop.
  • Fixed a bug that caused Sharp, Keen, and Honed puzzle weapon boons to reduce your damage to 0 when you critically hit with a dagger or a bow ability.
  • The description of the Wrecking Ball passive has been updated.
  • Fixed a bug that caused 2-handed weapons to corrupt your characters stats when equipping and unequipping that item after purchasing skills.
  • Fixed a bug in which the bridge to the Orkan Rookery could get stuck if you ran into it while it was assembling.
  • Fixed a bug that resulted in Arthur de-spawning if you defeated the ritualists around him, but save/loaded your game before speaking with him.
  • Fixed several instances in which waypoints were not deactivating when you switched which quest was being tracked.
  • The Power Rush passive and status effect have a clearer description, and now correctly work with AoE abilities.
  • Lute of Compulsory Cavorting no longer has question marks in its description and its Drunk effect works properly.
  • Fixed an issue in the Sentry Tower that resulted in buttons on the 3rd floor getting stuck in the depressed position if you exited the game before they reset themselves.
  • Removed extraneous waypoints in Castle Langskall.
  • Fixed an exploit that allowed you to dupe items inside the merchant inventory.
  • Fixed an exploit in which you could duplicate items via offering statues.
  • The Guardian passive now has a clearer description of what it's doing.
  • Fixed an issue with status effects, like On Fire or Rend, stacking from different sources and not correctly calculating the effect. If two status effects aren’t the same strength, they’ll no longer stack on one another, and instead create a new stack.
  • Fairy Powder Bombs will now play their explosion when they detonate, and will no longer harm your own team.
  • Lowland Park Whisky now changes your next melee attack damage type to mental damage, as intended.
  • Traps in the Sulfur Springs are now more lethal.
  • Fixed a bug in which caltrops could trigger on dead enemies, causing caltrops to not trigger properly on living enemies.

Etc.
  • A Sharpness post process effect and slider was added, which allows you to adjust how crisp or blurred the game appears.
  • Anti-Aliasing & Post Processing settings are now updated when you adjust your Effects Quality in the options menu.
  • Running the game in borderless window mode will now correctly match your monitor’s current resolution.
  • Greatly improved the user interface when playing with 4:3 aspect ratio.
  • Improvements to non-English localized text.
  • Several graphical updates in Baedish lowlands environment.
  • Fixed an issue where several settings in the Options menu weren’t properly saving.
  • Updated the mesh seen in the inspection window for staves and Lowland Park Whisky.
  • Street signs, offering altars, and elven altars now properly display in the correct language, based on your language settings.
  • You can no longer choose to not help the Selkie sisters. When destiny calls, you answer.
  • Fixed several backer quotes in the Main Menu.
  • Fixed a bug in which the music on the Main Menu would stop playing after completing screen calibration.
  • Fixed several typos in character dialogue.
  • Updated how fullscreen tutorials show text in other languages, better accounting for increases in text size after translation.
  • Adjusted the amount of time subtitles stay on screen.
  • Fixed several issues relating to localized text over-running its boundaries in the interface.
  • Added additional audio in a few areas where it was missing.
  • Updated Fairy Golf music so that it plays through the entire fairy gold arena.
  • The crafting menu now displays how many of a given item will result from crafting.
  • Additional decals, statues, and effects added to Skara Brae underground.

Known issues to watch out for until fixed:
  • If you escape to the main menu during the final animated scene in the game (the cinematic after defeating the final boss), your save file can get into a state in which you cannot complete the final step of the main quest. To avoid this issue, please allow all the animated scenes to play out without exiting the game.
  • We found that player’s have a small chance to suffer odd behaviors, including crashes, when using a practitioner’s dragon breath & conjurorer’s mark on groups of skeleton enemies.
  • Player’s zoning into Skyhenge for the first time have a small chance to experience a crash. This only happens on the first time transitioning into the zone.
  • Player’s summon creatures that last till the end of combat will create a checkerboard icon on the victory screen.
  • Tarjan boss fight can be completed without utilizing the hungering blade by using the melting boon from puzzle weapons.This is an exploit and not as designed.


The team at inXile

The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

I'm sorry this review arrives late, but The Bard's Tale 4: Barrows Deep is stubborn. Trying to power through it is like trying to solve a great pile of crosswords in one sitting: your brain would turn to mush. You could cheat - The Bard's Tale 4 includes a walkthrough out of the box - but you would rob yourself of the point of the puzzle in the first place. The answer doesn't really matter; it's the process you undergo to get it and the satisfaction you feel when you do that counts. In this way The Bard's Tale 4, one giant collection of puzzles, can be enormously satisfying, but force the issue and you will bang heads with it. It cannot and should not be rushed.


