20
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Last Updated: September 21st, 2012

Android gaming is becoming a bigger deal all the time with high-end games launching on the platform every week. The Bard's Tale is something a little different, though. Not only is it a highly anticipated game with similarly high production values, it is the biggest game I'm aware of on Android. With 20-30 hours of content and 3.5GB of game data, this is a real time investment. Let's figure out just how special The Bard's Tale is.

Gameplay And Story

In this game, you play at the Bard, a roguish wanderer and occasional monster slayer. You arrive in the town of Houton with little more than a lute and an empty coin purse. It all starts with a rat problem, and before you know it, you're getting quests all over the place. It's not all bad, though. The Bard has an affinity for sarcasm and witty quips, and he gets plenty of chance to use them.

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Before The Bard's Tale even got underway, I was impressed with the serious RPG aspects of the game. You get to customize the skill points the Bard has. You can crank up strength to be a melee brawler, or dump points into dexterity to master the bow. There is also a talent system that lets you add various perks, like dual wielding or critical hit multipliers. As you gain experience from slaying monsters and completing quests, you will level up and get more talents and skill points. This is a real honest-to-goodness RPG.

As you encounter the mass of quirky NPCs you will accumulate quests, which can always be reviewed in your quest log. When the Bard is engaging in conversation, you can choose if you want to make polite or snide responses. This can affect how the NPCs deal with you, and what they tell you. You will occasionally pick up an NPC follower, but most of your backup comes in the form of conjured beings. Many of the early quests have to do with learning new magic to improve these conjuration skills.

There are a number of towns and areas to explore. Each one has shops and quest triggers sprinkled throughout. There will also be a number of zones attached to each town where most of your quests are locations. You can think of these as dungeons if you like.

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If you're worried that this is sounding too serious, don't fret. This game is literally 'laugh out loud' funny. A few minutes in and I was bombarded with double entendres, skillful sarcasm, and dry wit. I think the moment I fell in love with the style of The Bard's Tale was when three drunkards in the pub led me in a 2-minute sing-along about the invention of beer. 

The dialog is well-written and delivered with masterful narration. It pokes fun at the tropes of RPGs and video games in general. The Bard gets confused when the tutorial NPC keeps talking about buttons he can't see, and the narrator jokes about monsters that seem to have eaten the contents of a small treasury (because they drop so much loot). Basically, The Bard's Tale feels like a game created by Monty Python.

Controls

The controls in The Bard's Tale are all touchscreen based, as you might expect. I find that everything works well overall, but it's a little rigid. You control the Bard's movement with a thumbstick off to the left. It doesn't popup wherever you press like many games, so you have to remain aware of your thumb position – it's easy to lose it when you're not looking. On the right side are attack and block buttons, which behave as they should. There isn't a ton of strategy involved in combat – just attack, block, attack – but it gets the job done. You can switch over to full touch for movement in the settings, but I find this more awkward.

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You also have an equipment button and (importantly) a music button. Music is key to all the magic in The Bard's Tale. This is how you cast spells to conjure allies, heal yourself, and light your way in the dark. The menu that appears when you are playing songs is a little confusing. There are categories of spells, then specific songs when you tap through to them. You might summon elemental creatures that help you in battle, warriors with swords and bows, and more. This is a compelling part of the experience and really helps keep things fresh.

I found that I occasionally got myself turned around when a zone loaded in an orientation I was not familiar with. I'm not sure why this happens, but you can use a two-finger twist gesture to spin the world however you like. Up and down swipes on the screen also change the aggressiveness of your allies.

Graphics

If you have a Tegra 3 device, The Bard's Tale gives you the option of downloading high-resolution assets instead of the regular ones. If you do this, it's a very attractive game. You can zoom in just a bit to get a better look at the graphics, but everything looks fine from the normal distance. The Bard stands out well against the background and none of the NPCs or monsters are blurry. Most of the textures are clean and sharp on a Tegra 3 device.

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Since this is a top-down game, many objects like trees and buildings will rise up close to the camera POV. The leaves sway gently, and the stonework on the towers looks very cool. The perspective on all these objects shifts realistically as you walk along. The lighting effects are also solid and the colors are nice and bright. All this helps to make it feel more immersive.

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All the cutscenes in this The Bard's Tale (and there are a lot) are done with the in-game engine. Usually this is a recipe for disaster in mobile games. In this case, things still look good close up. A few textures are noticeably blurry, but there is very little aliasing (jaggies) and detail is good. The Bard's Tale just looks very polished.

Installation

I would be remiss if I didn't explain the painful installation procedure to counterbalance the high quality of the game itself. 3.5GB is a lot of data, and this is all handled outside of Google Play. All you get from Google is a 14MB APK that triggers the files to download upon opening. You will be offered a 1.8 or 3.5GB download on Tegra devices. If you choose the big Tegra-optimized package, get comfortable. The download was horribly slow for me, taking about 5 hours to fully download.

