Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Bard's Tale III: Don't Make Me Do This. Please.

"We drink to our youth, to days come and gone..."


Holy... I last played Bard's Tale III more than a year ago?! I've been working on 1988 games since last January?! If I had realized this a week ago, I probably wouldn't have restarted my blog. I'd have given up in despair. I realize that the odds of me ever catching up in time with current CRPGs is extremely small, but it's absolutely impossible if I take more than a year to cover a year's worth of games.

I already didn't want to play The Bard's Tale III again, but now I don't want to play even more. You can go read my postings on the game from--Jesus Christ--last February if you want (the last one is comically titled "brief break"), but to summarize my dislikes:

  • Characters come into the game far too high, possessing all of the available spells. There is really no room to develop throughout 90% of the game.
  • The game involves endless combat, with random encounters appearing even as you stand in a square and turn. With the number of monsters, the distances, and no "quick combat" option, combat takes forever. By the time it's over, you've forgotten what you were doing before you went in, so you take a couple of turns to orient yourself, and you're back in combat again. Even with liberal use of the "Run Away" command, you find yourself in six times as many combats, each lasting four times as long, as Wizardry or Might & Magic.


This is a game where you find yourself saying, "Oh, for #*&$'s sake" quite frequently.


  • You're forced to pick up useless equipment and then discard it.
  • Spell points regenerate only outdoors, at a rate so slow that it literally takes an hour in real time. There is no "energy emporium" where you can pay to get spell points regenerated, as in previous games, and the "harmonic gems" that regenerate all of them are precious and rare. (At least, in this DOS version; some commenters reported they were more frequent in other versions.)
  • To cast a spell, you have to select it from a very long list of four-letter codes, which are not alphabetized, instead of being able to just type it in yourself.


I know I saw it in here somewhere...
 
  • Enemy magic users have a habit of summoning creatures every round, needlessly prolonging combat until you can get close enough to kill them.


Oh, yes, please let's keep this going indefinitely.

  • Multiple monsters use the same portraits and it's very hard to keep straight those that do no damage from those that do horrific damage.
  • The dungeons are full of annoying things like spinners, squares of darkness, and magic-draining zones that add nothing to the gameplay and just make things hard for no reason. There is otherwise hardly anything in the dungeons, so you end up spending a lot of time plodding along and mapping for nothing.
  • You can't tell if a bard song is playing unless you have the volume on, in which case the same 10-second melody loops over and over and over.
  • The game just sucks.

But last year, when I was saying this, you were all like, "Noooo, CRPG Addict! It gets so much better after you start traveling to other worlds! We promise! Bard's Tale III is a classic!" so I declined to just do a GIMLET and delete the stupid thing from my hard drive. Why did I let that happen? You don't tell me what a good game is; I tell you. Did you invent the GIMLET? No, I didn't think so.

Fine. I'll give the game one world to prove that it's not just one big suck-fest, and then it's on to BattleTech.

I remember that after the "brief break" posting on February 6, 2011, I spent a lot of time level-grinding by just randomly spinning in place in some dungeon, fighting random encounters, while I...well, it would take too long to explain, but suffice to say I had a week's worth of work where I had to wait for my computer to process batches of hundreds of thousands of data records, and I couldn't do anything intensive on it while it was processing. DOSBox, fortunately, doesn't take up a lot of the CPU's attention. Most of my characters rose about 10 levels during that week. Either because of that or the 20 levels that the character's rose after the first dungeon (see my rant about that here), I'm not finding most of the combats terribly difficult, just long and annoying.

For reasons I don't quite remember, my characters are in a realm called Arboria, trying to collect a magic bow and arrows from someone named Valarian. I ran into a character name Hawkslayer, who is now at the head of my party, and some total spaz of a king wants me to kill someone named Tslotha.


Or maybe "Tslotha's Head" is some kind of artifact. Whatever. The developers aren't so good with the punctuation, either.


From some hermit, I bought a spell that will make me grow gills and explore the bottom of a nearby lake where there's some kind of palace.


Hey! You look just like every other old man in the game!

And there was a tree with acorns on it nearby:




And...yeah. I've got nothing else to tell you. I'm not sure how all of these things fit together. Right now, I'm in the midst of mapping a place called Valarian's Tower. There are at least two other dungeons in the area of I don't know how many levels, and the thought of mapping them all fills me with such revulsion that I honestly think I may get drunk before playing any more of this game. You have to map, though, because the game depends so much on special encounters in non-obvious squares that to miss a single square might screw up the entire game. (To be fair, this is true of every first-person, tile-based game of the era; it just somehow annoys me more here.)


This is a perfect description of the CRPG Addict's living room.