The other important thing to know or remember about The Bard's Tale 4 is where it comes from. This has its roots in crowdfunding, and is not a big budget game with a huge team. Character models are dated and cutscenes are slideshows with filters on, and a variety of bugs (a huge second patch for the game has just been released) forced me to reload upwards of 15 times. This is particularly annoying in The Bard's Tale 4, because saves happen at little pillars and not freely from a menu, meaning you have to redo progress each load.


But what other games do you know that come with a printable Code Wheel for solving puzzles? What other games do you know with a bard hero class powered by booze? What other games do you know with a live-action, evolving story recap when you select 'Continue'? What the Bard's Tale 4 sacrifices in polish it makes up for with personality.

Read more…

The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep - paul_inxile


Hello everyone!

The second patch for The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep is live, and it is a big one. Once again, thank you for all the feedback you provided. We really appreciate it.

In this patch, our team's main focus was continuing to improve optimization of the game across both the GPU and the CPU. We have made some great gains in this area across all quality settings and we will continue to improve it in the upcoming next patch.

We also continued our improvements to loading times. Additional notable fixes in this patch include a resolution to a problem some people experienced during launch where non-ASCII characters in Windows usernames would cause a game crash, UI support for widescreen and non 16-9 aspect ratios, large localization updates across all languages, clean-up pass to the mini-map (including adding save totems to it), lots of ability clean-up and description work, and various balance tweaks.

Moving forward, we are already working on the third patch that will have additional optimization and load time fixes. We expect this to be out in approximately 10 days when this work has been completed.

Beyond that, we will be focusing on additional optimization, fixes, and Legacy Mode. Unfortunately, Legacy Mode will not be part of the third patch as we originally suggested, as this feature is a larger project, and we did not want that feature to reduce the cadence of our updates in the meantime..

For details on this patch, please check out the notes below.

