The Bard's Tale Interview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Vivendi Universal Games
Developer:inXile Entertainment
Release Date:2004-10-28
  • Action,Adventure,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person,Top-Down
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Since the original Bard's Tale titles are among some of our favorite games of all time, we've been keeping a close eye on inXile's newest Bard's Tale creation ever since its announcement.  Now that the action RPG begins shipping next week, we felt it was a good time to track down inXile's Eric Flannum for some answers about the game before it hits store shelves. Read on:

GB: When did you first decide to develop a new Bard's Tale game, and what obstacles have you had to overcome in order to make it happen?

Eric: Brian had wanted to do another game in the Bards Tale series for quite some time but was unable to do so for a number of reasons. When he and Matt founded inXile it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do an update on the game. The biggest obstacle (other than the development of the game itself) was probably securing the rights to the Bards Tale name. Once this was accomplished things have gone rather smoothly, well as smoothly as starting up a company and developing a game all at once can go.

GB: Since they use the same engine, can you briefly explain some of the similarities and differences between Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, Champions of Norrath, and The Bard's Tale?

Eric: As far as similarities go, of course the perspectives of the games are all very similar along with the emphasis on action oriented gameplay. That is pretty much where most of the similarities end however as we decided to do quite a few things different in our game. While most other games using this engine have tried to concentrate on providing a solid multi-player experience we opted to take the other route and provide a narrative heavy single player experience. We always wanted to provide a lot of character in our game and somewhere early in development (character) turned into outright comedy, so the tone of our game is quite different from what you'd find in almost any other RPG out there.

GB: Can you detail how character creation and advancement will be handled? Additionally, in Bard's Tale tradition, will there be a "review board" that will need to be visited in order to advance a character?

Eric: When the game begins the player is allowed to allocate a certain number of points to the Bards' attributes which are Strength, Vitality, Dexterity, Luck, Rhythm, and Charisma. The player is also able to select one talent at the beginning. Talents are abilities such as new combat moves, weapon proficiencies, and other things like giving your canine companion attack dog training. Although there is no review board, whenever the player gains a level they will be able to assign two more points into their stats as well as choosing another talent at every other level.

GB: Do you plan on including any references within the storyline or dialogue in the game that will refer to characters, locations, or even major enemies from the original Bard's Tale games?

Eric: We don't have the rights to the content of the original series so we don't carry over any elements directly from the first game. However, we do parody or make reference to a lot of classic RPG elements and situations. We also drew a lot of our inspiration from the Orkney Islands (Skara Brae, the setting of the first game is in the Orkney Islands and Scottish folklore and mythology.

GB: Will players typically find their equipment while adventuring, or will much of it be purchased from merchants or even crafted? As a side note, can you tell us a bit about how inventory management will work overall?

Eric: Equipment is gained both while adventuring and from shopkeepers, we tried to keep things fairly split between the two. Our inventory system is so streamlined that it's practically non-existent. We decided rather early that juggling items in the inventory and managing those 50 wolf pelts you picked up before you can go sell them to the shopkeeper just wasn't something we wanted to focus on. To that end any non usable items that you pick up are instantly converted into silver for you. Each of our weapon and armor upgrade paths is also linear so if you find a new sword it is either going to be better, the same, or worse than what you currently have. If it is the same or worse we cash it in for you and if it is better we automatically equip it for you. This of course brings into question how exactly we are able to provide the player with strategic choices as far as weapons are concerned. We do this by providing the Bard with many different and distinct upgrade paths. For example if you want to inflict lightning damage you'd use your two handed weapon, want to do fire damage then you have to pull out your bow.