The basic problem with The Bard's Tale series is this: by the end of the first game, your characters were already developed as much as they were going to develop. Oh, sure, there's a "chronomancer" class in this game that has a different set of spells, but they don't add much of anything to the game and you can max out your spell levels in about half an hour of gameplay. So after spending a relatively short and non-torturous game getting from level 1 to 15 or 20, you get to spend two more games of twice the duration getting from level 20 to...I don't know...probably 100 or so, but you don't really gain anything from these level increases except more hit points and spell points. This is why most other series (Ultima, Might & Magic, Wizardry) have you start over at Level 1 or, at most, allow you to continue your level progression through two games. If The Bard's Tale III had me start over at level 1, with level 1 foes, I wouldn't have complained for a second. As it is, with characters so over-powered, the game has no choice but to throw hordes of over-powered monsters at me.

I know I'm going to get a lot of comments urging me to just drop it if I hate it that much, so I'm more interested in hearing from people who see some value in this game. For god's sake, what do you like about it?

85 comments:

  1. Honestly, I played and beat it on the C64 when I was 16? Maybe? I loved it back then, but I revisited it a couple of years ago and was bored to tears. I just doesn't hold up. I liked the multiple worlds idea, but frankly it was just an excuse to call dungeons something other than dungeons. I would bail.

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    1. What I suppose we have to remember is that these early games were designed as if they were the only games you were going to be playing for months--and in most cases, they were. A modern take on game is going to be influenced by everything else you have going on in life, including--in my case--a list of a thousand games to play. This might be one reason that fondly-remembered games of our childhood don't hold up to modern scrutiny.

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    2. In my case the reason old games are no longer the same fun they used to be is because I've got bad at them. I used to play the classic Mario (1-3,World) and Zelda (1-3) games, but when I replay them today I'm a lot worse at them. My fingers have become big and clumsy, maybe my reflexes have suffered a little too. I'm simply not able to play those games the same way I used to. As to strategy games the problem is that I've become better at them and learned how to exploit them, I used to be challenged by Civilization 1 on emperor difficulty, but now it's a cakewalk and no longer fun.

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  2. Never played it. I never found Bards Tale to be an appealing enough setting or have an appealing enough system for me to try it. From the way you have described your experience of it I think my decision to put it off has been a justified one. :|

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  3. Only 1988 game I still care to see is Sentinel Worlds.

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  4. Chet, what you say in your comment is something I've been thinking about myself. That's the only way I think the permanent-death feature of early Wizardry could've been tolerated back then.

    I am not going to meet your post's request, however, and will instead post a rant I've been meaning to make about Bard's Tale II. I was going to post in the old thread, but I think it fits your "theme" here. :p

    The combat in latter part of BT2 is BROKEN. Just. Plain. Broken. There's a bunch of other things that just don't add up as well. Here's my list:

    * Melee fighters become useless after about maybe the first 12 or 13 dungeon levels. For the remaining 12 or 13 dungeon levels, they miss their targets 99% of the time, and so all they do is serve as meat shields for your casters, who in the meantime cast Restoration spells so that the fighters can bounce right back up every time they fall.
    * The second-to-last dungeon is giant anti-magic zone. So there's basically nothing you can do except use special items like the Sword of Zar.
    * When your mages change classes they go back to Level 1. That also means that their resistance to spells and dragon's breath also plummets. So they die whenever the monsters do a group attack. Also many of the summoned creatures are vulnerable and so you're constantly resurrecting them back up.
    * There's a bunch of spells that just plain don't work. Oscon's Halt Foe is supposed to prevent the monsters from doing anything for one round: it doesn't work. The illusionary archmage you can summon does nothing. There are maybe a dozen other spells, many of them high level, that are useless because of shoddy design.

    I swear I had at least 10 more things to rant about, but they're not coming to mind: I stopped playing BT2 about 2 months ago and embarked on my own Addict-style journey. I've finished Wizardry 1, Ultima 3, Might & Magic 1, Might & Magic 2, and Ultima 5. :)

    I might get back to Bard's Tale 2 and finish it, if only because I was pretty close to the end.

    Also, I'm starting with Dragon Wars now, which had the working title of "Bard's Tale IV" during its development. It's a much better game and I'm enjoying it so far, even if I just started. Just to say, that when you quite on BT3 you may still want to try Dragon Wars.

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    1. Both BT1 and BT2 have a very primitive combat system. Chances to hit and chances to be hit were both governed by the characters' and monsters' AC ratings.
      So to be able to hit monster at the end of BT2 you need a good AC. IIRC Monks got an extremely low AC by the end of the game, and could hit anything and only be hit by spells.

      On the Amige version at least the Hunter's critical hit ability were bugged, as it improved in 16 level increments and then got reset to zero, and then improved in 16 level increments. Probably an "overflow" bug.

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    2. I was playing on a C-64 emulator. I had a monk who was my best melee fighter until I hit that halfway point in the game. He also became pretty useless, and could only hit things if I gave him a boomerang.