Patch Notes:
  • Fixed a crash on launch issue for Windows accounts that contained non-ASCII characters
  • Optimized lighting and baked lightmaps in Baedish Lowlands, Skara Brae, Inshriach, Castle Langskaal, Mangar’s Tower, Boar Temple, Necromancers Spire, Orkan Rookery, Barrows, and Einaar
  • Optimized combat lighting to make it less taxing on the GPU
  • Large optimization pass to reduce unnecessary ticks happening to reduce load on the CPU
  • Large pass to LOD additional static and skeletal meshes all over the game
  • Various spelling fixes for typos
  • Optimization to animation process system
  • Large group of fixes for combat actions among a variety of enemies that were timing out, creating unnecessary delays. Also sped up attack animations on some slower attacks to improve pacing of combat
  • Fix to hallowed passive of the Blessed boons line and Red Boots passive to work as the descriptions state
  • Updated some save totems that weren’t operating correctly and added save totems to the mini-map
  • Fixed a crash when obtaining a party passive that grants opportunity award during character creation when you had another member in your party that granted an opportunity award already
  • Fixed a crash with skeletons using Woodsman Chop on someone with counter strike when they would die because of the counter strike
  • Fixed a random crash that was due to multi-threading
  • Fix to ensure proper resolution is displayed in windowed fullscreen
  • Fix for gear puzzles not saving correctly in some languages
  • Optimization to Unreal blueprint continuation
  • Fix to unequipping offhand when equipping a 2 handed weapon if Vanguard isn’t active
  • Fix to Granny Maurag conversation
  • Consolidated map legend to remove some unnecessary icons
  • Adjustment to various enemy voicepacks
  • Fix so players won’t be able to save masteries from one adventurer on another adventurer
  • Fix for item meshes that weren’t previously showing up when inspected
  • Fix for end game scenario where Anvil Fist would no longer be a store as his conversation option wasn’t showing up
  • Fix to prevent arrow keys from selecting disabled dropdown widgets
  • Fix to a few animations that weren’t looping properly and had a hitch
  • Fix to subtitles not showing up properly in some instances for human male and female variants
  • Updated Thomas Hoff mesh so he no longer clips
  • Fix to Gerund conversation to not auto-trigger at such a large distance
  • Updated skill tree icons that weren’t unique
  • Updated Songs of Exploration ability usage so the party HUD will hide after using the ability
  • Fix for gold sense continuing to trigger on chests that have already been opened
  • Fix where Tarjan and Zanta camera sequences were missing subtitles
  • Added effect and sound when Shadow of Mangar spawns in
  • Fixed a level streaming issue in Iwon Reg where player could see through the world
  • Fixed an issue where, in rare instances, game could softlock upon interaction with a secret door button in Castle Langskaal
  • Fix an issue where a UI softlock could occur in rare instances in a cutscene in Castle Langskaal
  • Fix for Dragonsbile Bomb puddle audio that could persist after combat had ended
  • Various audio improvements to characters and levels
  • Fix to Arcane Barrage muzzle flash not cleaning up properly where the particle would stay in the world after combat
  • Fix to various abilities where All Out Assault wasn’t applying to the entire ability, Storm of Blades damage preview wasn’t working well with multiplicative effects, Razor Strop tooltips displaying incorrect info
  • Fix where archer’s beat VFX were staying around after an enemy was killed
  • Various VFX optimizations
  • Fix for songs of exploration tooltips no longer showing range diagrams that were unnecessary
  • Fix where Compass of MACO did not, in fact, point north
  • Updated to setting of view distance for NPCs based on user settings
  • Updated materials on Ham in Fettercairn
  • Reduced clutter on mini-map icons
  • Fix for some enemies like floating wizards and giants when hit by specific damage types freezing their animation
  • Fixed a performance hang that would happen when certain enemies would trigger caltrops
  • Updated weapon, item, and armor tooltips to reduce redundant text.
  • Updated tooltip text (where applicable) to explain that an item can be equipped from an ability
  • Fix for crash where the player could inspect an item in the character sheet while an item was on the cursor
  • Moved stat plate locations on giant and wraith enemies
  • Fix to an issue where it wouldn’t save the location of your masteries after trying to rearrange them.
  • Fixed an issue with 16:9 monitors that have a greater resolution than 1920x1080
  • Fix on materials on Father Rythe in Fichti
  • Added missing audio to various UI elements
  • Reduced Falkentyne’s Fury damage by 35%
  • Large amount of fixes to localized text that was showing in an incorrect language
  • Updated Russian font assignments for handwritten notes
  • Fixed spot in Castle Langskaal where a player could fall through the world when triggering a combat
  • Fix for wrecking ball incorrectly showing it would deal 0 damage if the boots weren’t yet equipped
  • Fix for Dragonsbile Bomb text incorrectly showing amount of turns the effect will last for
  • Rebuilt lighting in character creation
  • Fix for a softlock that could occur if your last alive character kills the last alive enemy and themselves with Blood for Blood at the same time
  • Fixed Sinister Street fog showing incorrectly in quality settings lower than Ultra
  • Fixed issue where some normal abilities were always showing the range diagram, even if they do not need it
  • Updated cinematic UI to handle different aspect ratios
  • Updated UI layouts based on various aspect ratios, including widescreen
  • Reordered PAK files to help increase loading times across all scenes
  • Fix for What The River Takes Ghost spawned from combat not saving their state and staying in the world
  • Fix to notification for when the Wraith is killed to notify the owner to go back to Gate ability from Banish Wraith
  • Slightly increased difficulty on skeletons and charn skeleton health and power level
  • Turned of mipmapping for hair alpha cards to prevent beards and hair from disappearing when texture resolution changes
  • Added some status effect types to determine how a status effect stacks when another status of the same class is added to the combatant
  • Added internal setting to adjust type of fog being used based on quality settings
  • Adjusted optimization settings for texture streaming and various texture qualities
  • Optimizations to animals and ultra dynamic sky to reduce amount of ticks
  • Updated AI for Cultist Sorcerers to be more active on the combat grid and reduce them not having an action on their turn due to cooldowns
  • Added ravenous null audio to Duke Kingston’s lair
The team at inXile
The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

I’ve sunk about 40 hours into The Bard's Tale 4: Barrows Deep so far, and I’m not ready to hoist my 'Saved the World' tankard just yet. It's a really big game. But even though I have yet to dispatch the latest and greatest threat to the city of Skara Brae—and the greater world of Caith, because the adventure goes far beyond Skara Brae's walls—I am happy. This is the dungeon crawling adventure I've been waiting for.