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The download even crashed a few times. I was able to resume the download where I left off, but if I hadn't been paying attention I could have come back hours later to an error message instead of the game. There have been big games on Android before, but The Bard's Tale is abound twice the size of previous titles we've looked at. It might not even be so bad if the game files were hosted through Google Play. In that scenario, the massive file would be pushed down to your device in a much more orderly fashion. I hope the servers get a little faster now that it's out.

Final Thoughts

I have had a blast playing The Bard's Tale. I don't claim to have a universal handle on what is funny, but I think this game is hilarious. If you don't care for this kind of wacky humor, it is going to feel very tedious because of how much dialog there is. The game is visually awesome, of course, and it's just generally fun to play.

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While this title itself is wonderful, I have two concerns. First is the soul-destroying installation process for the HD graphics described above. The other is that in addition to costing $6, The Bard's Tale has in-app purchases. You aren't required to use them, and I didn't feel like it was pushing me strongly in that direction. It's just a way to buy high-end equipment instead of finding it in the game. The pricing seems reasonable, but it still makes me a little uncomfortable and I know many users will be displeased.

Overall, this game is killer if you can deal with the massive download. RPG fans will definitely want to check this one out.

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

  • Joey

    It's Morrowblivionrim Mobile...
    Or should I just say the Elder Scrolls not made by Bethesda?

    But fo-srs that looks awesome.

    • GraveUypo

      it has nothing to do with elder scrolls. completely different

  • http://twitter.com/rohanXm Rohan Mathur

    Thats literally more than half of my Nexus 7's 8GB of storage.

    • Samulel J. Sungthir

      Exactly my concern. I would like to know if it can be downloaded, stored, and run from an SD Card. If so, then it should work fine on a Note 8.0 with a 32gb SD Card. :-)

  • tanknspank

    I'd love to buy it but I have just about that left on my 16GB N7 haha

  • http://twitter.com/gmc7000 Graham McLeod

    You may have already covered this with "all the controls are touchscreen based", but is there any hint of bluetooth controller support? This game would be ideal for it.

    • RyanWhitwam

      I don't have one to test. Perhaps Artem can comment.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        I can try later, about to poor some beers down my throat Bard-style instead.

    • http://www.fmbv.nu/ ICDeadPpl

      I use my PS3 controller with the Sixaxis app. Once I setup the touch controls (after taking an in-game screenshot), everything's working fine!

      • http://twitter.com/gmc7000 Graham McLeod

        Excellent. Thanks for the heads up!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I used the Logitech F710 BT controller, and it doesn't actually work in this game, unfortunately.

  • Gary Graf

    wow that's more that half the available storage on a nexus 7

    • Jon Coffey

      Not with a 32GB Nexus 7! I has!

  • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

    Not enough cleavage. 1/10

    • ari_free

      Any more and they will tip over.

      • Deltaechoe

        Just like the bovine livestock around Houton (seriously, give it a try, it's worth a chuckle)

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      There's plenty of that, I promise. And in the first 5 minutes too.

  • ari_free

    Hopefully there's more pressure to add internal storage. Even the original Droid phone came with 16 gigs and the Nexus 7 comes with only 8? Come on. Where are the 64 gig models?

  • Tim Peyton

    Again, you guys fail to mention that this is a port of an old Playstation 2 game, something like 2005, I think.

    • http://twitter.com/homncruse Aaron Burke

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bard%27s_Tale_(2004_video_game)
      The Bard's Tale was released for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in October 2004. It was released for Microsoft Windows on July 28, 2005. The game was re-released on Steam in December 2009. A universal iOS version was released in December 2011 for iPhone and iPad. As of September 2012 the game was released for Blackberry Playbook.[1]. A version was released for Android, in September 2012.[2]

  • http://twitter.com/annduhroo Andrew LeMasters

    The voice of the Bard is Cary Elwes, from The Princess Bride.

  • Deltaechoe

    Glad I use mostly cloud storage on my nexus 7, time to break in that 25 dollars credit ^_^

  • Matti

    Think I might give this a pass, after all.
    It's just too big and IAP above the $6.00 asking price is a bit much, imho. I don't really mind paying over $6.00 for a game (I'm a big Kairosoft fan), but with that price I'd expect everything baked in. IAP is fine if you follow the Dead Trigger model of offering for cheap (or free) and then encouraging (but not forcing... f*ck you Zynga!!) people to buy stuff.

    You previously mentioned that we'd get the old Commodore/DOS games with the purchase. Any word on those? If so, is it possible to by the old titles separately?

