The bard in question was El Cid (his stage name,
I guess). The magic user was a conjuror called Merlin.
I'm glad he's with us. The guy is an unqualified genius
in pyrotechnics. Like all MU's he's eccentric -- but
by Mengar, if something moves, he can fry it. Useful.
I shouldn't get distracted. El Cid's the real poser.
His songs are a form of magic -- clever that! Only trouble
is, he keeps wanting to go to the tavern to sooth his
throat. Guess we all have our weaknesses. His is something
called a Fire Horn. I know napalm won't be invented
for another millennia or two but this isn't a bad second.
is the quiet one, especially in battles. He has this
tendency to disappear -- an archetypal Hobbit, if ever
there was. He has his uses, though, or will have when
we find something worthy of his talents. He's the dextrous
type, streetwise with it. Knows his stuff, does our
Markus. Shucks, then there's me, Omar. I'm a magic user
too. Not like Merlin, he's a conjuror. I'm a good old-fashioned
magician. Should see the things I can do to swords.
were we? Skare Brae, how could I forget. Apparently
it used to be some kind of tourist town. Then some megalomaniac
called Mengar decided to make a few changes. Now you
can't get over the road before some of the less desirable
inhabitants attack you. That brings me back to this
tried crossing the road.
eight, mean looking dwarves. Before I knew what was
happening, two of them swiped at Sam and one of them
landed a fairly nasty blow. Brian hammered one straight
away and Sam got the slimy sod who had hit him. Merlin
was shouting his incantation and waving his arms around
when his right hand's fingers did something unusual.
They turned into flame throwers. Exit one dwarf. Markus
hardly had time to disappear before Cid took out his
Horn and breathed on the rest of them. That was it.
Several sizzled dwarves lay on the ground. My armour
spell wasn't even needed. No wonder everyone wanted
to tell him about the privatisation of British Gas --
the guy has a real halitosis problem when he uses that
horn. We looked at him but he just shrugged. And smiled.
split the gold (kindly left by our friends the dwarves)
between us and started exploring. The most important
thing was to heal Sam. Healers in this place can do
anything, even bring you back from the dead -- if you've
got the cash. That's the trouble with private medicine.
It's expensive. Well, we got into a few more fights.
Cid wanted to save his heavy firepower until we met
something big and nasty looking, so the rest of us got
knocked around a bit but made it to the healers.
picked up enough on the way to pay for everyone who
needed it. Those healers get straight to the point.
Priests they may be, but their business acumen hasn't
suffered as a result of their vocational vows. A few
thousand years from now, Isaac Asimov will define history
as a series of passing crisis points. The frequency
at which crises can arise is very rapid, as we discovered
on leaving the healers. It had gone dark.
life in Skara Brae makes New York's Central Park
look like Ludlow. By the time we got home, Brian
was dead and there was no money to pay for his
resurrection. So now we're waiting for tomorrow
and the chance to put things straight. All I can
hear is the sound of weapons being sharpened.
Well, I didn't plan on taking more than a nap
anyway. There's more to this place than meets
the eye . . .
there is. The Bard's Tale, the latest creation
from the Tass Times in Tonetown weirdos, is the
best RPG on the Commodore. Characters are well fleshed
out, the magic and combat systems are untouchable for
their internal integrity and authenticity, and the graphics
are terrific. The fact that a full party of adventurers
with complimentary abilities are used rather than the
single character approach makes solitaire play far more
fun than it otherwise might be.
this game is unashamedly hack and slay and one of the
best features is the combat itself. Thought the combined
actions of a party can entail complex strategies, they
are easily enough sequentially implemented in rounds.
Before the round commences, a prompt makes sure you're
satisfied with the selection of actions your characters
are to make before proceeding with play. Then the combat
is described in a series of scrolling messages in the
message window that describe the outcome in detail --
and in English. The result allows novice players to
instantly understand what's going on rather than unforgivingly
plunging them into a morass of abstract mechanics. In
other words, it's easy to play.
characters I described above are pre-generated and an
ideal group to start with. However, original characters
may be created if the player so desires. Magic Users
may change their professions when they are experienced
enough. This allows pursuit of other spells and abilities
the party will find beneficial when dungeoneering. An
MU of the right level and class can even create an illusionary
character to fight for the party if necessary. The fighters
and rogues can use extra experience to their advantage
in combat, but for any character to go up a level they
must first contact the review board and pay for training.
An adventure in itself.
game comes as a two-disk package, with comprehensive
but well written instructions and a map of the city
(that proves most useful). An extra disk is recommended
for saved characters. The screen has three main sections.
Across the lower part of the display, all the characters
in your party are shown with their status. On the right
is the message display. This also lists the abilities
and devices possessed by any character you choose to
inspect. The left window displays a perspective view
ahead of the party, or the image of one of your characters.
When monsters attack, it displays those.
are 128 monster types and some of them are animated
on the screen with great atmospheric effect. Conjurors
wave their arms, wolves look around with glowing eyes
. . . Juicy stuff! At least three dungeons, each with
sixteen levels, occupy an entire side of one disk. Coupled
with the city terrain as well, there's a lot to explore.
shops, taverns, and healer-churches are the main city
points to visit, but there are others awaiting discovery.
The buildings have visibly different exteriors to most
of those in the city, so it's normally easy to tell
whether a place is worth entering. Actually, any building
in the city may be entered, but most will be empty.
game also caters for extremely experienced and powerful
characters. The best person in my party had an armour
class of two, but a screen shot on the package revealed
a character with nine. Obviously bigger and better monsters
await. This armour class business does highlight one
imperfection. The entire game system is highly derivative
of AD&D, though there are overtones of Rune
Quest II in there as well. A more original system
might have been interesting, but this one serves to
illustrate that many of the better aspects o role playing
can be carried onto the average home micro with care.
Bard's Tale is addictive and actually fast to play
once you get used to the keyboard controls. There are
a few of these but never so many as to become unwieldy,
and that's good implementation. I suspect that the game
will be more successful than many of its predecessors.
There is enough in the game to last several months at
least. And it's very easy to get lost in Skara Brae
. . .