The Bard's Tale II: The Destiny Knight picks up shortly after the first installment of the game. The premise and main quest are provided in a single page of the game manual: 700 years ago, an archmage named Turin forged an artifact called the Destiny Wand in the molten depths of the holy mountain Krontor. The power of the wand maintained peace and prosperity for seven centuries, but then the evil archmage Lagoth Zanta, ruler of the neighboring kingdom of Lestradae, stole the Destiny Wand and broke it into seven pieces, hiding each in a different dungeon, in a puzzle room called a "Snare of Death." Lagoth Zanta's monsters and mercenaries are now roaming freely across the realm. Now, the wizard Saradon has called my party, fresh from our Bard's Tale I victory over Mangar in Skara Brae, to find the pieces and reforge the wand, promising "unimaginable power" if we do.
(Many thanks, incidentally, to The Adventurer's Guild, which has the original documents for each of The Bard's Tale games.)
The game was originally released for the Commodore 64 in 1986. It was ported for the Apple II in 1987 and for DOS in 1988. That, of course, is the version I'm playing.
You begin in the Guild of Adventurers, next to a roaring fire, listening to a bard strumming an eight-bit banjo.
Reading through the manual, it looks as though not much has changed since The Bard's Tale. The basic interface and combat actions are the same, and so are most of the spells. From what I can tell so far, the differences are:
- The ability to summon creatures and slot NPCs in ANY available slot, not just a single slot at the top of the party list.
- Slightly better graphics for everything, including dungeon textures, city views, monsters, and character portraits.
- A few new spells, including some "mystery" spells that you have to figure out at some point in the game. There is also (finally!) a stone-to-flesh spell.
- An "archmage" is not just a title you get when you complete levels in all four mage classes; it is a separate class with its own spells.
- Instead of a single city with five dungeons, there are multiple cities, dungeons, castles, and wilderness areas.
- Missile weapons exist.
- All of the bard songs have been renamed, there are seven instead of six, and the effects are slightly different.
- Some battles start with your characters not quite engaged with the enemy--they can be some distance away, allowing them to shoot missile weapons at you before you advance and engage them.
- New monsters, some with strange names.
Already I'm facing an interesting dilemma. The game allows you to import your characters from The Bard's Tale, which I did, finding to my surprise that the import retained all their levels and items! This means I have absurdly powerful Level 28 characters, including two characters who have achieved all spell levels in four mage classes and can both transition to archmages. I like being rewarded for finishing previous games, but I also like a challenge, and this seems a little too easy. Thus, I'm mulling four options:
- Play with my existing party and breeze on through--at least the opening sections
- Retain one or two of my existing characters but drop the rest and start the rest of my party at level 1
- Play with a brand new party but keep my existing spellcasters in the Guild of Adventurers so I can use them to heal/resurrect my new characters if they die
- Delete my old characters entirely and start afresh
I'm looking forward to stepping back into this world.