The Bard's Tale 4 is a remarkable modernization of an infamously punishing old game, and the dungeon crawler genre as a whole. The update is most obviously apparent in the free-roaming movement system that lets me look and go where I want, without the conventional constraints of grid-based movement. It’s all smoke and mirrors—the levels are as linear and corridor-based as they were in the original Bard's Tale games—but the free movement, map layouts, and longer lines of sight work together to brilliantly camouflage the angular restrictiveness and make it feel more like an open-world game. 

It took me awhile to adjust to the oddities that this hybrid system sometimes enables. The tutorial level talks about sticking to the shadows to sneak past an enemy, for instance, but there's no actual stealth feature, and visibility is solely a matter of distance and positioning on the invisible grid that maps are built upon. It's often possible to stroll up to within speaking distance of an enemy without being seen.

Jumping, ducking, hiding, leaning, and other advanced movements that you’d expect from a first-person RPG aren’t possible either, because—and I feel like this really deserve emphasis—that's not what The Bard's Tale 4 is. It might be dressed up like Skyrim Lite, but it's a Bard's Tale game through and through.

Shiny and old

The Bard's Tale will happily throw enemies in your path that you are woefully unprepared to handle.

As up-to-date as The Bard's Tale 4 looks and sounds (the ambient audio is fantastic), a number of the underlying systems are unforgivingly old-fashioned. Characters can't be re-specced, so if you make a bad choice or decide you don't like how your front-line tank is shaping up, that's too bad. Inventories aren't accessible in a fight, so forget about asking everyone to hold up while you open your pack and pull out a healing potion. Speaking of which, healing potions are in extremely short supply, and you can forget about crafting all you need because one of the herbs needed to make them is just as rare. And The Bard's Tale will happily throw enemies in your path that you are woefully unprepared to handle.

It was frustrating at times, until I came to terms with the idea that the fault was entirely mine for wasting resources and picking fights I couldn't win. The shortage of potions is a hassle, but it's something I can work around, rather than an unfair obstacle—kind of a puzzle in its own right. At one point on my adventures, I was faced with enemies who beat my ass severely. I could sometimes take them, but just barely, and not without blowing through far more potions than I wanted to. After several reloads (and increasing annoyance), inspiration struck: Go around them. It worked. 

The leveling system is also from an entirely different era. Characters abilities are based on "masteries" that can be purchased as levels are earned: One level, one point, one mastery. But there are multiple tiers of masteries, and unlocking successive tiers requires the approval of the Adventurer's Guild Review Board, which will only grant it once you’ve unlocked enough of them at your current tier. 

Because of that, chasing a specific ability or saving up points to sink into higher-level masteries isn’t always viable because higher tiers won’t unlock until you've enabled enough of them at your current rank. It's a hugely anachronistic but I actually like the way it saves me from the "build paralysis" I suffer when trying to figure out what to do with my characters. Instead of worrying about saving up skill points for the high-end abilities, I can blow them on the middling stuff without fear that I’m “wasting” them.

Other elements don’t feel 'old' so much as just rough or unfinished. There’s no inventory autosorting or stacking, paper doll screens aren't accessible when dealing with merchants so you can't see equipped weapons and armor when you're shopping for upgrades, and the map lacks detail—it doesn't indicate where the savegame markers are, for instance—and worse, it doesn't support manual notations. Little flags indicate "points of interest," but give no sign as to what's actually interesting about them. Maybe it's a nice view, or maybe there's a locked door or optional quest, but there's no way to leave a reminder on the map so that you'll know to pay attention the next time you're passing through the neighborhood. 

Some of these issues have been addressed in a recently-released patch: Hard drive performance still isn't great but it's better than it was, there's an FOV slider, and crashing has apparently been reduced, although I didn't have any crash issues so I can't comment on that. InXile says future patches will continue to improve performance and gameplay, including the map, which will be cleaned up for "readability" and finally get save totem markers.  

The save system bears a specific mention too. Bard's Tale 4 uses a manual checkpoint save system of "luck stones," some of which can be sacrificed—without a save—in exchange for a chunk of experience points. I really like (and hate) having to choose between the security of a save in the middle of a tough dungeon and the tantalizing promise of free and easy XP. But an unintended side effect is that I often take the XP, backtrack through a level to the most recent standard Luck Stone to save and rejuvenate my party, and then hike all the way back to the front line.

