Throttling Up: The Bard’s Tale

Fri, May 24, 2013

Android, Console, Frisky Misc, Mobile

I was wrong about something when I noted that RPG classic The Bard’s Tale was coming to the Green Throttle Arena: I suggested that the game was the 2004 console version from InXile Entertainment, and not the 1980s version from Interplay. As it turns out, the game actually contains both tales — the original turn-based trilogy, and the reborn console action-RPG, together in one package on Android. It’s the latter version that supports the Atlas Controller from TriplePoint client Green Throttle Games, and is marvelously enhanced in the bargain.

The Bard’s Tale, for the uninitiated, is a self-aware RPG that evokes the many tropes of the traditional heroic fantasy for fun and profit. The titular hero is handy enough with a sword, but primarily gets the job done by plucking his lute, allowing him to cast magical music that will summon allies and monsters, for example. He’s also got a fairly tenuous grasp of ethics and a wandering eye; not five minutes into the game and he’s offering to solve a local barmaid’s rat problem in exchange for certain favors — a rat problem that he personally started, mind you. It’s fully-voiced — and sung! — with music by Tommy Tallarico Studios, no less, weighing in at a fairly hefty 2GB download — but such is the price for a full console experience on a tablet with every last piece intact. Now, thanks to Green Throttle’s Atlas controller, that includes the gameplay as it was originally designed and intended.

Let me be perfectly clear about one thing: playing The Bard’s Tale on a touch screen is not bad. All of the moves are there, all of the spells and fighting and combat just a press away. They just come with certain concessions to the interface. You control the bard with an onscreen joystick, and you tap various onscreen buttons to attack, block, switch weapons, pick spells, and select options. If that sounds like a lot to do on a touch screen, you’re right — and while you have the ability to do every one of them, that means the border of the screen is necessarily crowded with extra buttons to accommodate those moves. They’re clear enough as to what they do, and they’re not very obtrusive, but it’s still a lot of clutter that a high-def console experience could really do without.

Enter Atlas, which, first and foremost, pulls all of this UI off the screen, giving the fully 3D world room to breathe. The various menus now live behind the triggers and shoulder buttons as they used to, with movement and camera control slipping seamlessly back into a dual-stick control mechanism that feels instantly familiar to any console gamer. If you’ve got your tablet plugged into a TV, in fact, the experience is 99.9% identical to the one you’d have if you dug your PS2 out of the closet. Better, in fact, since the updated version has a higher resolution. The rest is completely intact — voices, cutscenes, even the in-game rendition of “Beer, Beer, Beer” as made semi-famous by the Clancy Brothers.

The Bard’s Tale is available via the Green Throttle Arena for $2.99.

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