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(((≠))) @ThomasHCrown
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Gonna file this away for when I get back: A live-tweet, tweet-by-tweet, of my first 12 hours with #BardsTale4. Those of you who know me, know this may be a bit wordy. I'm using the wretched Threaded Tweet feature because this way I won't be tempted back on Twitter early.
So my computer just crashed during the initial boot screen. My box was good for middle-of-the-road new boxes in late 2017 -- I can run The Witcher III with no hiccups -- but I doubt this is replicable.
Made it through the opening cinematic and I'm not sure what to make of this. Cthulhu against the Elves sounds cool, but now I have questions. Neat idea detached from the history of this game, and nice shout out to the prior three installments.
And a crash when I want to name my save file. Ok.

Quick disclosure: Giddily but guardedly backed the game. Bard's Tale fanboy since before I played 1st.

I used the reboot to find out that there's a limit to how many tweets I can save like this SO WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW, TWITTER?
I want to pause and give serious props for the opening song. It's beautiful in its own way and yes I know they used the same narration in the revamped original trilogy, but to see it made this way, with that animation: Thanks, @Inxile_Ent. It was a nice, nostalgic moment.
I have now made it through to the opening and I will tell you my first problem: I am not pleased that the paladins are the story bad guys. First, by definition, paladins aren't bad guys. Second, this tells me I'm not going to be one AND MY PALADIN ALWAYS LED MY GROUP.
I know you can never go home again, and quite frankly, I recognize I'm one of the few people on Earth who thinks a bare-bones RPG with just enough text detail and dialogue is perfect to let you create your own story in the gaps, but it feels weird to have this in a Bard's Tale.
That subtle complaint notwithstanding, the story so far is actually pretty clever, and takes better advantage of Celtic themes and lore than any of the prior games (which quite frankly didn't care).
I know it sounds like I'm being negative, and I am (but wait for the next few because ye Heavens I just found something about which to gush), but the animation here is ... primitive. People sliding along the ground instead of walking, cut dialogue scenes out of Oblivion.
Because it's an Unreal Engine title, that's relatively easy to fix, so I suspect it'll be caught in a patch.

Now for the gushing and I'm still trying to find the stairs down to the Adventurer's Guild:
Holy wow the music.
The music is so good, you actually want to go closer to find its source and just listen. Random people -- so far just women -- singing as they go along their days. It's just amazing. I'm in love with these voices and tunes.
One thing about the old Bard's Tale (COUGH TALES OF THE UNKNOWN DAMMIT) games was that for things named after Bards, only the bard in your party and the dude in the Adventurer's Guild ever seemed to play music. This is such a wonderful and perfecting touch.
Let me take it a step farther: Without that music, clever little bits of allusion to modern popular culture and good palette work would be all that keeps this from being a kind of eccentric title. With the music, the sense of the time and setting becomes immediate.
Gushing over and not just because this song is, too.
So: The Guild.

Actually, let me do this: No spoilers here. Just review. I almost wrote what I thought about something right before entering the Guild and I won't.
I am now about 40 minutes of runtime into this and yes it's because I stopped and listened to every song and so far, no more crashes. Some weird speed-ups and slow-downs, but generally it's all fine. I suspect later patches will resolve this.
Side note: When setting up the game, for the love of Kylearan, make sure you have the game detect your hardware and adapt. Mine defaulted to Ultra and apparently is supposed to run on Ultra, but this would go badly if you can't handle Ultra and leave the default.
Character Creation!

Mood: Uncertain.
One of the worst things a reviewer can do, from a purely ethical standpoint, is criticize something for what it's not. I will not do that, but to explain the uncertain response, I will have to explain what this is and isn't.
In classic AD&D-style roleplaying games -- the original Bard's Tale games, Wizardry, Baldur's Gate, etc. -- one picks a race and starts rolling attributes, again and again, until either you get what you want or you realize you're not 16 any more and can't do this forever.
I'm mentally a 12 year-old, so I can sit for an hour easy to get the characters I want. Or more, if my household of wife and ten or twelve or whatever kids are sleeping.
Sometimes, the game will let you roll and add points from a limited pool as a way of speeding things up. Sometimes, it will simply give you a base setting for each character, modified by race (human, elf, troll, whatever) and give you the pool.
This is more in keeping with a system @Inxile_Ent has apparently come to love, in which your character's stats are determined by species and class, and you can improve them as you go, but older systems of customization are eschewed.
I don't know if I like it? (The question mark is deliberate.) Part of the fun is walking out with a paladin with great paladin stats (strength, constitution, dexterity, etc.) and dumb as a post and taking your chances with that. OTOH, this is much faster.
So, resuming:
The cut scene format is actually a nice middle-of-the-road approach -- not over-animated, but that series-of-dramatic-stills approach that has been on-and-off popular for a decade and a half and not coincidentally works on all processors.