    • BrainOfSweden

      The old titles are included in the game. As of now, you only have access to the first one, but the reamaining two titles will be made available 'sometime'. I don't know if they will release them separately, but as it is the pure originals, made for keyboards, you could just emulate them in aDOSBox and get similar results.
      FYI, the original works great with the hardware keyboard on my Xperia Mini Pro, unlike the new game that was clearly made for high-res screens. While it plays fine, I can barely read any of the text :(

    • a-social

      I think you are wrong... In game purchases are not necessary, the are only for those who are inpatient. All stuff can be obtained in game through normal play. With game comes Original Bard's tale I, and other two sequels are listed as coming soon. Don't pass this great game, I am having lots of fun playing it.

  • WOW

    HA HA CLEAVAGE. WOMEN ARE OBJECTS RIGHT GUYS???? WOW I WONDER WHY I CAN'T GET A GIRLFRIEND

  • GraveUypo

    i have to say, the "standard resolution" textures look like vomit. literally.
    the "high-res" are pretty awful resolution themselves, but the low res are low(er) resolution, bad compression and probably 8 bit color. guess that's the price you have to pay for a fully voiced console game port on cellphones.

    • Matthew Fry

      Well, remember that the original xbox had an 733MHz processor PIII and a 256MB graphics card so the source material was likely crappy to begin with and I don't know if you've made a game before, but artwork is very expensive and time consuming. These are probably a *slight* down-res for the non-tegra and a full res for the tegra 3 of the original source.

      • GraveUypo

        the first xbox had 64mb o total memory. system ram + video ram.
        but it was capable of producing very impressive graphics. it was incomparably better than a ps2.

        and for console specs... well things are not that simple. that 733 "pentium" (it's actually closer to a custom built celeron) is possibly as powerful as the best --dual core-- cpus on current cellphones for gaming since it's has a much higher IPC rating AND it's capable of executing out-of-order instruction -- something almost mandatory for processing physics and AI.

        also, consoles are closed and dedicated platforms, which means developers can focus on a single hardware type and squeeze as much juice as possible without worrying about how lower or simply different hardware spec would handle the game, and the games runs natively with no OS or Drivers getting in the way and slowing down the hardware. while on android you have several layers of software (virtual machines at that) slowing down the already less-than-optimal (for gaming, it's actually very good for almost every other use) hardware you find on phones and tablets.

        the best looking tegra 3 games are finally on par with the original xbox's games as far as visuals go (except for screen resolution, xbox ran most games at 480p - with only a few exceptions like soul calibur 2 running at 720p).

        with the a15 we'll finally have out-of-order capabilities on our arm cpus and i think mobile games will take a huge step up from there.

        long story short: games on the xbox looked a whole lot better than this.

  • http://twitter.com/psych2L Joseph Lee

    Now if Baulder's Gate would just be released my life would be complete!

  • Dave

    Download took about 20 minutes for me.

  • http://twitter.com/SoWhy Prof. Professorson

    If you don't want to play it on your Android device, you can always pick it up on Steam (http://store.steampowered.com/app/41900)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6706714 Ofir Fatal

    I played this back in 2005 and loved it. Already purchased on my Nexus 7 and looking forward to playing it over the weekend :) Highly recommended!

  • Matthew Fry

    I don't mind IAPs in games as long as it's more like activating cheats and less like apportioned content

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    Btw, there are 2 control options - on-screen thumbsticks (default) and full touch where you touch the screen, and the Bard goes there. I much prefer the default control scheme - playing with full touch sucks even on a 7" screen in general, and 10" is even more annoying. You don't want to cover the screen with your hands. Anyway, the default control is great.

  • http://twitter.com/kriswa kriswa

    pretty decent graphics for a mobile game, but that typeface is hideous, don't know if I could put up with that font for the whole game!

  • Mailman

    I just finished the 3.5gb download and the speed is excellent. All done in under 15 minutes. So I guess they improved their bandwidth and you can put this concern to rest.

    • dreamerr2

      Mine downloaded in 15 too very quick and i got free on appdroid

  • Mike Bailey

    Got it for 3 bucks. Loved the humor. Perfect for Nexus 7.

  • Roy Young

    Spend a little more time checking options before u jyst click download. There are many various apps out there that take ($) to attain free. To the point..... This game is awesome and the writer was spot on; the witty sarcasm in my opinion is hilarious and takes the game to a different level in my book. Its as if the narraror is a friend of yours telling you the story and the character well is right there too to counter some of the narrators snide comments. I never thought id see a game that would or could lose the ever so common limited repetitive mundane drudgery that is so often found in mobile games.

  • pence58

    Bout a new sword and can't equip. Anyone know what I'm doing wrong?

  • Silithas

    To bad iu used 6 hours to download 330MB on nvidia shield with 70/70 Mbit