The Bard's Tale: Remastered and Resnarkled (Vita) Review + Tips
bards tale vita trophy guide
Reviewer note: 4 trophies are currently glitched so the plat is unobtainable at the moment. See the bottom of the trophy section below for further details.
Up for Review is a blast from the past with a fresh coat of paint, The Bard's Tale: Remastered and Resnarkled by InXile Entertainment. The Bard's tale is a sequel in name only to the trilogy of text based dungeon crawlers from the 80's. This incarnation is an overhead dungeon crawler, not unlike Balder's Gate or Diablo, which constantly pokes fun at video game, fantasy, and RPG tropes. It originally came out in 2004 for the PS2 and Xbox and over the years has peen ported to PC, mobile, and as of August 2017; the PS4 and Vita for $9.99. Though it doesn't mention it in the store, the game is cross-buy (buy 1 and get both versions) and cross-play (via a cloud storage save slot). I played through it on the Vita.
The Bard's Tale follows the adventures of the mischievous rogue known simply as "the bard." He is opportunistic, greedy, and acerbic sarcastic (voiced of Cary Elwes of the Princess Bride). He is "accompanied" on his adventures by the unseen Narrator who comments on his actions and who only the Bard can hear. He often has comebacks for the narrator's barbed insults which confuses anyone else who happens to be in the scene. It's a fantasy adventure game so of course there is a princess to be rescued, an evil plot of world domination, and a reluctant "chosen one" who must rise to meet the challenge. The whole plot is punctuated by witty dialogue, meta commentary, and silly songs.
As I said earlier, the Bard's Tale is a top-down dungeon crawler which I am told plays very similarly to Balder's Gate: Dark Alliance. Unlike something like Diablo 2, you have full control over the camera and can rotate its position by moving the right stick to the left or right. You can also zoom in or out slightly by pushing up or down on the right stick. The front touchpad controls the map, by default pressing front touch cycles between all 3 map modes: full map (in the center of the screen), mini-map (in the upper right hand corner), and no map. In options you can change the function of FP to toggle between full map and mini-map, mini-map and no map, full map and no map, etc. The left stick moves your character.
At the character creation screen you will have the option to dispense 12 points in various stats as well as pick a talent (you gain the option to pick another talent every odd-numbered level up), STR increases melee damage, DEX increases ranged damage, Rhythm increases summon damage and summon HP, etc. Talents are generally proficiency with a new weapon type, new combat skills, or a passive ability. You begin the game only being able to wield a sword in one hand and block blows with your shield by pressing circle just as they are about to attack. Later you can purchase a bow to snipe enemies from afar. The rest of the weapon types (unblockable flails, heavy hitting 2-handed weapons, and dual-wielding with a dagger) you can only wield by selecting the associated talent.
Once that initial weapon unlock talent has been selected (and available by default for the one-handed sword and bow), a few new combat talent options are available to unlock when at odd-numbered level ups: A charge attack in which you hold down the attack button for a few seconds and then release as well as a skill connected to the block button. For instance, the block skill for dual-wielding causes you to quickly and immediately counter-attack whereas the block skill for the sword and shield combo bashes the enemy after a block, stunning them for a few seconds. Weapons are selected with L1 or L2 (left rear touch pad). Pressing either button pauses the action and brings up a menu with four options which corresponds to the four face buttons (triangle, circle, X, and square). L1 are the four melee weapons and L2 is your fists, bow, and 2 special weapon slots that are story related.
The main gameplay gimmick which distinguishes itself from other dungeon crawlers is the summoning system. As a bard you are proficient with magical musical instruments which can cast spells. These spells take the form of 4 categories of summomable allies and each of those categories have 4 unlockable summons for a total of up to 16 summons. To select a summon press R1 (which also pauses the action) and select one of the four summon categories. Square and triangle are support and puzzle based skills such as a healer or a fairy who lights up dark dungeons. Circle are nature based summons like a spider which shoots chain lightning or a golem made of fire. X are warriors such as a heavily armored knight or a heroine with a bow. You can dismiss a summon by selecting it again on the R1 menu.
