The Bard's Tale IV Preview

PC Gamer managed to nab some private time with the team at inXile Entertainment, and their editors have returned with an elaborate, developer commentary-laden preview of The Bard's Tale IV, the studio's next major RPG. There is a lot to take in, but I'll leave you with five paragraphs as an appetizer:
Dry wasn't a problem for The Bard's Tale 3, which involved an element of time travel and fighting enemies including Nazi soldiers and mutant bikers. The Bard's Tale 4 is unsurprisingly skipping that bit of the series' history and instead expanding on the lore surrounding the city of Skara Brae and the world of Caith, which was never fleshed out in the original trilogy.

That's a good opportunity for an early dose of nostalgia. "In the first Bard's Tale there was a map of Skara Brae and you would expand it," Fargo says. "[In Bard's Tale 4] Skara Brae is now the first dungeon. A town has been built on top of Skara Brae. If you remember what Skara Brae looked like, in the grid, it's exactly the same."

To the south of Skara Brae is the trap-infested Forest of Inschriach, with a civilization of woodpeople inspired by the Scottish Picts tribe. Skara Brae and the forest are two of the game's ‘culture centers,’ locations with their own personality and history and races. Rogers rattles off several others that will be in the game: Elves, Trow, Einarr, and Baed. Though I don't see any friendly NPCs in my demo, only enemies, they'll be in the game to talk to for quests and lore and bits of useful information.

"These are places where friendly (or at least not murderous) NPCs reside," Rogers elaborates. "This is where you shop, get quests, talk to people about local rumors, etc. Cultural centers are the one place in our game we don’t consider dungeons. They tend not to be trap-ridden or teeming with monsters. It’s a place where you can catch your breath and not worry about being jumped at every turn."

Rogers says there are more than 20 dungeons in The Bard's Tale 4, and the forest gives me a rough idea of how its world will fit together. It's made up of five dungeons "that are connected to one another, and to some extent have relationships to one another," he says. "There's the hub dungeon, and then that branches off to these other dungeons that are connected to it. And then connected to that five dungeon super-dungeon are two other dungeons that you delve into through a level load. So where one dungeon starts and where one dungeon ends, to a player might be kind of hazy, but we plan them out in discrete chunks of challenge, and each one sort of has its own narrative arc that it goes through."