      Strangely, the game borked my party's melee fighting, but those same fighters could still hit with their ranged weapons! I think the game had something fundamentally wrong with its maths.

      Delete
  5. Tslotha's Head sounds like a drink. He must be confusing you with his serving wench, the senile old coot.

    I think there's a principal involved where the amount of hate for a game raises (exponentially) the annoyance factor of things we gloss over in better games.

    I don't know the game, so I can't say anything to its benefit. However, other games (the gold box series) allowed you to transfer characters. How was that handled, and compared to creating new characters in those games? I only played Pool of Radiance and Curse of Azure Bonds, but never tried transferring characters.

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    1. Transfering worked in PoR and CoAB because of the level caps. At the end of PoR your characters were still low level, while at the end of BT1 and BT2 they were godlike.

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    2. I really must start proofing my comments. principal = principle...

      Level caps always feel so artificial when I hit them. I mean it's just something more to remind me I'm playing a game with limitations. I'd rather the game end before I hit any sort of level cap.

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  6. The picture in that screenshot of "Ape Soldiers" is neither an ape nor a soldier!

    I feel like Bard's Tale I was a fine game, but the sequels were pretty lazily thrown together and it shows.

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  7. Chet, you inspired me to start up Bards Tale III in my own attempt at revisiting old RPGs. But I gave up much earlier than you did. I really wanted to like the game since Bards Tale 1 was the one that brought me to the genre, but alas, that was a grave misconception on my part.

    I did however start at level 1 with my party so I am not sure I am following what you mean.

    Welcome back!
    Saintus

    ps. My failed take on of BT 3
    http://crpgrevisited.blogspot.com/2011/09/next-revisit-bards-tale-3-thieves-of.html

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  8. BT3 is an awesome game.....for 1988! I'm not sure you can look at it 20+ years later and complain with much validity. You might as well as complain about Congo Bongo, International Karate or Elite.

    Valerian's plane is nothing on some of the later ones such as the World War II one (whose name I can't remember or be bothered to Google) where the foes become seriously hard.

    Gobble gobble.

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    1. He's looked at much older games and praised them. Your assertion that the older the game is the more invulnerable it is to any criticism is stupid. Being old doesn't give a game a free pass on bad design that other games of its time or before its time avoided.

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  9. The way I see it, you're more than qualified to rate Bard's Tale III any way you see fit Chet. Clearly you think it's bollocks, so rate it so and find a game that reinvigorates your passion for RPGs. The fans of the game will forgive you for it...eventually!

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  10. ΙΚ+ is still playable. As is Elite. Not a chore to go through.

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  11. BT3 is a grind. But, it gives you tools to minimize the grind. If you ruthlessly exploit all the tricks available, you can power through the game much more quickly.

    You can use Sir Robin's Song to run from all combats (or just combats with annoying groups). That makes mapping faster. You can use APAR to warp around the dungeon, to skip backtracking. Generally each dungeon level has just one key location, so you can leave as soon as you find it (you can always come back later!) Getting hunters (or weapons with critical hit) makes combat move by reasonably fast, since each fighter can kill 1 enemy per round. And although it's luck whether you get it, the "Nospin Ring" removes a major annoyance.

    It does sound like some of the awful features are specific the DOS version. In the C64 version you can *type* spell names, there's a note icon to show whether bard songs are playing, and you can crank up the text-scroll-speed to get through routine combats quickly. (On the downside, the C64 version also had cripplingly slow disk access, but the emulator mercifully edits those waits out). It sounds like the DOS version is well worth skipping.

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  12. I truly loved BT 1 and 3 back in the day. At times the grind can be a therapeutic, zen experience. But I cannot in good faith ask you to torture yourself, after all you already covered some other of my favorite RPGs from back in the day (Ultima 3, Wasteland)

    So move on! I can accept that not everybody loves the fugly little RPGs I loved (and still do, I am replaying BT3 since your original endeavour although I too am on a hiatus as I started from scratch and am still grinding to get able to take our the first big, bad foozle)

    Skarlarth

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  13. I remember playing this on my Amiga and enjoying it well enough, though I got tired of it a few worlds on. Probably it didn't have so many annoyances as the DOS version.

    Not long afterwards I discovered Might and Magic 2, and that was the end of Bards Tale games for me. I did play Dragon Wars, though, and that was pretty good (though I didn't finish - I don't finish most CRPGs).

    If I were you I'd give every game the 6 hours, and if it doesn't grab you by then, just move on.

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  14. CRPG ADDICT.
    I HAVE TAKEN THIS KITTEN HOSTAGE. (meow?)
    ONLY YOU CAN SAVE THE KITTEN.
    PLAY THE GAME ALL THE WAY, CRPG ADDICT.
    PLAY IT ALL, OR I WILL FEED THE KITTEN SUB-PAR KIBBLE (meow!)
    DONT LET THE KITTENS POOR DEVELOPMENT, LACK-LUSTER COAT, AND WANING HEALTH BE ON YOUR HANDS.
    PLAY THE WHOLE GAME. SAVE THE KITTEN.