A few are only used in early game before being being made obsolete by a stronger summon (such as the mercenary and the knight), but most have their uses depending on what enemy type you are fighting. You begin only being able to summon one ally, but as you upgrade your instrument eventually you will be able to summon up to four. You have some control over your summons via commands from the d-pad. Such as Up to aggressively attack, Down to retreat and surround the bard, and left to stay at their current position and not follow you.
The last combat option is the amulet which is selected by pressing R2 (right rear touch pad). This pauses the action and lets you call on the aid of the princess or any of the three tower bosses you have defeated. Each of the four summons has 3 levels to choose from. The higher the level, the more potent the effect. For instance, level 1 of the princess heals you and all your summons to full, but level 3 heals you and gives everyone invincibility for about 15 seconds. Summoning costs adderstones equal to the level of the summon (so 1 for level 1 and 3 for level 3). Adderstones cannot be purchased, they can only be found in chests and a sizable amount are typically given whenever you defeat a boss. This means you can't go too crazy using the amulet.
Combat can be a bit repetitive at times, though the ability to switch to quite a few different weapon types on the fly or mix and match endless combinations of summons helps a little bit. Some of the towers you have to climb are quite long and often it is just the same enemy type over and over so it is the same strategy for the entire dungeon. After the boss is defeated, you have to retrace your steps back down the tower (though there is often a new enemy type to fight) but if you fully explored everything on the way up its a bit of a slog to go back down, especially since your map is reset to blank, even if you fully explored on the way up.
There is loot to be found and purchased but equipment does not have trade-offs. It is either a straight upgrade (in which case it is automatically equipped and the inferior equipment is scrapped for a small % of the purchase price) or if it is inferior to what is equipped, it is automatically converted into silver. So the range of customizable options are which stats you upgrade, which talents you pick (you can't unlock them all since the level cap is 21), which of the 5 weapon types to use in battle, and which summons to use.
Towns have shops which sell equipment, bars which sell beer that temporarily boosts stats, as well as NPCs who have a few side-quests that need done. Each town generally have exits which lead to a couple of other levels and then an exit to the world map. The world map is how you move from town to and full of wandering enemies. If you run into an enemy or they chase you down it is the equivalent of a random encounter battle, You are locked in a small arena and either have to survive for several minutes or kill all the enemies in order to escape by pressing square. As you complete quests and buy maps, you will unlock new locations to enter on the world map.
The video cutscenes which begin and end the game look pretty atrocious and dated, but the actual in-game graphics are quite nice for a PS2 era game. A press release says they have doubled the resolution of all textures. The framerate is generally quite speedy though I have heard of issues with low framerate in water-based levels on the PS4 version. I had no such issues with water on the vita. The framerate does vary a little bit as you run on the vita which has a slightly odd looking effect.
The best aspect of the game is the writing and voice work done by the two leads, Cary Elwes as the Bard, and the deep-voiced, Tony Jay (Shere Khan in Talespin, Elder God in the Soul Reaver series) as the narrator. They poke fun at video game tropes such as the volume of loot coming from a dead body and the morality of entering peoples' houses and pilfering their chests. Also fantasy tropes, particularly the frequent narrative of the chosen one, and will often break the 4th wall. The two have very different styles of comedic timing and they play very well off each other. Peppered throughout characters will break into humorous musical numbers the stand out which is the recurring Goblin theme which comment on your actions at various points in the game. It's a similar structure to the songs of the Oompa Loompah detailing the undoing of the children from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Without all that humor there wouldn't be anything too special about the game as the combat isn't that remarkable.
The background soundtrack isn't that remarkable, though the attention to detail on the bard's instrument is pretty intricate. For each summon a different melody plays and a slightly altered version of that melody plays when dismissing it. Though you also acquire a great variety of instrument upgrades as you play, lutes, harps, flutes, an electric guitar ax, etc. and the sound of the instruments match for all 32 melodies. One other interesting addition is the insult / flattery system. Occasionally when conversing with an NPC an option will pop up to either be prickly by pressing square or nice by pressing circle. What choice you pick changes the lines that the Bard says as well as the NPC's response. Sometimes this has no long lasting affect on the narrative and is just different dialogue options, but other times your response can change what (if any) gifts you receive from them or their actions later in the game.
