The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep - paul_inxile


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The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep
The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

InXile announced today that the first part of The Bard's Tale Trilogy, a remastered release of the '80s Bard's Tale RPGs that was announced in 2015 as a Bard's Tale 4 Kickstarter backer reward, will be out on August 14. A launch trailer for Tales of the Unknown, as the first entry is called, showcases both the old-fashioned dungeon-crawling gameplay and the updated art and sound that will bring it, just a wee little bit, into the modern era. 

The remastered release will deliver "a uniform playing experience" across all three games, inXile said, without the emulation or compatibility struggles that typically accompany efforts to play a game that's not too far from middle age. Parties can be carried across all three games, and all of them will have improved spell access, inventory management, and an automap feature which, trust me on this, you'll be thankful for. You'll also be able to play as a male or female character in all three games, something that apparently wasn't possible in the original releases of the first two. 

Work on The Bard's Tale Trilogy began at Olde Skuul Games, but that hit a snag in early 2017. InXile said in a Kickstarter update posted in May of this year that it had "agreed to part ways" with Olde Skuul, but still wanted the games remastered for new players. That led it to a partnership with Krome Studios, which decided to give the games "a fresh coat of paint" along with the compatibility overhaul.

It was a major undertaking: Each game looked and functioned differently based on platform (courtesy of Mobygames, have a look at some DOS (EGA, I assume)/Apple II/C64/Mac screens below) and the complete source code wasn't available for any of them. 

"If archaeology and game development had a baby, it would be this project," Krome head of development Lindsay Parmenter said. "By studying the code across different versions of the game, we were able to piece together developer intent and recreate it. Of course, having access to some of the original team members helped, too!"

Those who didn't back The Bard's Tale 4 can pick up the trilogy from Steam or GOG for $15. The second part of the trilogy, The Destiny Knight, is expected to be out in the fall, while part three, Thief of Fate, is slated for a winter release. Krome also plans to release a "Legacy Mode" option for the trilogy, which will make the games play similarly to the original releases, "with all the challenge that entails."   

The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep - paul_inxile
Hi all, we recently updated the beta to 1.1, which addresses a few known issues.

  • You’re no longer able to inspect enemy difficulty through walls. This will result in a lot fewer random chatter moments from your party as you’re exploring.

  • Fixed several instances of Taunt not correctly modifying enemy behavior, which resulted in taunted enemies not attacking the taunter. Archers should now be much more susceptible to mockery.

  • Fixed several issues in Kylearan's Tower in which you could get stuck inside certain rooms.

  • Fixed a crash related to concerned citizens using Mangar’s Mind Jab.

  • Fixed an issue in which characters armed with puzzle weapons would trigger the puzzle weapon’s effect on themselves when they were struck with a trap.

  • The Volute Elven Sword no longer grants an ability, as intended. Its acidic passive applies to all abilities used by the character holding the weapon.

  • Pressing Z in Alguin's tower no longer triggers a magical earthquake.
The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep - paul_inxile


Hey Everyone,

Paul here. It has been a whirlwind for everyone since we launched the alpha systems test in March. We’ve been soliciting feedback, bug reports, and acting on all of it in the intervening months. All of the comments we have received from you have helped us make the game better and brought us to this point - the release of the beta build.

We’re excited because this time so many more of you get to experience playing the game for yourselves. The beta has a roughly 4-5x larger player base, and that’s something we’re very happy about. We’re thrilled for those of you who finally get to try the game out for yourself, and we’re looking forward to your feedback.

And there’s a lot of feedback to provide. The beta is a big slice that takes you through the beginning of the story, introduces you to the game’s core systems, and then lets you go play in that world for a little while. Character creation and customization, combat, exploration, puzzle solving, and (of course) dungeon crawling all await you. A list of known issues can be referenced here.

For all our fans, the release of the beta means that we are that much closer to our newly announced September 18th release date for the game. That’s almost upon us, so expect lots of news in the near future!

Until Next Time,
Paul Marzagalli
Public Relations & Community Manager
@phimseto

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The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

We took a look at inXile's upcoming Bard's Tale 4: Barrows Deep today and found it "a captivating dungeon crawler," which is really good news for people (like me) who have been looking forward to getting their hands on it. Also in the "good news" department, inXile announced today that the game will be released on September 18. 