In a way, that's legitimately old-school too, kind of like the cheesy slide-and-swing maneuver commonly used in real-time grid-based dungeon crawlers: These games are hard, and we do what we must to win. But it's a good idea that doesn’t quite come off in execution. At times I agonize over the choice between safety and XP, but more often than not I just end up doing a lot more walking. The potential for frustration is also high: There are plenty of save points, but if you forget to use them and then wipe, it's tough noogies for you. There are no autosaves or do-overs if you pooch a fight. I’m inclined to see that as a good thing, but not everyone shares that enlightened perspective. 

Skara Brae is back

Combat and exploration are where The Bard's Tale 4 really shines. Turn-based battles take place on a 4x4 grid with a shared pool of "opportunity points" determining what your party, and the enemy, can and can't do. Initiative is determined manually—charge an enemy and you get first strike, but it goes to them if you're spotted first—and proper positioning of your characters is vital, especially as the game wears on. 'Fighters up front, mages in the back' is timeless advice, but some class-specific maneuvers that inflict extra damage also have limited reach or proximity bonuses. Your magic user’s flame attack does triple damage if you blast your opponent right in the face, as an example, so it might be worth moving her to the front rank to score that heavy punch. But it'll cost a point to move her up there, and another to pull her back to relative safety.

Tactical movement isn't the flashiest of Bard Tale 4's upgrades, but it is one of the most important because it can force some really tough decisions. As it's a turn-based game I can take as long as I like to ponder my options (although the enemy side will start to razz me if I dick around for too long) but ultimately there is no reward without risk: I might be able to save my badly injured fighter by pulling him back to the rear rank, but if he stays up front and eats one more hit, my magic user could have a better shot of getting off his devastating Warstrike spell. It can be nerve-wracking, because there’s no guarantee that an enemy will react to your moves in the way you want him to, but a daring, high-risk maneuver that pulls out a last-second victory feels pretty great.

If I drink too much, I get one turn of angry super-strength and then I fall over, helpless.

Effective use of buffs is also important. My personal avatar in The Bard's Tale 4 is, appropriately, a bard, and when people start fighting, I start drinking. The drunker I get, the more effective my songs, and the buffs they confer, become. But if I drink too much (which generally isn’t a problem, but hey, everybody has bad days), I get one turn of angry super-strength—and then I fall over, helpless. 

And because attack damage is a fixed value rather than RNG-based, wins or losses never feel cheap. I know exactly what's going to happen when my rogue lands a Shiv attack (assuming I’m paying attention), and so I can plan around it. I can't blame a shitty roll of the dice for losing a close fight, but I feel in control of what I'm doing because outcomes, good or bad, are dependent solely on my planning and execution. While there's some joy to rolling the dice in, say, XCOM, games like The Bard's Tale 4 and Into the Breach, which telegraph more outcomes, bring a chess-like intensity where every sacrifice and attack must be planed turns ahead.

Drunkeneering

My bard's booziness is emblematic of a gentle silliness that runs through Bard's Tale 4. One of my masteries is Mean Drunk, which I chose solely for how ridiculous it is: After I chug a drink, I throw my magic mug at the enemy for 5 physical damage. There's a goofy lightheartedness to it that Serious Adventurers might not dig, but I really like it. It's endearing without being overbearing, and makes for a pleasant break from the usual grim business of dungeoneering. Enemy NPCs trash-talk amusingly during fights (they are particularly disdainful about my drunkenness) and party members banter as well, in a way reminiscent of the Baldur's Gate games. The Trow rogue tells dad jokes, the Dwarf fighter threatens to rip his ears off for it, and the Imp practioner—that’s Bard’s Tale terminology for magic user—gets a big bang out of tormenting me with threats of demonic possession.

The world of Caith is also an absolute delight. It's big, for one thing, and unexpectedly beautiful in parts, particularly the forest of Inshriach, a wooded area that opens up around the midpoint of the game. And there are all kinds of things to do. Combat is obviously at the top of the list, but there are people to talk to, puzzles to solve, lore to learn, and some pretty cool weapons and armor to pick up and play with. Some areas can be bypassed if you're in a hurry to get to the end (but why would you be?) and you can skip bits and come back to them later: I've got a giant who's been waiting for an ass-kicking in Skara Brae Below pretty much from the start of the game. The levels really feel packed, and it's worth putting time into properly exploring them. And there is one important concession to modern gameplay in the form of adjustable difficulty. 'Easy' mode isn’t a walk in the park, but it does makes combat noticeably more manageable.

For old-time adventuring in a sprawling, vibrant world, The Bard's Tale 4: Barrows Deep delivers.