The menus are pretty easy to navigate and I do love that it pauses the action when making selections. I do wish there was another option besides just dismissing a summon. If you don't have a healer summoned in your team the summons will not regen damage an eventually die. If an encounter leaves them near death, to get them up to full you have to take a few seconds to select them in the menu and dismiss them, then select them in the menu again to resummon them. It would be nice if you could have held down the button on a summon that was damaged in order to refresh them. An option to dismiss all summons would also have been welcome.
Unfortunately the game is marred by a number of glitches, some more severe than others. I am not sure how many are present from the original game as I only briefly played it back in the PS2 days and how many are new. For instance, occasionally during the dialogue it would just stop loading and I would have to press circle to skip the rest of it. There are a few escort missions and one particularly long one occasionally they will just stop and will not move. This requires either waiting them out and hope they move or resetting from the last save point. I've heard reports of certain scripted events with other NPCs failing as well. Very occasionally the sound for certain things like the menus would cut out and wouldn't be fixed until you save and reload or enter a new area. One time the shop menus didn't work, you could select an item but you couldn't complete the purchase even though you have enough silver. Summons will sometimes get stuck after getting caught in traps, though usually you can get them unstuck by walking out of view and issuing the "come to me" command on the D-pad.
A few of the trophies are also currently glitched, the difficulty trophies don't always unlock properly. One person who was playing on hard mode unlocked the normal mode difficulty trophy and then had to replay the final level again to get the hard trophy. There are also 4 trophies for buying 4 maps, to unlock secret areas on the world map, that are not unlocking.
Fairly average dungeon crawling gameplay with a few rough edges paired with a wonderful sense of humor.
*There are two differences between difficulty levels: Starting stats and save points. Every stat starts at 8 on easy, 6 on normal, and 4 on hard. The higher the difficulty, the greater the distance there is between save points.
*Ignore leveling Charisma and delay or ignore the treasurer hunter talent, there will be more than enough silver to purchase what you want without using one of your 11 possible talent picks on it.
*Find the dog in Houton and be nice to him and he will join you. Purchase dog training talent on the next available and he becomes a free additional, immortal summon. There are areas in the game where you cannot use magic, but the dog can still serve as a distraction.
*You will find token collectibles as you play that add up to +3 points to each stat. You can level a stat up to a maximum of 20, but the combined effect of the base stat and token also cannot exceed 20. So because of this there is no point leveling any stat above 17 as the +3 token will push it to the max of 20.
*Level ups give you 2 points to spend and a new talent to unlock on odd-numbered levels, but it also increases your max HP. As such, it isn't too critical to keep leveling vitality. Better to level DEX (for bow) or STR (for melee), and Rhythm (to increase Summon DMG / HP).
*If you can't decide early which weapon you want to grab the skills for first you can always pick critical strike which has the chance to increase damage of any weapon. Arrowstorm (requires grabbing powershot first) is also great as it boosts the damage capacity of the bow considerably by rapid firing 3 arrows which pierce to hit more than one enemy.
*Widows brew beer (serve in Houton and Dounby) temporarily boosts charisma by +4. Drink that before making purchases in the shop to lower the purchase costs.
*Once one of the 3 towers is completed, conditions on the world map often change. You should visit and complete all side missions and purchase desired equipment from shops in the available towns before entering a tower.
*On the world map occasionally you will see a darker colored, smaller Trow called the Wandering Trow (if he runs away from you on the world map you have found him). Each time you catch him you can purchase a map for around 4200 that unlocks a short dungeon on the world map.
*If you want the best bow in the game, you should hoard as much adderstone as you can for a long esort mission in Stromness as you may need to summon Herme lvl 3 with the amulet a LOT to keep the escortee alive.
No trophy guide as of this review, but fortunately there are walkthroughs available for the original 2004 game to assist in collecting tunes and tokens.
I decided to create a trophy guide for it, but will go ahead and leave these trophy help notes in the post.
A note on the Chapter I - XIII trophies, they do not unlock when the final quest in a chapter is completed. They unlock when you enter the next town chronologically in the story. In the case of optional areas that you can tackle early (like Finstown) this can cause the chapter trophy to unlock for areas you haven't even visited yet. As Neversdale Forest and Finstown are optional areas, that means the trophies for the chapters that precede them (Chapter I. Houton and Chapter VIII. Dounby are missable). Neverdale must be entered before the Mountain Pass and Finstown must be entered before completing Firbolg Mines.