Like its 1980s predecessors, Bard's Tale 4 is a single-player, first-person, party-based RPG set inside sprawling dungeons filled with puzzles, traps, and monsters. But it "doesn't feel beholden to the past," Wes said in his preview, and that's good because those early games were viciously difficult. I've knocked off dungeon crawlers from Eye of the Beholder to Legend of Grimrock, and I don't think I ever even came close to finishing The Bard's Tale. But I sure loved knocking around in its tunnels. 

The Bard's Tale 4 will be released on Steam and GOG, and is available for preorder now at bardstale.com. Preordering the Platinum or Ultimate edition will net you access to the beta, which went live today, and Kickstarter backers can get in on that action too.  

The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

The Bard's Tale 4 comes out on PC on 18th September 2018, developer inXile has announced.

The fantasy role-playing sequel launches on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this year.

The Bard's Tale 4 is a single-player, first-person party-based role-playing dungeon crawler set in Caith, a Scotland-inspired realm. You recruit a party of up to six heroes and explore, solve puzzles and delve deep into dungeons. The combat is a turn-based affair that revolves around smart positioning. Check out the gameplay video below from our Johnny Chiodini for more.

Read more…

The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

Three hours into the beta of The Bard's Tale 4, I realized how late I'd stayed up puzzling my way through the labyrinth beneath a wizard's castle and thought: Damn, this is a really good dungeon. I was engrossed. For the first time, my surrounds were beautiful and fantastical: ethereal light from tall windows cutting through the haze, elaborate gilded statues lining the halls, secret passages rumbling open in innocuous stone walls. The puzzles were clever and quickly escalated from gimmes to satisfying headscratchers. While it takes a couple hours to get going, this feels like exactly the game I hoped The Bard's tale 4 would be: a proper dungeon crawler with a creative combat system that doesn't feel beholden to the past.

Even in just a few hours, there's a promising richness to this combat.

The first "dungeon" you'll explore in The Bard's Tale 4 is not a maze of gloomy underground tunnels, absent of life but for the skeletons and goblins you have to kill. It's the lively, un-dungeon-y town of Skara Brae, where NPCs mill around selling soup and armor and commenting on the day's batch of hangings. There's no time wasted here: The local religious order has it out for heretics and adventurers like you, a classic RPG story if ever there was one. But the ability to move freely around without a grid, with characters to talk to and ample voice acting, helps decouple The Bard's Tale 4 from dungeon crawling tradition, especially when you put together your first party of adventurers. 

The opening couple hours serve as a tutorial: you'll recruit some named characters from the game's non-human races, an elf and a dwarf and a trow, all of whom are in hot water with the Fatherites, that noose-happy religious group. These characters sub in for the typical dungeon crawler character creation process, so you won't be buried in stats menus for your first half hour. Your party starts small with just a couple characters before you can recruit a full six, keeping the first encounters simple as you learn the basics of combat. 

Deciding how to divide up limited action points is key to combat.

That's probably for the best, as there's a lot to learn here. Combat plays out on a grid, and where your characters are in relation to the enemy is pivotal. Some attacks can only hit the squares directly in front, while others have more range. Abilities and movement pull from a pool of opportunity points, which you can divide up between characters as you please. Crucially, some moves don't cost opportunity, and learning how and when to use those will make bards and spellcasters key to your offense and defense. Spellcasters use spell points to cast magic, which have to be charged up during combat, while bards slam some booze and use drunk stacks to power their own spells.

So far I love this combat system, which will probably be the most controversial element of The Bard's Tale 4's design. It's a far cry from the standard RPG menu of attack/defend/magic/item, with each character proceeding in turn. But even in just a few hours, there's a promising richness to this combat. I quickly found a strategy I liked: throwing down traps that stunned enemies when they were stepped on, then using my fighter's taunt to pull a unit forward onto that space.

The AI, unfortunately, hasn't been too devious: while I've had a few tough battles, I've also fought some that should've been tougher, but ended up a breeze thanks to enemies wasting opportunity points by walking back and forth. I hope the game is still just easing into the hard stuff.

These start simple but quickly become surprisingly complex.

The first few puzzles I encountered were pitifully easy, but were just introducing concepts that would quickly get much more complex and much more fun. These cog puzzles are frequently used to open locked doors, and within a couple hours you'll be swinging them on arms, trying to line up certain cogs to spin and others to stay clear of the mechanism. The harder they get, the more I like them.

The Bard's Tale 4's exploration really started to feel right once I got past the tutorial and started exploring with no waypoints to string me along. While it's cool and exciting to have a hub like Skara Brae filled with NPCs, the town isn't a great showcase for the powerful Unreal Engine 4. You can see where inXile had to stretch its budget: an opening cutscene told via illustrations feels like a placeholder animatic, the lighting's dull, and some character models are, well, not beautiful. Then again, they're peasants; maybe that's appropriate.