The story underlying all this dungeon crawling business is fairly rote fantasy stuff about a powerful bad guy and a nefarious plot to take over the world (or maybe blow up, I'm not entirely clear on that). Familiarity with the old Bard's Tale games is fun for picking up references—the first major villain I encountered was Mangar, the final boss of the original Bard's Tale, and there's a shrine to creator Michael Cranford next to the old Adventurer's Guild, which I think is a nice touch—but not at all necessary to enjoy the story or understand what's happening. Not that Bard's Tale 4 leans too heavily on narrative anyway: The entire basis for the game is that my pal and I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I wasn't doing anything else so I decided to help him out.

Again, that's the old school approach: We're here because we're heroes, and this is what heroes do. If you need more motivation than that—a deeper meaning, or maybe a more elegantly-told tale—then this may not be your kind of thing. But for old-time adventuring in a sprawling, vibrant world, The Bard's Tale 4: Barrows Deep delivers.

The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep - paul_inxile


Hello everyone!

Today we are releasing the first patch for The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep.

Once more, thank you for your patience and understanding while we continue to resolve all issues you may encounter as quickly as we can. In addition to that, we are also very grateful for all the feedback we have received from you since launch. Please keep sending us your reports and thoughts, it means a lot to us and helps us to hunt down all remaining problems (as well as considering other revisions).

Let's take a more detailed look at Patch 1:

Our primary focus has been to address the topics which most impact your gaming experience, based on your feedback and what we’ve seen pop up during the last few days:
  • Crashes
  • Dropping framerates
  • Non-functional widescreen support
  • Unusual loading times on HDDs
  • FOV slider
  • Localization concerns
As already stated in the road map we released earlier this week, some of these points are not easy to resolve and require in-depth changes to the game (and subsequent testing). This applies especially to stabilizing framerates, improving loading times, and taking care of resolution issues. Today's patch lays the overall groundwork for fixing these, and you will see more improvements with patch 2, currently targeting Friday 9/28.

While we continue building on that, a number of issues have been fixed in today’s patch. We added a FOV slider, solved some pesky crashes, overhauled some funky skills, and many other things. Please take a look at the complete list of changes to get the full picture:

  • Added FOV slider to the options menu
  • Added ability to delete each save independently
  • Updated ordering of PAK files to improve loading times up through Skyhenge
  • Tweaks to volumetric fog in many areas to reduce load on the GPU
  • Optimization of Kael’s Rudiment VFX to improve performance issues in combat
  • Fix for puzzle weapons not saving their puzzle state if they were equipped when solved
  • Fix to puzzle weapon crafting icons to remove stretching issues
  • Updated materials on some puzzle weapons handles not displaying properly on high, medium, low quality settings
  • Increased speed of Rain of Arrows enemy animations to reduce slowdown
  • Fix to a crash when pressing End Turn when the player has an exploding arrow on that would kill them after the turn
  • Added skill tree icons in subterfuge for lockpick and mastery
  • Raised FPS cap on smoothing to 260
  • Fixes to Inner Peace, Mindful, and Quick Thinking to not activate only once
  • Added windowed mode drop down to replace checkbox
  • Fix for game softlocking if a tutorial popped up right as a note was read
  • Fix for electric boon line crash with certain abilities proccing out of combat
  • Fix for a combatants kill action that could be triggered multiple times and after the end of combat screen which could cause a soft lock, notably with conjurers mark
  • Fix for activating a standing stone right as combat starts causing a soft lock
  • Fix for 2 handed weapons with 2 skills that were losing the first skill when level loading or training skills
  • Fix for issue where combat statuses weren’t being removed after combat
  • Removed the ability to destroy ink recipes in Mangar’s Tower
  • Updated Mangar’s horde fight in Mangar’s Tower so traps go away when defeated after save/load
  • Fix for a fairy golf collision issue in Baedish Lowlands
  • Audio improvements to final game scene
  • Removed code that auto sets controller functionality if a gamepad is connected. Gamepad functionality will be added in patch 3
  • Updated Blessing of Mathan VFX to remove untextured squares
  • Drunk tutorial should no longer fire off when stepping into a trap
  • Added aspect ratio adjustments when resolution is changed
  • Fix for changing between resolution, language, and fullscreen in the options menu causing the game resolution to revert to 1 x 1
  • Switched Sybale’s background VFX to the rogues set instead of the bards set
  • Fix for issue where pausing the game in certain (spoilers removed) cutscenes could cause the game to be unresponsive
  • Updates to floating damage text for readability
  • Fix for Rabbie’s FaceFX for Snow in Summer song.
  • Fix for issue where level transitions while dual wielding two main hand weapons would destroy the main hand weapon and dupe the offhand weapon
  • Fix for Elven wine tooltip to show amount of spell points you generate on use
  • Small walkability fix in Fichti forest
  • Fighter’s mana bar shows up now if they have the Veteran passive
  • Updated traps in base of Song of the Sentry to deal damage to the whole party
  • Updated text on skill points tutorials
  • Fix to Harkyn’s Castle and logic puzzle quests to properly complete
  • Fix to secret doors in Iwon Reg that became impassable after save/load
  • Fix for an issue where an equipped trinket would duplicate if a consumable trinket was swapped with it
  • Made the Torr Fion key a quest item
  • Can no longer spam a lever in Mangar’s tower that would restrict the skulls
  • Fix for Show North so it’s not useable in combat
  • Fix for bug where mana was using the current mana value and not the max mana value with certain items
  • Fix for wraith sub-abilities not respecting mana costs
  • Update to a combat space in Iwon Reg that was on top of spikes
  • Fix for an issue in Baedish Forest where there was a chance to get stuck in a combat space

