Saturday, June 19, 2010

Game 18: The Bard's Tale II (1986)

The Bard's Tale II: The Destiny Knight
United States
Interplay (developer); Electronic Arts (publisher)
Released 1986 for Commodore 64; 1987 for Apple II; 1988 for Amiga, Apple II GS, and DOS; 1991 for PC-98; 1992 for NES
Date Started: 19 June 2010

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.

The official game map.

  • 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.

"Wander mages"?
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
Any opinions, especially from those who have played The Bard's Tale II before?

I'm looking forward to stepping back into this world.


  1. I never got into it but I remember several friends who did recommending starting with already built-up characters - though whether this was from wanting an easier game or because it was *that* hard, I have no idea.

    I'd recommend spending no more than an hour playing with the imported characters, you should be able to tell pretty quickly whether it's going to be a cakewalk or if the game scales for higher levels.

  2. its not easy, dont let it fool you. Stick with your imported characters. I know with BT1 you needed a bard but I think II and III did not require any particular skill set to win the game, so your imported party is probably the best way to go (and its still not easy)

  3. Thirding the above. You're going to want to keep those old characters for Bard's Tale II. BT3 was a lot more reasonable in this respect (it had a really good progression for starting with new characters and rapidly bringing them up to speed), but BT2 was outrageous.

  4. Bard is needed. One of the very first dungeons requires a certain bard tune to pass a 'locked' door.

    Can't remember if any other dungeon needs a bard, but keep it in mind.

  5. AD, your right, I forgot, good old Watchwood Melody

  6. I don't think I could play "The Bard's Tale" without a bard even if he wasn't strictly needed.

  7. I remember BT 2 being a bit too easy when using an imported party.
    Maybe I'm weird, but I thought the three level "beginner dungeon" under the first city to be the best part of the game.

    Overall, I thought the dungeons were not as well designed as in BT 1 and there was no sense of continuity from one level to the other, as one specific monster could only be found on one specific level, so each level had it's own set of monsters, most of whom felt like a more or less random mix of letters and numbers.

    But having monsters appear at different ranges and having weapons have different reaches (like polerarm having a reach of 20 or 30) was a nice improvement on the combat system.
    Great fun battling those sorcerors at range 70 that kept summoning wolves into range 10.


    1. Those were Conjurers that summoned Wolves and they were just a few steps away. Sorcerers (with e) summoned illusionary Ninjas, that you, at some level autommatically made disappear by 'disbelieving'. In the c64-Version you got all the XP for fictionally beating those ninjas. I kept those Sorcerers alive till I got the max 65535 XP for one fight.
      Later in some tower there were sorcerors (with o) that made up Dragons instead of ninjas to let you reach the max XP way quicker.

  8. The range/summoning thing got annoying to me after a while, even though it introduced a level of tactical combat. I probably should have given this one more of a chance, but the saving issue really put me off.

  9. I own this game for the Commodore 64 and have been playing it off and on for the last 15 years! You need some really impressive characters to actually finish this game. I have level 30 adventurers and there are still battles that I lose, especially in dungeons with anti magic zones. As advanced as technology gets, I still come back to my Commodore on occasion because they just don't make games like this anymore.

    1. my pops had a C64 when I was growing up it was just a fantastic PC. The emulators do a terrible job and often run the games way too fast. I would love to see an Alternate Reality remake!

  10. I'm playing the PC version of The Bard's Tale too, and what I miss about Bard's Tale I that's not in BT2 is those squares in BT1 where you could fight 99 monsters (or 396 berserkers in one of the castles).

  11. I still have the old clue book for this game somewhere in my moving boxes. I fell in love with the story and how they told it as a 'what if' tale...sure it gave away EVERYTHING, but for myself, I don't have nearly the time I used to to play every game I'm interested in (I'm looking at you, 900+ GOG games), but I don't mind going through walkthroughs and Let's Plays to see other people's descriptions so I can save a few dozen hours.

    I'm hoping when I'm retired (HA, good one with everything as is!), I'll be able to spend the time leisurely enjoying these old relics at my own pace. Gotta have a dream about something, right?

  12. BT II definitely one of my favourite CRPGs. Amiga best version I thought as I really liked the music and the chanting monks in the temple when they heal you! (Don't think PC version has this but could be wrong). Looking forward to the remastered versions coming soon....


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