The tunnels under Skara Brae, where you quickly flee to escape the Fatherites, are more atmospheric but still largely barren. But I absolutely loved the next area, beneath Kylearan's Tower. There's gorgeous foliage and effervescent mushrooms, a chamber where a spell has sent huge chunk of the ceiling (and a few goblins) floating through the air, hidden passages and treasure chests aplenty. Magic Mouths in some rooms offer clues to the puzzles in amusing verse.

The Bard's Tale 4 is frequently gorgeous, especially after its first two areas.

If the rest of The Bard's Tale 4 maintains this level of atmosphere, I'd play through it for the scenery alone. It really nails the vibe that, to me, makes the idea of the dungeon crawler compelling: the sense that a place is alive, yet empty. You're alone in an environment that feels mysterious, braving its traps to fill in the unknown. 

There have been puzzles that feel trite—I'm sorry to report you'll be pushing around plenty of blocks—but others clever enough (and presented with just the right fantasy flourish) to keep me engaged as I push deeper. And this is still, really, just the end of The Bard's Tale 4's tutorial: its first main quest, before I've even had the chance to create my own party totally from scratch. That's still an option (and grid movement will be too in the final game, for all you traditionalists out there). 

I could point out plenty of little issues I've run into after a few hours with the beta. It's crashed a few times. Characters tend to repeat the same voice lines a little too often, whenever I glance in the direction of a dangerous area or walk by a magic mouth eager to dispense a clue. There are a few typos. There's not enough variety in the character portraits you choose for your party members. Those are the kinds of issues betas are for. The Bard's Tale 4 needs polish, but the fun is already there.

May 23
The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep - paul_inxile


Have you seen our new website? If not, please drop by and let us know what you think: bardstale.com. We’ll be updating the site with new content in the future, so stay tuned!
The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep - paul_inxile


TL; DR: Storefront news, Q&A, GDC Highlights

Hi everyone, Paul Marzagalli here with the latest development update! Hope you've been well! Today we’ve got a Q&A with The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep dev team based on questions from the community, and a look at the game’s appearance at GDC (including some press coverage that you might have missed). There's a ton here so strap in and let's begin!

Making A Wishlist

If you’re reading this, you likely already saw that the store page for The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep is now live on Steam! This represents a big step forward in the game’s development progress, and we’re very proud of how things are shaping up.

If you’re interested in the game, one thing we’d ask is that you wishlist it on Steam (and encourage a friend to do so, too)! This helps with Steam's search algorithm and increases the game's general visibility. We want to make the game’s launch as big a success as we can when it releases, and your support is a huge help for us as an indie studio.

Q&A with the Dev Team!

Thanks to everyone who sent questions our way! What follows is a dive into some of the more specific gameplay mechanics, so we hope you enjoy it!

Q: How many dungeons will BT4 have & how many locations/zones will BT4 have?

A: The combined count is 25 dungeons or dungeon-like areas. That said, it's a dungeon crawler - you always have to be on your guard!


Q: What races will be playable in BT4? The Trow have been mentioned as a new race, but what others are confirmed?

A: Dwarves, Elves, and Trow, and there are different variety of Human cultures (Baedish, Fichti, Einarr, and Outlander).


Q: Will it be possible to create your full party?

A: Yes, though not all at once. You start off with one character, and you'll be able to swap that one out during the introduction if you wish. Over the course of the game, you'll be able to grow your party up to six.


Q: Will BT4 be a continuous world where all locations connect together as one big world, or will it have a travel map between locations like Wasteland 2?

A: Yes, you can access the entire world by walking, or you can utilize our fast travel system to warp to previously explored areas. For those old school types, you are never required to use the fast travel system – it's just there for convenience.


Q: How many of BT4's monsters are from the originals or are directly based on the portraits from the originals?

A: For rank and file enemies, many of them were built to fit the current culture and story of this Bard's Tale. About a third of the monsters are from the original games, and the remaining are new, with most inspired by Scottish folklore and mythology (we covered some of them in a previous update). Some of our old major bosses are coming back as well. And no, we won't be fighting Nazis (sorry, Bard's Tale III fans), but a couple of fan favorites like Herb and the 99 Berserkers make a return!


Q: Does BT4 have time-sensitive puzzles? If so, do they take place in real-time or turn-based mode?