Hotfix:
  • Fix for a possible sequence break in the Isle of Stronsea where the player could speak with the selkie sisters before they should be able to.
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at our support line.

The team at inXile
The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

I've been playing The Bard's Tale 4: Barrows Deep for a few days now and so far it's been great (our review is coming), but not without some rough edges. Today, inXile explained how it plans to smooth them down, beginning with the first patch that it hopes to have out on Friday.   

The first update will mainly be a quick fixer-upper, with initial improvements to loading times (it's fine on SSDs, but standard HDD load times can be brutal), framerate optimizations, initial fixes for wide-screen support, better hardware auto-detection, and a number of smaller bug fixes. An FOV slider is coming, and there will also be an option to delete saved games, which isn't currently available.   

The second update, planned for September 28, is said to include more performance improvements, map markers indicating where the save totems are located, weapon and ability rebalancing, grammar and localization fixes, and (surprise) more bug fixes.

Beyond that—with no date set—inXile plans to add a 'Legacy Mode,' which will include grid-based movement and options to disable the mini-map, enable perma-death, turn of auto-resurrections, and other such misery-inducing 'features' from 1986, along with controller support, an option to speed up combat animations, and inventory sorting, which for some inexplicable reason wasn't present at release.   

"We are working around the clock to solve these issues as soon as possible," inXile wrote. "Also, we would like to ask you to let us know if there are any other issues that influence your personal gaming experience in a negative way. We have spent a lot of love, time and effort into the development of The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep, and there is no bigger reward for us than if you are enjoying it." 

The studio also said that delays in distributing keys to backers should be resolved by today. 

The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (John Walker)

Are you nostalgic for The Bard’s Tale? I certainly played them back between 1985 and 1988, but being under 10, that was a very long time ago. I don’t really remember them with any special degree of affection. And I’m certainly free of the peculiar reverence of those for whom such cows are too sacred to criticise even the decades-later follow-ups (subtweet). What I’ve been playing for the last couple of days is a bit of a crap RPG with some nice puzzles, and a decent combat system. And if that’s faint enough praise to damn The Bard’s Tale IV, I’ve done my job already.

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The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep - paul_inxile


Hello everyone!

First of all, thank you for your patience and for your ongoing support. We are here to update you on the short-term road map for The Bard’s Tale IV so you can get a sense of what’s coming. We had a few more problems during yesterday’s release then we had hoped for, and we apologize for the inconvenience. We will try hard to solve all of your issues as fast as we can.

One of the biggest concerns has been the delay in delivering the final keys of the game. Both our partners Crowdox and Xsolla faced a situation where these were not distributed as planned and it took them some time to sort it out. Our partners have assured us that all remaining issues should be resolved by today.

We are also aware that some people are experiencing problems with dropping framerates, missing widescreen support, FOV sliders, or unusual high loading times between certain areas. In addition, a small amount of people are encountering a black screen on load. Thank you for all the feedback you have been provided so far, and we want to make sure you see what we are doing with it. Please take a look at our patch notes below for detailed information.

We are working around the clock to solve these issues as soon as possible. Also, we would like to ask you to let us know if there are any other issues that influence your personal gaming experience in a negative way. We have spent a lot of love, time and effort into the development of The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep, and there is no bigger reward for us than if you are enjoying it.