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  15. Chet, in addition to all the things you listed there's also the problem that the game is downright buggy.

    When "researching" BT3 prior to (trying to)replaying it last year I found that both the Amiga and DOS versions suffer from the same bugs: monsters' special attacks not working and bosses not fighting back: http://bardstale.brotherhood.de/talefiles/board/viewtopic.php?t=965

    This confirms what I suspected the first time I played BT3 20+ years ago on my Amiga. I was annoyed that no monster had special attacks, and 20+ years later my suspicions were confirmed, and I never regretted not playing more than the first dungeon.

    And as discussed in the comments under the entry "brief break", the C64 version is also buggy, which leads only the Apple II version left if you want a bug free Bard's Tale III.


    Games like BT2 and BT3 (if it hadn't been buggy and lacking character development) are only fun in a time and place where there is a very limited amount of CRPGs to play, which was the case back in 1988. I certainly enjoyed BT2 back in the days using newly created characters (imported ones made the game too easy), but wild whores couldn't make me play it again.

    Fortunately there are other games from the same era that has stood the test of time, like Dragon Wars.

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    1. I think that the ports being so buggy they special attacks of monsters is just plain sad. I can't help but wonder if the battles would be less monotonous on Apple II.

      --Eino

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    2. This thread has a link to a patch that fixes the bugs in the MS-DOS port:

      http://bardstale.brotherhood.de/talefiles/board/viewtopic.php?t=989

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    3. Really awesome of "drifting" to patch the game. Looks like this deals with a lot of the main issues.

      Apparently 39 out of the 169 squares in one of the first dungeons has a 50% chance of a random encounter for each action you take, including turning, AND in the DOS version they reset. Dayum!

      So I suppose the 8-bit version is "bug free"? Still, I remember playing BT3 on my old C-64 and finding the encounter rate too high.

      Chet, may I suggest linking to this thread in the post? I imagine folks looking into BT3 will stumble upon this post in the future.

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  16. Having finished BT1 and about half way through BT2, I I was going to use the word 'zen' to describe my Bards Tale experience, although Skarlarth has beaten me to it.

    Yes, the combat is entirely pointless if you import characters from BT1, but there's something very satisfying about filling out each map with its walls, traps and messages scrawled in blood. Less RPG, more 'Sudoku and Dragons', perhaps?

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  17. I say move on. If a game is no fun, it's no fun. We don't gain anything from you completing a bad game. You have invested more than enough time, and we don't want a frustrated CRPG Addict. On to (hopefully) better games!

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  18. I read somewhere, in an interview with Dani Bunten before she killed herself, that BT1 was the best game. One of the developers, just 1, took over the reins for BT2 and his view of the game was that the player was the enemy. The game was there to punish the player. Dani didn't like that and he (He might have been a he then and became a she after this point) and took over the reins for BT3. It surprises me that BT3 is so bad- I thought that Dani would have made a better game. (They didn't do the entire game themselves, obviously, but they were the lead developers).

    I LOVED BT1 and have nothing but very fond and wonderful memories of it- mapping it and cutting out and retaping parts of my map as I went. I never played BT2 though I bought it- I made the mistake of buying the strategy guide at the same time and PHUT- there went my interest in playing.

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    1. Dani Bunten didn't have anything to do with Bard's Tale. You are thinking of Rebecca "Burger" Heineman.
      Also, according to Wikipedia Bunten died of lung cancer.

      BT1 and BT2 were Michael Crawford's babies. In interviews with Heineman he sounds like a bit of an asshole, but his versions of Bard'a Tale were more enjoyable and less buggy than Heineman's version, IMO. Heineman did make Dragon Wars, though, which has stood the test of time better than any of the Bard's Tale games.

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    2. I blame the fibromyalgia. I'm lucky I remembered it was about video games at all. Well, thank you for help getting the story correct for me, though not so thank you for making me look like an idiot :)

      ("Ah," he said, leaning forward at the waist into an easy bow. "I did not make you look like an idiot. You made yourself look like an idiot. I merely made you aware of it.")

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    3. Speaking of Dani Bunten, it's too bad that Seven Cities of Gold isn't on the list. It's just as much a CRPG as Pirates! but pre-dates it (on the Apple) by 2 years. I was surprised to see that it wasn't ported to DOS until the 90's however.

      Seven Cities was truly a great game, especially for the world generation.

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    4. Another correction: Dani Bunton Berry died of lung cancer.

      Delete
  19. I loved BT3 because of the incidents where you could use items in your inventory to solve puzzles. Very cool at the time, not so exciting any more.

    The only thing that kept me sane while playing it though was the flee button. I seem to remember that you could pretty much reliably avoid every single random encounter in the game. There were dungeons where I probably hit flee a few hundred times (maybe my memory is exagerating, maybe not).