A: There are no Shadow Snare puzzles like in The Bard's Tale II: The Destiny Knight - something which requires a real-time solution or you fail (and, in the case of the Shadow Snare, your party dies). While it was certainly an unique feature back in the day, it was a bit too punishing and there are other ways to challenge the player and provide that fun gaming tension.


Q: How many of BT4's bard songs are from the originals or are directly based on the songs from the originals?

A: The vast majority are songs from the original games. Out of the nine magical bard songs that the bard has access to, only the Song of Compulsory Cavorting is brand new. We took the core of what the songs did, or the role it played in the originals, and updated it to fit our combat & exploration systems. They even sound like the old bard songs.


Q: Will there be references to the other cities outside of Skara Brae (such as those you visit in The Bard's Tale II)?

A: Yes, there will be references to the other cities outside Skara Brae. You may even get to visit one.


Q: Will BT4 be akin to BT1 in forgoing automatic regeneration of SP/HP in dungeons, so there's an element of longer term resource consideration?

A: The answer is yes - HP does not regenerate over time like the originals. However, the use of items and abilities can restore and regenerate HP. We also added checkpoints in the form of Luck Stones. These strategically-placed artifacts will save the game and restore your party's HP, if you can survive to reach them. This gives the game that feeling of tension as you delve deep into the dungeons, but without needing to backtrack all the way back to the Guild every time you need a breather.


Q: How will attributes work? Will we roll for random attributes like the originals or will we have a point +/- system like WL2? Will attributes go up automatically when a character levels up, or will we get points to raise the attributes of our choice?

A: Everything about your character, including your attributes, comes from your skill tree. Your starting attributes depend on your starting archetype, and you can customize them via the skill tree as you level up. Each time you level up you get to choose how you spend that skill point. You might choose to upgrade an attribute like intelligence, learn to craft a new potion, or learn a new passive ability. Some of these skills, however, are locked behind advanced tiers that only the Review Board can unlock for you.


Q: Will it be possible to permanently recruit monsters from random encounters?

A: While you will not be able to dominate enemies and have them join your ranks, you will be able to summon and keep a variety of monsters in your party.


Q: Will the player be able to fully customize their main character (class, race, gender, etc.), or will there be pre-defined settings (you're always a bard, you're always human, etc.)?

A: Yes, any character you create can be fully customized. You can pick your class, culture, portrait, and even your voice.


Q: Do enemies level scale in BT4?

A: Like the original, enemies don't scale. We set the level and difficulty of the enemy when we place them in the world. So you could come back to an older area and wreck shop because you're much higher level, or you could go into a higher level area and get your face stomped.


Q: Are the party's total action points based on party size?

A: Your party gets more opportunity as a quest reward for completing major plot points. You tend to get larger parties as you get more opportunity, so while they aren't directly linked, they do develop along a parallel track.


Q: The AP system shown in the alpha seems to be favor smaller parties. Is it still worth bringing more party members?

A: More characters is generally always better (except in a few rare circumstances), as it provides more HP on the battlefield to soak attacks, more abilities to chose from, and more people in the right place at the right time to perform key plays in combat.


Q: What is the maximum party size?

A: Six is the max party size. We also leave open two slots for summoning creatures if you have a full group. It can be 6+2, 4+4, 5+3... whatever party configuration works best with your play style.


Q: Are all the conversations fully voiced acted?

A: They sure are!

GDC 2018 Highlights

If you follow us on social media, then you'll know that The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep had a great reception at this year's GDC, something we were very excited and grateful about. It was warmly received by the crowds there, we had a few VIPs stop by, and of course a number of fans stopped by to say hi and chat about the game with David and Jeff!

The team had good crowds for all three days[ of the expo! Jeff, David, and Art Director Maxx Kaufman all had their hands full getting as many folks access to the demo as possible.



A highlight was when Michael Cranford swung by to get his first look at the game in a while. He had a great time checking out the demo, and when I spoke with him later that day, he was absolutely thrilled with how the game was coming along and had developed since his last check-in with it. That kind of affirmation was really awesome, especially coming on Day One of the expo.



Another series vet also stopped by. Kurt Heiden was the audio point person on Bard's Tale II and Bard's Tale III. Barrows Deep marks a return for Kurt, as well. He arranged/composed some of the Ability and Exploration Bard tunes that you will be using in the game!