Brew Connoisseur (drink at least 1 beverage in each of the 5 bars) is missable.
*Kirkland's bar will become inaccessible after the Forest Tower is cleared.
*Houton bar will become inaccessible after the Mountain Pass.
*Finstown bar will become inaccessible after the uprising in the town begins.
*The 2 Dounby bars will become inaccessible after you board the raft in Firbolg Mines.
Grouse Hunter (kill a grouse bird with a bow), Cow Tipper (tip 30 cows by pressing X next to them), and Chicken Slayer (kill 30 chickens) are missable. They must be completed before entering the Mountain Pass. This also does not appear to be cumulative over time, you have to kill all 30 chickens / tip all 30 cows in one sitting before leaving the town. You can find cows and chickens in Houton and grouse in the Fairyhaunt Woods off Houton.
Token Trove (acquire 20 tokens) is also fairly missable even if you fully explore every area as some NPCs will only give you tokens depending on whether you are nasty or nice to them. There are 25 total tokens but some of them are mutually exclusive so the maximum amount you can get in a playthrough is 23 or 24. I will ignore the tokens that become inaccessible due to story progression (as it is almost all of them) and instead just list the NPCs and how you need to react to them:
*Ogan's Mum - Houton - NICE at completion of her side-quest
*Dolyn - Frozen Tomb - NICE = 2 Tokens (one via the tree key and the other in a later chapter), you only get 1 token if you are MEAN.
*Gower - Frozen Tomb - NICE at the end of the level
*Olav - Finfolk Cavern - Be NICE or do not interrupt the story with MEAN
Stairway to Heaven (give 20,000 silver at a church) - missable, must be done before finishing Firbolg Mines. I would recommend making sporadic purchases as needed and then hoarding your silver. I had 20K by the time I reached Dounby. Save your game, enter the Kirk, and keep giving large gifts until the trophy pops, then reload your save file.
The difficulty trophies (The Chosen Bard, The Bard, The Olde School Bard) do not stack, if you want the other 2 difficulty trophies without having to replay the game 2 more times you can use the in-game cheat system.
Start a new game on one of the difficulties you still need the trophy. skip the dialogue until you have control of the character.
Hold down the four shoulder buttons one by one, on the fourth button, click it once then press and hold a 2nd time. This is so that all four are held down without any selection menus being up. On the vita, you hold down the 2 points on the rear touch pad that open the selection menus, then L1 and then double tap and hold R1 (or vice versa).
Now with the four buttons held (or 2 points on rear pad and 2 buttons), on the left stick quickly do right, right, left, left, Up, Down, Up, Down. If it worked, there will be a chime and a levels unlocked notification will appear on the screen.
Now while still holding the four shoulder buttons (or resetting by holding all four again) press right on the d-pad to open the debug menu.
Select the level "DT_TowerTop" and then pick the 3rd option to end the game.
If for some reason the difficulty trophy doesn't unlock with the 3rd option, then also enable X100 damage (Up, Down, Up, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right) and invincibility (Right, Left, Right, Left, Up, Down, Up, Down) then load DT_TowerTop and pick the first option and beat the boss.
Tune Trophies, these are missable
Complete before Mountain Pass:
Crone Tune - in a chest in Ketill's hideout in Neversdale
Complete before exiting Finstown after winning the uprising:
Rogue Tune - After the uprising open the chests in the former headquarters of Silkbeard in Finstown.
Health Stealer Tune - After the uprising open the chests in the former headquarters of Silkbeard in Finstown.
Complete Before finishing Firbolg Mines:
Brute Tune - In a chest in Dounby's Old City tunnels, the level is accessible from east or west Dounby but the chest is closer to the west side entrance.
Knocker Tune - Complete the Renard Brothers side-quest in Dounby.
Behemoth Tune - In a chest in the center of the Sun Portal room of MacRath's Dungeon.
Note: Currently 4 trophies are glitched and the platinum trophy is unobtainable.
The Wandering Trow on the World map sells you 4 different maps. Buying these maps is supposed to unlock Ratty Old Map, Ancient Parchment Map, Weather Stained Map, and Blood Stained Map. It currently does not.
- Thermopyle likes this