(Stop me before I adj-dash again)
So here was are in Skara Brae ... but Old Skara Brae, or maybe Torched by Tarjan Skara Brae, or @RealSkaraBrae, or something. On the one hand, the concept is clever -- ruins beneath the main city, and with a lot of ruin-y features and art. Definite props.
On the other hand, despite years of therapy, I remember Bard's Tale III, and there wasn't this much Skara Brae left when the game opened, right after Tarjan had his temper-tantrum. The story of how it came to sort of be again is neat, but a bit strained.

A word to anyone expecting "Your foes are endless, their tales unknown": This is not that combat system. Combat is limited to what can fit on a 4x4 grid, half for good guys and baddies, and combat isn't turn-based the way it was before.
Before, you'd assign actions to your whole party, then set combat in motion; heroes and monsters would attack in sequence of their speed and initiative, repeat. Here, you or the enemy starts first, each side taking turns and activating actions.
You're going to have to get used to the idea that the spells you knew and loved before -- Dragon Breath, Warstrike, etc. -- are pale shadows of what they were when you could use them to take down that giant round of berserkers to a manageable size.
So basically, and speaking purely hypothetically, if your character is named after your favorite magician-turned-conjurer-turned-sorcerer-turned-wizard-turned-archmage, be prepared for not being the firepower demigod your character's namesake was.
Because initially you have no choice but to be in the front ranks, you're gonna get tagged a bit.

In a word, the combat system is a bit more realistic than the days of yore, but trades off some of the spectacle of magic in the process.
On the other hand, things like this won't happen any more.
One nice touch is making combat a bit more realistic in terms of how it comes to be. Back when, wander around a town or a wilderness or a dungeon, and the game would randomly generate battles at you with no visual marker or way for you to avoid it.
It made us strong! And also kind of weary because grinding is still grinding, especially if it's forced on you.

Now, you can (1) see enemies up ahead (2) through a handy color-coding, tell if you're facing certain death and (3) engage or retreat before starting battle.
The actual combat mechanics are a mixed bag. The mobility and ability to adjust character position on the fly, moderated by action points, is good. That your spellcaster is a magic eunuch -- at early levels, no spell points to start -- on the first round of battle, not so good.
The loot is underwhelming, but this is a first-level battle, so duh. Having it sitting in a nice little pouch does make things a lot easier.

Battle is over, which leads us to saving.
The save system in Bard's Tale and The Destiny Knight (aka, the Real Bard's Tale Games) required retreating to the Adventurer's Guild to save, which was a function of memory hardware and firmware of the time. Most games now let you save whenever or it saves as you go.
This system -- random, not-infrequent save-points -- is a split-the-baby approach that compromises between the challenge of the old system and the fact that modern phones(!) can run advanced games of the 80s and not even blink, so saving anywhere and anywhen is easy.
As an aside, and this has bugged me since kindergarten, I've never been clear why "anyhow" and "anywhere" became words, but "anywho," "anywhy," and "anywhen," didn't. This is one of those trivia things that bug me when I remember, but which I promptly forget.
That some of the save points can be cannibalized for experience -- and therefore no longer useful for saving -- is a nod to power gaming.
Another combat later and it's time to heal. Food can be shared between party members and used for healing some or functionally all damage, which is nice and mildly painful because healing spells take magic you don't have but don't take inventory slots of which you have limited.
More insanely beautiful music. Time to stop and listen.
One of the unrequited crushes of my youth was a pretty Scottish girl with red hair, sharp eyes, and a voice like the first warm breeze of spring, so this is catching me where it counts.
The ability and the need to perform non-combat music and actions that affect the game world was one of the things I liked most about Bard's Tale I and II, which actually gave you the feeling of being part of the world instead of just monster exterminators.
So adding that mechanic in here continues that tradition; and it fits within the general theme of where all of this is going.
Seeing the inside of the was-supposed-to-have-been-leveled-by-Tarjan Adventurer's Guild doesn't carry the emotional weight I thought it would. It's pretty, it's well-rendered, it has my Fire Horn (yes!) sitting there, but ... it doesn't feel like the Guild of old.
Thread limit and break time. Back soon.
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