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  20. Just skip this game and move on a game more interesting. Or just play 6 more hours and move on. Just move on, there is a lot of other games that deserve to be played and you can´t be bored to death with this game. We can´t afford lose you again.

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  21. I am sorry that the first game on your "put off till later" list is what I would consider the least fun out of the lot. I hope it doesn't sour you on all the others, as I would like to see you get further in crescent hawks which I had fun with as a kid.

    On the positive side when you finish this one the rest of your procrastinate list should be better.

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  22. Good luck on Crescent Hawk's Inception.

    I don't recall how long ago I tried to give some tips on it, or exactly what I said.

    The quickest advice I can give is to explore and visit every town. You should be able to gain a party member in each if I recall correctly. And most of them cover one of the needed secondary skills well.

    Remember to build up some cash at the beginning(by waiting) and put it on the stock market. The only other good source of cash is salvaging(based on skill level) from defeating enemy mech's. And don't forget to look for unusual spots too.

    Different garages and trainers have different cut-offs. Only one of each type can train up to Excellent rating(which is very beneficial). Certain garages let you 'upgrade' mech's(other than the starting Chameleon). They can increase firepower significantly, but this always causes faster heat buildup. Of course killing things faster tends to solve that...

    And speaking of training. I had read an old PC Magazine tips about this game before I had ever played it. It mentions that the end of the tutorial section is sort of random, so you could reload a saved game to delay it(which is against your normal rules). Each training mission you complete improves your starting skills. My only other caveat is that losing your only mech early on(you could keep going on foot) horribly difficult. As soon as you get attacked by mech's on foot you are pretty much sunk.

    And it is possible to keep your starting mech, just requires good route planning.

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  23. Oh yes, what I meant to say earlier about BT3 anyways. Please, feel free to effectively put a bullet into the back of the game's head, then kick the corpse off the road so you can more easily go to the next game. Fack da game- you hate it, leave it in the dust to rot.

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  24. To add to the comments, I made the rant about BT2 above, yet at the same time I LOVED BT2 when I was 10 years old. I guess you can say my sister (who was 5 years older than me) and I likes the "zen" character of the gameplay. We just enjoyed power leveling: we would make the short trip to the second dungeon, Fanskar's Castle, kick some doors near the entrance, and go back to town to level up and sell our loot. We looked forward to getting better magic items and getting new spells. The other rpg I played was Ultima IV, and I didn't really know what I was doing: I'd get a bunch of clues and talk to people and didn't really follow through, and I had some companions join my party. I really liked the music: but I didn't venture far into the dungeons because I thought the music was scary lol. I guess that was a game breaker for me: for some zenlike, non-scary fun, I could go back to Bard's Tale 2! :D

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  25. I enjoyed BT1 and finished it. I skipped BT2 due to not having a computer to run it when it was released.

    I played BT3 for about ten hours, until I gave up on it for much the same reasons that Chet dislikes the game for.

    Games are suppose to be fun, and I find that when I have to force myself to continue playing a game, rarely does the game get better. Mostly I regret having wasted even more time on the game.

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  26. Screw this. When games suck, dont play them. Time is better spent elsewhere. I'd say, skip BT3, and play some standouts. If its not enjoyable give up and move on.

    BT3's problem is repetition, the game really does not change from the first set of mazes to the last. I look on them like I look at the Wizardry games, they are all expansion packs to the first game.

    Now go play Magic Candle I!

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    1. Wizardry 8 changed a lot, if you ever get to try it. It had its flaws, but it got rid of some things I hated about the earlier games.

      OTOH, one of those things was having optimal characters go through several classes, and I suspect many old-skool game addicts like that stuff.

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    2. http://rampantgames.com/blog/?p=3309

      I remember reading about Wizardry 8 here previously. This reviewer did enjoy his play-through, but the numbers of enemies per combat slowly became absurd.

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    3. Combat was a bit long-winded, especially on the Trynton Road. It wasnm't too bad elsewhere.

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  27. You will absolutely love Magic Candle II, The Four and Forty.

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  28. For me, BT3 love is all about nostalgia. I played it on my C64 back when I was around 11. The C64 version had nice MIDI tunes for all the bard songs and the like and I just thought the whole thing was cool at the time. I also didn't have a party to import from previous games so the whole thing was about exploring and leveling up.

    These days, I suspect that the high random encounter rate and map spinners, etc. would drive me up the wall but I still remember it fondly.

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  29. I played and beat BT3 on the Apple back when it came out and I'm pretty sure I enjoyed it. However, I've played a few BT sessions lately and I found the near constant combat annoying and I think I can understand how it doesn't hold up to how people perceive rpg play style now.

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  30. Ding dong the game is dead!