The team at inXile


Patch notes:

Patch 1 – Est. Friday 9/21
  • We’re starting initial work on improving load times to help people playing on non-SSD hard drives. There is more work to be done but it’s a big focus of ours in the near future
  • Initial work on optimization and framerate improvements.
  • Auto-detection of hardware and adjustment of quality settings on initial load of the game. While there is currently auto-detection in the options menu, it wasn’t happening automatically. The game defaults to Ultra settings which is likely causing FPS issues for those without high end hardware.
  • FOV adjustment slider.
  • Fixing wide-screen monitor support. This is part one of a two part plan.
  • First is getting the resolution settings working as intended followed by an art pass on the UI elements in patch 2.
  • Fixes for a few side quests that weren’t triggering as intended
  • Fix to puzzle weapons where if a puzzle is solved on the weapon while it’s equipped by a player, it will result in the puzzle reverting it’s state to unsolved. As a workaround now, it can be solved in the inventory perfectly fine.
  • Optimization to Kaels Rudiment that dropped framerate while in combat
  • Fix in Magnar’s Tower where a lever can be spammed in the shadow combat room that makes a bell hint unreadable
  • Fix for a softlock if a tutorial pops up when a player reads a note
  • Falkentyne’s Fury will no longer persist on the players party team after a combat has ended.
  • Fix where the Strifespear’s abilities don’t play nicely with the Vanguard skill
  • Update to the save system that will allow players to delete saves as needed.
  • Fix for a bug where killing Charn Cultists with Falkentynes Fury, which would result in a soft lock.
  • Fix for spellpoints not updating correctly on the stat sheet when gear is equipped and unequipped.
  • Fix where in rare instances, activating a standing stone of gratitude before going into a combat can result in a soft lock
  • Fix for a duping item issue by replacing a non-stackable trinket with a stackable one.
  • Fix so MACO compass can’t be spammed outside of combat, allowing for a stacked stun chance.
  • Fix where pausing the game during a cutscene after killing Yadis can cause the game to enter an unresponsive state.
  • Fix for the wraith where it shows 3 mana before summoning but actually costs 4 mana.
  • Other smaller fixes

Patch 2 – Est. Friday 9/28
  • Continued improvements to load times
  • Continued work on optimization and framerate. By this patch, we expect to have some solid improvements in place for some areas that have higher than expected hits to your GPU.
  • Part 2 of wide-screen monitor support. Updating the full screen art and layout of UI elements like the quest text and mini-map to extend to the proper edges of the screen.
  • Update to the save totem system and adding mini-map markers for where save totems are in the world.
  • Updating and improving localization in all languages for noted issues and some awkward grammar
  • Fixes to a variety of abilities to make their effects more clear.
  • Balance pass to some weapons and abilities after gameplay feedback.
  • Fix to masteries sometimes not saving their ordering when changing them in the mastery page.
  • Fix to some sounds not playing in certain parts of the world and in some UI elements
  • Fix to the party HUD staying open if you use a merchant while party HUD is up
  • Fix for removing range diagrams from Songs of Exploration where unnecessary
  • Fix for caltrops not firing off if summoned enemies enter their space
  • Update to some text spacing and flyouts in combat for readability
  • Update to map legends and mini-map to remove unnecessary items and improve readability
  • Fix for health bars showing up in front of giants and some bosses
  • Fix for some FaceFX issues on characters
  • Fix for some models not displaying when inspected from the inventory
  • Fix for some redundant text in the ability tool tips
  • Fix for gold sense where it doesn’t turn when near a chest after it has been looted

Patch 3
  • Additional Loading time improvements
  • Additional game optimization and framerate improvements
  • Addition of a Legacy Mode (hardcore mode with grid move, option to turn off mini-map, the A-Team, perma-death, auto-resurrect)
  • Ability to speed up combat animations
  • Inventory sorting
  • Controller support
  • Continued bug fixes and general improvements



The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Looking at screenshots of The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep, it seems a crying shame that it’s not a game about a metal band putting on a rockin’ good show to get the mosh pit fired up. Sadly, the game inXile Entertainment released today is just an olde schoole turn-based RPG – and one that our John tells me is a bit bum. He’ll have more to say about it tomorrow but for now, here’s word that it’s out. Given that thousands of folks chipped in a combined $1.5 million during its 2015 Kickstarter campaign, I assume at least some of you do want turn-based fantasy fisticuffs more than big doomy beats.

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