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The Bard’s Tale (Original 1985 Version) Review

by on September 15, 2014

This is one of the original fantasy RPGs that built the genre today.

# of Players



Total freedom
Very challenging


It may be too hard for some players
Do-able, but hard to play on mobile

Editor Rating


Sound Effects and Music


Writer's Score

Bottom Line

This is a game that an entire generation of gamers grew up with and is an all-time classic.


The Bard’s Tale is another classic RPG from Interplay that spawned a great franchise for years to come. Many hours dumped into a game at a time when you had to draw maps and keep notes with a notebook to even get close to beating the game.



I played this game on three platforms–the C64, the PC and now the iPhone (where it comes as part of the Bard’s Tale reboot from InXile). It’s the same game from platform to platform with obviously better graphics on the PC version than on the C64.

Most recently having played this on the iPhone, it reminded me of where our early first-person games came from. It was games like The Bard’s Tale and Legacy of the Ancients which piloted the dungeon dwelling first-person viewpoint in gaming. You navigated with the arrow keys and, depending on where you were on the map, you could program your fingers to go where you knew you were going. Anyone old enough to remember this game knows what I am talking about. If you’re too young, too bad.

The gameplay is still good to this day. This is a challenging game–hard, actually. In fact, as much as I love this game, I never even beat it. I got to the last level of Mangar’s Tower and got bitten by so many vampires and lost so many levels, I got my ass kicked and it’s been sitting there since! So that would be one beef with the game: it is hard. Maybe too hard. Nowadays there are maps and all that on the internet, but back then you had handwritten maps and notes galore. It was tough.

Playing this on the iPhone, although a total luxury to be able to play this on a mobile platform, was tough as well. You do get used to it, but it is not the ideal platform to be playing on.


I love these old graphics. These are the word-based games with an animated image much like the original Wasteland from EA. They had a lot of character and were a mix of graphics and words so that you had to (yes) read! This game differed from many RPGs of it’s time because it actually had you walking through the streets or in the dungeons in the first-person view of its day, rather than the top-down bird’s eye that was popular then.

For any nostalgic or retro gamer, you can’t help but love the care and quality that was put into this game, not just in its graphics but also it’s writing…and fantasy is not my favorite genre. It was like 1986 or ’87.

Even on the iPhone it looks the same, because it is the same! Hard to play on a mobile, like I said above, but you will suffer through it due to the great port of the original with its original graphics.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 5.04.23 PM

Sound Effects and Music

Well, not so hot in this department because of obvious limitations of the time. Although, compared to some other games from this day and age, it was cool because at least it had recognizable music that played in the gameplay or when you had your Bard play a tune for health or magic light. So it was good for the day, but other than that, gaming sound had not reached anything to write home about…or write articles about. But don’t worry, the graphics, gameplay and story totally make up for it.



I consider this another one that sort of invented modern day leveling in gaming. Although if I really wanted to credit modern day leveling, it probably dates back to actual RPG board games. The real RPGs of the day like Dungeons and Dragons…but I digress.

The leveling is tough at first. You really have to get into a few scuffles to get a team that isn’t a bunch of pussies. I mean it, too. Your first set of characters will just get wasted and you’ll undoubtedly lose some guys while you’re trying to get a crew together to do anything worthwhile. And this is just walking around in the streets at daytime! God forbid you’re walking around at night or in your first dungeon. Good luck and good patience just trying to get started and gain a few crappy levels. Makes me giggle thinking about it.

The thing I mentioned above is a bit frustrating, too. You finally get far into this game (and if you are not cheating, this is quite an accomplishment), and you are tough enough to get into Mangar’s Tower to beat the game and a bunch of vampires take away your levels. You can be un-leveled. Then you’re a pussy again–at least to Mangar’s forces. I actually gave up. I have never fully beaten this game. Only got close. I think I made it outside of where Manger’s Chamber was, but never made it in.

Overall, this is a classic that maybe one day I will get my team leveled back up and go beat the hell out of Mangar. But this is a game I grew up with and have fond memories of my first encounter with the Jabberwock or Vampires and Demons or my buddies comparing our progress and maps.

Classic gamer fans should give it a shot. And if you beat it playing fair and square, then wow!

P.S. Don’t compare this classic to the 2004 reboot. Not a fair comparison.


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