    You know, for really grindy games you could let your readers do some of the grinding for you then give you the save file back. We could have a contest to see who could get you the most levels in 24 hours, with the winner getting a character name in the next game.

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    1. It doesn't seem like the grinding here is the problem, although maybe it'd help for Wizardry V. Setup a mutex lock on the save file so people can check it out to work on, and check it back in when done... let's make it a community effort. ;)

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  31. I believe I've gone through all the comments and haven't found someone who liked BT2 or BT3 outside of nostalgic reasons. I got the Matt Barton book "Dungeons & Desktops" and noticed his comment that Bard's Tale III is "considered" the best in the series. Considered by whom? I think it was just a throwaway comment.

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  32. There is the Geomancer class which you've yet to get, and a couple of bard songs and I think 1 more spell.

    All in all, speaking as a fan of the old Bard's Tale games, III is most definitely the worst in gameplay. I played it in DOS originally, and it was an absolute grind.

    Ultimately, I'd say ditch it and move on. Too many good games to get to, to spend your life on a lesser one.

    The formula does hold up somewhat, in the form of Devil Whiskey, circa 2004 IIRC. There were some issues with that game, but I doubt the world will still be here by the time you reach the lofty year of 2004.

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  33. Agreed with all the above: Keep your sanity. Move on to BattleTech.

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  34. I was thinking Mercurial or Git myself, just branch if two people check the file out at once and accept the higher level one when the addict wants to play.

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  35. I cannot agree more with people who say you should move to Battletech. On the one hand I am really interested, what is your opinion on that game as a fan of the Battletech universe. But the most important is that there are too many below average games in the history of CRPGs, which are just do not worth their time, when there are such classics waiting for you. As far as I see, Bard's Tale 3 was outdated even in 1988. It has nice graphics, but Might and Magic 2, Pool of Radiance and Wastleland supressed it by miles.

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    1. surpressed -> surpassed

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  36. Sometimes good games get bad sequels. And also you seem to dislike a lot of things that are really very popular (anime, the Lord of the Rings books). Either way, this is your obsession, not ours. If it really irks any of us, that person can go ahead and make their own blog where they play every CRPG ever made and then review them.

    Also, this is unrelated, but I've been looking through your games list, and things are going to get a little anti-climactic soon after the turn of the millennium. It's pretty much all downhill from Baldur's Gate, and by the time we've reached Knights of the Old Republic (2003) or Bloodlines (2004), we're pretty much done with really awesome CRPGs. I mean, Mass Effect and Dragon Age are cool and all, but they're not Baldur's Gate.

    Though there is Skyrim, now, so I guess there's that. And who knows what will have been released between now and when you actually catch up to '03/'04.

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    1. imho, you can't say that really. I love Baldur's Gate, but I read some really serious criticism of it, which I do agree. Skyrim is not worse, but different from the BG games, having different strengths and weaknesses.

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  37. I think you are being a bit unfair on BT3: a lot of of the obvious issues that you raise are common to many CRPGs in the 80ies: an awful lot of combat encounters with endlessly repeating monster groups, a lot of level grinding without obvious rewards, an interface that is inadequate from today's point of view, the same graphics used for different monsters, dungeon-based puzzles like spinners etc... Even in Ultima 5 or MM2 you were fighting the same monster groups all over again in a relatively simplistic combat system. You don't have to like all these features of course, but I did have a lot of fun in exploring the BT3 worlds and I don't regard the games as significantly worse (or better) than most of the other well-known 80ies CRPGs. (Dragon Wars was IMO a much better game using the same interface, though).

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  38. CRPGAddict, you've given Bard's Tale its six hours and then some, and you've formulated an opinion, as well as detailed the precise reasons for those opinions. Likely you have enough material to do a GIMLET. You've fulfilled your own requirements. I'd say move on. If you wind up giving a low score to a game that was beloved in its day, so be it- you have a clear idea of what you enjoy in a game, and Bard's Tale is lacking in those qualities.

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  39. I am in favour of you dropping it to 3 hours actually, so we can get to games more quickly.

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  40. I see you got Star Control 2, aka. Ur-Quan Masters!!! on your play list. I'm looking forward to it, but I see it's a 1992 game. Until then I guess I got Grimith's LP. I think that you should move on faster when a game is both boring and unoriginal at the same time, if a game seems boring but is the first game of it's kind then it could still be interesting enough for a 6 hour treatment. But if Bard's Tale 3 is both boring and unoriginal, then I think you should 'get on with it', as grimith use to say.

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    1. Star Control 2! That makes me happy. Can't wait for 2018. ;) (No seriously, I'm happy you're going to check that out.)

      --Eino

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  41. CRPGAddict, you set your 6-hour requirement for a reason, and I'm sure you had in mind the mind-boggling number of games you need to go through.

    This isn't a democracy: it's Chet's Blog. He's not our employee. And he lets folks comment.

