The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep Previews

By now, you've probably had the chance to check out our preview of inXile's upcoming dungeon crawler The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep. And in case you're interested in what some other outlets have to say about inXile's latest offering, we've rounded up several other previews for your convenience. Have a look:

Ars Technica offers a detailed preview and praises the new and improved gameplay:

I came away from my demo feeling that The Bard's Tale IV served as an effective homage to the original games, and it has been updated to fit the schedules of older gamers whose tastes might have turned a bit more casual in recent years.

Not that the turn toward a more casual audience is a bad thing. The returned gameplay is very fun, and the spirit of the originals is still present despite the changes. That's not too surprising, since original series creator Michael Cranford agreed to consult, and former Interplay executive Brian Fargo is the leading sequel developer at inXile, too.

There were several problems with inconsistency and lack of clarity in the user interface that I found irritating, but I don't think they were glaring enough to trouble most of the game's core audience. Let's be honest, this is still a big step up from the awful interfaces on many classic computer RPGs. And the interface will likely be polished further with additional development time.

PC Gamer focuses on the game's combat:

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?"

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.

And Hardcore Gamer calls the preview version charming and somewhat humorous:

The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep plays like a regular first-person dungeon crawler. During our time with the demo a few puzzles were discovered while exploring the dungeon we were in. The solutions were not necessarily obvious at first glance, but they were easy to figure out after examining nearby clues. Combat is turn based and fought over a grid, so player positioning factors into what abilities they should use and what their viable targets are. Area of effects and damage over time were things to take into consideration, but there were other factors as well such as a character who unlocked more powerful abilities if they happened to imbibe alcohol during one of their turns. It’s called The Bard’s Tale; what kind of bard wouldn’t have some element of drunken merriment?

Our time with The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep was woefully short, but the game presented itself as a charming and somewhat humorous affair in that amount of time. The strategy necessary for victory in battle presented a level of challenge where the player needs to put some thought into what they are going to do for each character’s turn, but not merciless if they aren’t a brilliant tactician, so basically they found the happy medium between boring and frustrating. It looks and feels like a modern dungeon crawler, but also maintains the charm and overall essence of the older titles. The Gaelic music provided by Ged Grimes of Simple Minds contributed to creating a unique in game atmosphere for this title and the legendary Gaelic folk singers employed helped bring the Bard’s songs and melodies to life, which naturally will have some effect on gameplay.