By Al Giovetti
Tales of the Unknown Volume I The Bard's Tale
Before Bard's Tale there was Wizardry, another first person dungeon crawl. What made Bard's tale special was that you now could also walk the streets of the city as well as the underground dungeons. An advancement on the box outline walls and doors of Wizardry, The Bard's Tale uses bricks in the dungeon walls and blue background for the sky, or upper half of the screen, and red brown for the streets, the lower half of the screen, in the city sequences.
The Bard's Tale artist covered the stick outline walls of Wizardry with a skin of bitmapped graphics so that the city walls and doors looked different than those in the dungeon. The dungeon floor and ceiling remained black. What Carmack and Romero realized when they programmed Doom, years later, the designers of The Bard's Tale implimented saving lots of processing power.
Long ago, when magic still prevailed, the evil wizard Mangar the Dark threatened a small but harmonious country town called Skara Brae. Evil creatures oozed into Skara Brae and joined his shadow domain. Mangar froze the surrounding lands with a spell of Eternal Winter, totally isolating Skara Brae from any possible help. Then, one night the town militiamen all disappeared.
The future of Skara Brae hung in the balance. And who was left to resist? Only a handful of unproven young Warriors, junior Magic Users, a couple of Bards barely old enough to drink, and some out of work Rogues.
You are there. You are the leader of this ragtag group of freedom fighters. Luckily you have a Bard with you to sing of your glories, if you survive. For this is the stuff of legends. And so the story begins . . .
On the origninal "box," more like a piece of white cardboard glued together to hold the manual and the disks, a young Michael Cranford in light blue sleeveless t-shirt and white pants leans against an aluminum laddar. Michael Cranford of Interplay Productions has an elegant programmer's touch. You can't see it in this picture of him, but you see it in The Bard's Tale. He previously programmed the Apple version of Donkey Kong and the Commodore 64 version of Super Zaxxon.
This was the age of the Electronic Arts that believed in "an association of Electornic Artists who share a common goal. We want to fulfill the potential of personal computing. That's a tall order. But with enough imagination and enthusiasm we think there's a good chance for success. Our products, like this program, are evidence of our intent. If you'd like a free product brochure . . ."
Perhaps even the best of intentions are simply the new spin of another sales pitch, or was this really a new era for electronic entertainment. Brian Fargo and his team belived in this philosophy which eventually lead to the formation of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences. But that is another story for another time.
Al's Original Review
Combat becomes monotonous as you take on your 70,000th group of four rows of 99 screaming beserkers.
Instead of the more popular and modern use of the left hand for the AWDS directional keys, The Bard's tale used IJKL keys or the cursor pad found on the right of the larger keyboards found on the IBM PC, Atari ST and the Amiga computers.
The animation was the two to four frame variety where a second frame of the picture was alternated with the first frame showing the animation as blinking eyes, spewing fireballs by the dragons, and claws moving threateningly.
The Bard plays short melodies which assist the characters when fighting or bar hopping.
There are no sound effects in combat and a very few sound effects in other parts of the game.
A very innovative automapping system involves using some pencils, a good unabrasive white eraser stick, and at least sixteen 22 x 22 pieces of graph paper. Questbusters sold good graph paper in the old days or you just had to know a good stationary or office supply store and keep a stock on hand. The automapping was only as good as you made it. Several dark areas made it difficult to map, but imperitive to do so, in order to avoid being teleported at the wrong moment. Spinners also made it difficult to map especially when in the dark zones.
The 22 page manual comes with the game and helps with hints and strategies. The cover of the game has a four color map of the town which is explored first. A four-page reference card makes the learning curve easier for those who cannot wait to jump right into the action.
A family or group of friends can sit around the computer while the most testosterone overdosed individual runs the computer. A good time can be had by all. Kabitzing and making suggestions and other problems can help with the enjoyment. Not as much fun as with a 4 player Atari 2600 or Atari 800 with four joysticks but up there with the best.
Cheats, Hints, Walkthrough