    So I agree with Maldeus- if someone has a differing opinion on Bard's Tale 3, they should post their own review or GIMLET as a comment, or link to one on their own blog. When CRPGAddict moves on to another game, the post is still here for you to express your opinion. So disagree away! :D

    (I would only add that simply saying that Bard's Tale 3 needs to be judged for its era are free to compare it with Might & Magic I and II and Ultima, which CRPGAddict has rated highly. THEN we start to have a productive exchange of opinions.)

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    1. Not just compare the games, but also look at what CRPGAddict has said specifically about what he enjoys in the other games. And all of us have our own things we look for in CRPGs of course...

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  42. I have a good idea how you feel. I played Bard's Tale 1 on the Amstrad CPC back in the 80s, and absolutely loved it. For the time it was an amazing game. Then after several years of not having a computer up to playing the sequels, I finally got Bard's Tale 2 in the late 90s and made a start on that.

    And that playthrough is still ongoing today. I have my SAVE.GAM and lots of paper maps, and I do actually intend finishing it. But it's so hard to motivate myself when I have 20 years of other RPGs I could choose from for a similar-but-better experience.

    That's how I feel about BT2; so I can only imagine you would feel more strongly about BT3, having already put up with more than I've been able to stomach.

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  43. Even if you play to the end, I don't see your opinion changing. From what I can tell, this is the game, repeated until the end. I agree with those above, you gave it its six hours, move on.

    You said it yourself, "I will devote a minimum of six hours to each one, but if after that I'm having no fun or the play is repetitive, it's on to the next game."

    Sure you're going to disappoint some people, but you can't please everyone. You made that rule for a reason though, and if you're not following it, then why is it there?

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  44. If people are trying to convince you that the game gets better, let them send you a savegame file so you can witness first hand if this is indeed the case.

    If I were you I would bend your rules a little bit. instead of giving every game six hours of your time. Give them 3, if things are still boring as hell you are allowed to use savegames/trainers/cheats etc. everything to either finish the game or to make the next 3 hours an enjoyable experience.

    Cheers, Rob.
    Ps glad you're back, I have been enjoying the ride immensely so far.

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  45. I played BT3 on an Apple IIe, it was probably my 4th cRPG after WIZ1 (won), MM1(won) and Ultima 4 (couldn't for the life of me progress, playing a cracked version without any manual or other form of help), so I look back at it with a naïve, rosy-tinted view (Music! Full Color Graphics! Automap!). I also wasn't saturated with BT1 and 2 which I did try to play afterwards and didn't like at all. Then again, I do remember gasping aloud when I realized how big the last dungeon was gonna be, that thing is still big to me in my mind's eye. With my youthful fantasy, I totally bought the different "worlds" thing, only vaguely being aware that they were still dungeons. I didn't mind level grinding at all, because I didn't know I was doing that AND I have all the time of the world being in high school. So I have to give it up for BT3 but being heavily influenced by naïve nostalgia. I wouldn't think of playing the game again (maybe a couple of levels out of curiosity) while I have just finished replaying MM1 for the fourth time. That sums it up for me,
    Slam23

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  46. Went here on a whim after I thought you left. Imagine my surprise, it's so good to have you back! Best wishes and I'm dying to see what's in store for the future.
    -Luke

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  47. The only thing I like about this game is that I've never played it. Hey, better you than me. ;P

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  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  49. I think you need to get through 1988 asap as you are just on the cusp of entering the great DOS era where games were actually made for the PC first , not Apple II hand me downs. I think Starflight was the only gave you've played on this blog that was made for PC. Bard's Tale III was good on 8 bit computers but likely sucks on PC so just move on me lad. Great to see you back by the way!

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  50. Nice to have you back, dude!

    And I'd say, give BT3 it's six hours, and if it hasn't gotten better, quit. You play CRPG's to have fun, don't make it a job.

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  51. As a somewhat recent BT3 veteran, I found this post hilarious. Especially on the DOS version, it's just painful. I wouldn't normally be on the "just move on" bandwagon since it's your show, but I can assure you that there's no worthy surprises in plot or gameplay waiting for you if you persevere. I think I got through by fighting lots of the early battles, then getting the "Boots of Speed" and running from pretty much everything. I mapped all the levels, and while it's an improvement on BT2 it's still dull, dull, dull compared to pretty much anything else, even from the same era.

    I confess I'd still love to read the GIMLET for this one, though.

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  52. Self-flagellation under the banner of "completion-ism" has lost its entertainment value. I'd rather read the stories you write in your head about the tragically brief lives and gruesome demises of your Nethack characters (or pretty much anything else). If you're in the mood for self-flagellation, try playing Dungeon Crawl -- it is a masochistically difficult branch of the Rogue-like chain.