In case you missed it, here is some of the press coverage from that week:
For long-time series fans, GDC also hosted a Classic Game Post-Mortem on The Bard's Tale and The Bard's Tale II: The Destiny Knight, featuring series creator Michael Cranford. Courtesy of GDC Vault, you can watch that talk here. It's well worth a look.

That's It for Now

Thanks to everyone following the game's progress here on Steam. We're grateful to have you as fans and we're excited to bring you The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep later this year!

Until Next Time,
Paul Marzagalli
Public Relations & Community Manager
@phimseto

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The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

Here's what I love about the short alpha demo of The Bard's Tale 4, which I've now played through three times: there's no basic attack button, no block button, no scrolling through a long menu of spells to decide what to cast. Before The Bard's Tale 4, this is an accurate representation of what I'd do if you asked me what I thought about dungeon crawlers: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I adore NetHack and Darkest Dungeon and loads of other RPGs, but the combat-over-story approach of first person dungeon crawlers has always bored me.

I expect all this to get vastly more complex in the full game, when you'll be able to have a party of up to six adventurers.

The Bard's Tale 4 plays like no other dungeon crawler I've ever touched, blending bits of classic Bard's Tale and Japanese tactics RPGs into something new. It's not full of ideas that will shock you, but its approach to a genre that's now nearly 40 years old still feels mildly heretical. Most classic RPGs either don't care where your party is standing in combat or are best played with fairly codified formations (brawlers in the front, softies in the back). But constantly repositioning is the most crucial element of any encounter in Bard's Tale 4, and moving costs an action point just like an attack.

When I started planning out a whole turn in advance—who attacks then moves, who should end the turn on the front line, how a charged-up magic attack can trigger another ability—I knew developer inXile was working on something exciting, here. 

Also, bards get more powerful when they drink, and will hurl an empty tankard at an enemy to deal one damage when they get angry drunk. Move over, drunken boxing.

When I visited inXile in the summer of 2017, we talked about how The Bard's Tale 4 would approach exploration and puzzles and dungeons and characters. None of those larger elements of the game are really present in the alpha build that is now available to Kickstarter backers—it's a short demo snippet with a couple easily solved puzzles and only a few rooms to explore. It's all about the fighting.

Here's an example of an encounter from the beginning of the demo, when I interrupt some weird cultists mid-ritual with a preset party: a bard, a fighter, and a magic practitioner:

There are so many small but significant twists on combat that I like. Enemies and your units line up on a 4x8 grid, and most attacks hit specific spots on the grid. That usually means one or two spaces in a line in front—a head-on strike—which makes exceptions important. After this fight I got a new sword for my fighter, which let him perform a sweeping strike against the three squares in front of him, a crucial way to hit multiple enemies or attack without moving, because moving costs an action point.

Some abilities use mana instead of action points, which adds another layer. The bard and practitioner can each spend an action point to chug alcohol or meditate, charging up to use a magical attack instead. Coupled with a taunt from a fighter, this is a great way to play defensively one turn and then drop a big attack the next turn. 

There's more to movement than just lining up an attack. If you or an enemy are inflicted with bleeding, moving causes two damage. So you can make an enemy bleed, then use taunt to draw them forward. Two damage. Then hit them with an ability that causes knock-back. Two more damage. Of course, the same can happen to you, and even taking that extra damage to get in place for an attack makes you think it through. Turns aren't questions of "what should this character do?" but rather "how should I divvy up this pool of actions?"

Loot! And weapons with unique abilities.

I expect all this to get vastly more complex in the full game, when you'll be able to have a party of up to six adventurers, all relying on the same pool of four action points per turn. There's already a hint of how much interplay between movement and action the designers plan to add: one pair of boots I discovered lowered the cost of magic spells by one mana after moving. Weapons and other equipment have abilities attached to them, but use that ability enough and you'll master it and be able to keep it equipped when you upgrade to new gear. It's not a new idea, but I love seeing it in a dungeon crawler as a way to make equipment more significant than stats you throw onto a character.

Using weapons to master skills also imbues them with a bit of personality, and that's especially true of The Bard's Tale 4's puzzle weapons, which grow in power as you fiddle with them and solve little mysteries. Here's one from the alpha, which I found too simple to power up—I hope these are genuinely intricate and challenging puzzles in the final game—but the idea is just great. 

I've only played a small slice of The Bard's Tale 4 so far, but it feels like a dungeon crawler made for me, which I didn't know was possible. With a combat system this fun, the rest of the game has a lot to live up to. inXile still plans to have The Bard's Tale 4 out by the end of 2018.

...

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