The RPG, or role-playing game, has become one of the fastest-growing game genres on the iPad. Gone are the days when it was simply enough to hack and slash at fruit or jump doodles; nowadays, even mobile games can be expected to have a plot, character development and satisfying action. But the real question is: Do they succeed?
To answer this burning question, I have decided to devote all my iPad game reviews to different RPGs for the next several weeks.
In order to understand whether or not these games are successful mobile RPGs, we must first look at what it means to be a successful RPG. For those who aren’t that familiar with RPGs, think of them as a movie you’re writing the script for as you go along.
RPGs take a story and make it personal; blending story and action to engage the user in ways that casual games and films do not. There are certain thematic elements that go along with RPGs: fantasy, hero worship, magic and good vs. evil, among others.
Nowhere are these themes more
exploited explored than the fantasy-based RPG, Bard’s Tale.
The Bard’s Tale for iPad is, in the end, a parody of RPGs. It honors the source material, while at the same time showcasing its silliness and inexplicability. That being said, it is still a well-done game … and quite a bit of baudy entertainment.
The game, originally made for the first XBox, centers around the Bard, a handsome rogue voiced by Cary Elwes, who also played handsome rogue Wesley in The Princess Bride. The Bard, seeking riches, plies his trade as a fighter of rats and seducer of wenches.
The game’s screen view is focused above the hero with a wide view of what surrounds him. While this is oftentimes a classic RPG-viewing style, I personally did not care for it much. I much prefer a third-person view from behind the hero looking forward, not down; but I imagine it would have been more difficult to generate the world from that perspective, so I can forgive it from a programming standpoint.
The game can either be controlled via joystick or touchscreen. I originally started by using the touchscreen, but it got frustrating and made my screen dirty with finger swipes very fast, so I changed to the joystick and it works just fine.
The Bard’s main weapon is his lute, which has the ability to summon magical creatures, such as electric spiders, in order to aid in his quest. He also uses a sword, shield, dagger — whatever he can get his hands on to keep the monsters at bay. The fighting is a little difficult to get the hang of at first, but after killing a few wolves and rats, it got easier, and a little repetitive; but that’s to be expected from action RPGs with few spells.
This was another one of the game’s weaknesses: Many RPGs rely on the complexity of the character through leveling up, weapons upgrades and spells. This was something I felt was lacking in this game. I hardly used the lute magic, only because it sometimes ended up doing more harm than good.
The interaction with the characters is amusing but not fantastic. While the voice acting is good across the board, the characters are pretty one-dimensional. In addition, the user only has the option of being nice or mean to them, without knowing what the Bard will say in response to the emotional trigger. This often led me into trouble whenever I chose the mean option, so my Bard ended up being pretty nice most of the time.
Where this game gets its strength is the humor. It’s cleverly self deprecating and showcases the many hilarious realities associated with fantasy gameplay, including tiny gnomes, drunken bar patrons and the fabulous exploits of the daring, dashing hero.
Most of the humor comes from direct conversations between Elwes’ Bard and the Narrator, played by the wonderful but sadly deceased Tony Jay. As the Narrator discusses the Bard’s epic adventures, the Bard will chime in sarcastically to point out the ridiculousness of the whole thing. The two voice actors have a great rapport with one another, and it shows in-game.
For those looking to enjoy a hilarious take on classic fantasy RPGs, this is a good game to try. However, those looking for a complex story and challenge might want to try something else. This game isn’t for the serious RPG fan looking for a fight: It’s for the serious RPG fan looking to poke fun at herself or himself.
Stay tuned for more RPG game reviews during the next several weeks.
Here’s an App Store link for The Bard’s Tale; it’s currently priced at $5.99.
Disclosure: The Bard’s Tale was independently purchased by the post author in the iPad App Store. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.