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    1. That'd be 1997 for the first Linley's Dungeon Crawl release. :>

      --Eino

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  53. In case you were wondering, Computer Gaming World came to the same conclusion as you (http://www.cgwmuseum.org/galleries/index.php?year=1988&pub=2&id=48). The game is okay, though the constant (easy) battles are tiring. And that review was written back in 1988 (so theoretically less biased with time). I wouldn't kill myself over it, since there's so many better things out there... *shrug*

    (Out of curiosity, ever consider farming out some of the game reviews? I'm sure some helpful souls would take on a game or two... *cough cough*)

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    1. The primary purpose of my little project is to PLAY the games. Blogging about them is secondary. Thus, sub-contracting the write-ups would go against the spirit of why I started this. But I'd happily post or link to reviews written by other people.

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  54. Huh. Helps to read ahead before commenting. Never mind... Continue as you were!

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  55. Yay! You're back! I had a feeling I should check.

    I could never get into BT, any of it. Too battle-happy. I do enjoy playing Devil whiskey, which is a fun updated take on the series, and not so annoying.

    But this is YOUR blog. Not Nyxalinth's blog. and i won't tell you what to like and not like. I think part of the issue with games back in the day having never-ending encounters was it helped to pad the content. Because of technical limitations, designers couldn't make as much actual content as they would have liked, and so relied on random encounters to fluff it up a bit. That's my theory.

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    1. And issue back in the day? Isn't that one of the main JRPG tactics today? I remember one of the best parts of Skies of Arcadia was when I got the 'no random encounters' item!

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  56. I loved BT3 on the c64 because it loaded up combats in seconds, not minutes, unlike the previous BTs. It also finally made use of the rogue. I actually dusted off my c64 in the 2000s and played it through again. It still held up. It didn't have most of the bugs mentioned in the article.

    It was challenging to play through, which was what made it fun. I don't know how valid it is to monotonously grind up levels in the starter dungeon and then complain that the difficulty curve is off. For me, it was my favorite of the series.

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  57. I played through BT3 last year on an Apple II emulator. I am sure CRPG Addict hated it for its lack of economy... gold was awarded but rarely useful. Since I used Internet maps, the game went much faster - as a teen I had gotten to the last dimension but could not finish the final dungeon and was determined to get there. It went OK, but I would have hated mapping all of it. Also... all of the available Apple II disks I could find had a crasher bug in the 6th dimension; certain monster images were bugged and crashed the game. I managed to get through it very quickly and save/reload before such encounters. At one point I got stuck with such an encounter reoccurring every time I entered a square ... so I teleported past it. I don't know how many people could complete the APL2 version nowadays for this reason. Looking at the DOS version it appears terribly inferior to the APL2 version (no song indicator, no monster breath weapons, etc).

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  58. "For god's sake, what do you like about it?"

    Bard's Tale II was my first RPG ever. It was the game that hooked me on RPGs for life. Bard's Tale III was a refinement of II. So, um... nostalgia?

    Your blog gives a very accurate picture of what the Bard's Tale series consists of: endless mapping, endless combat, tons of (mostly verbal) riddles and puzzles, and not much else. BT3 had a slightly more developed story about the gods and the worlds that you travel to, but it was still pretty thin.

    So, either you love mapping/fighting/puzzle-solving for its own sake, or you don't. I did. I still do. I probably always will.

    By the way, I stumbled across an in-game glitch to duplicate items such as Harmonic Gems when I played the PC version of BT3. I wish I could tell everyone how to do it, but I don't remember (swap items around between characters)? It made the game much more fun - so much so that I'd recommend people just hexedit 99 Harmonic Gems into their inventories, when playing BT3 today.

    For what it's worth, Dragon Wars (effectively "Bard's Tale IV") is a vastly superior game by virtually every measure, especially in terms of creativity, story, and world-building.

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    1. Fair enough answer. We saw the same things in the game, and it was enough for you to like the overall experience, but not for me. I AM liking Dragon Wars better so far.

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  59. Sorry, had some technical difficulties here...

    Pretty much what Victar said is true for me, also. For me (and some reviewers back then at least in my country) they *were* indeed great dungeon crawlers, earning scores of 80+. To be fair I have to play BT again now to give it another judgment. They were among the first I played on my c64, maybe that was another reason why I liked them so much and just have a nostalgic feeling for them.

    Although somewhat obvious I'd like to point out that what we see here are also fundamental differences in tastes even among fellow crpg players. They became apparent for me by your reviews of Might and Magic I and BT compared to my experiences. While I hate the (from my point of view) mostly aimless wandering in M&MI and loved the linear level grinding and puzzling in BT you felt exactly the other way around. I think this is part of the difference between open world fans and the rest who like to follow a more storydriven, linear approach. I fear this type of game will get in your way some more times in the future, I dare say Eye of the Beholder will be much more of a chore for you than it was for me.

    BTW, I also think Elder Scrolls only got really good with Morrowind, before it was too random for me. Others who liked M&M I etc. will probably disagree ;-)

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