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Bard's Tale IV Backer Beta Released - Previews, Interviews, Final Release On September 18th
Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 12 July 2018, 19:59:20Tags: David Rogers; inXile Entertainment; Paul Marzagalli; The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep
As promised earlier this week, inXile released the Bard's Tale IV beta to eligible backers today. It consists of the game's first few areas, with about 5 hours of gameplay. They've made a much bigger production out of this than they did with the alpha release earlier this year, with a whole bunch of previews, interviews and gameplay videos teed up for launch. There are plenty of videos to choose from, but one of the first ones to be published by a German site called Gamesworld has the advantage of having no intrusive voiceovers. I'll post that here, plus an interview with creative director David Rogers by PCGamesN as an added bonus:
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.
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.
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.