Back in the hoary days of 1985, a game was released that was, originally, designed to be a Wizardry-killer, it quickly turned into a mammoth beast in its own right, even if it didn't have nearly as many sequels. This game is, of course, Tales of the Unknown: The Bard's Tale. Over the years, it spawned two sequels, a spin-off, and recently, a successfully crowd-funded fourth entry.
But we're not here to talk about that.
We're here to talk... Remaster!
The Bard's Tale remasters have had a bit of a rocky life. Originally, they were going to be a bonus provided by Olde Skuul games, but the project languished. As a beta tester of those builds, I could see the promise, even if the project was slow. But as the gaps between builds grew and grew, you got the feeling that it wasn't going to happen.
Then, out of the blue, some oblique messages hinting at things from inXile. After quite a bit of curiosity and wondering, I had in my hands the very first beta build of The Bard's Tale Trilogy by Krome studios. I was stunned. The amount of work they had already done was amazing and their goals and intentions were about as perfect a match to my own as possible.
So now, after months of work (more on their part than mine), we've crawled our way to a release build and it's finally going live. And I couldn't be more excited.
The game looks gorgeous, runs smooth, and has many quality of life improvements that modern computers allow for. Even small things like spelling out the class name instead of a two character abbreviation, or tooltips to explain what icons mean and what various spells do.
There's changes that might be controversial too, like removing the Special Slot for monsters, adding ranges, or party gold. But there's good news on that front too: this is the release build, not the final build. Right now, we've got the first Bard's Tale, but 2 and 3 are coming, as is Legacy Mode.
Legacy Mode is the version for all us crotchety old players, the mode that most closely mirrors my personal philosophy on Remasters: Pretty up the graphics, pretty up the sounds and music, make it run natively (instead of through a wrapped or hidden emulator), fix the bugs, leave the rest alone. The Legacy Mode will give us that, or near to it as possible.
That said, even though I think I prefer the Legacy Mode, firing up the new version for my video first look, I find the changes really aren't that bad. They really are, for the most part, minor. And they really do make the game flow a bit better, a bit easier. Don't get me wrong, the game is still a bloody meat grinder that chew up your party as a light snack, but at least you won't be fighting the UI while it happens.