The Bard's Tale (2004 video game)

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The Bard's Tale
Xbox cover art
Developer(s)InXile Entertainment
Publisher(s)InXile Entertainment
Director(s)Matthew Findley
Producer(s)Brian Fargo
Designer(s)Eric Flannum
Brian Fargo
Matthew Findley
Programmer(s)John Alvarado
Kyle Riccio
Michael Winfield
Artist(s)Michael Kaufman
Brandon Humphreys
Chris Robinson
Writer(s)Matthew Findley
Eric Flannum
Dennis M. Miller
John Parry
Composer(s)Tommy Tallarico
Clint Bajakian
Jared Emerson-Johnson
Peter McConnell
Michael Land
SeriesThe Bard's Tale
EngineDark Alliance Engine
Platform(s)PlayStation 2, Xbox, Windows, iOS, OS X, Linux, PlayBook, Android, Ouya, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
October 26, 2004
  • PlayStation 2 & Xbox
    • NA: October 26, 2004
    • EU: March 24, 2005
    • EU: June 17, 2005
    • NA: June 27, 2005
    • WW: December 11, 2009 (PC)
    • WW: November 26, 2012 (OS X)
    iOS & Android
    • WW: December 1, 2011
    OS X
    • WW: May 25, 2012
    BlackBerry PlayBook
    • WW: September 13, 2012
    • WW: June 4, 2013
    • WW: October 8, 2013
    PS4, PS Vita
    • NA: August 17, 2017[1]
    • EU: August 21, 2017
    XONE, Switch
    • WW: June 18, 2020
Genre(s)Action role-playing

The Bard's Tale is an action role-playing game developed and published by inXile Entertainment in 2004 and was distributed by Vivendi Universal Games in North America and Ubisoft in Europe (The game was originally going to be distributed by Acclaim Entertainment there, until they filed for bankruptcy [2]). The game was marketed as a humorous spoof of fantasy role-playing video games. It is neither a remake nor a sequel to Interplay Productions' Tales of the Unknown, Volume I: The Bard's Tale (1985).

The Bard's Tale was released for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in October 2004. It was released for Microsoft Windows in June 2005. The game was re-released on Steam in December 2009. A universal iOS version was released in December 2011 for iPhone and iPad along with the Android version. The BlackBerry PlayBook version was released in September 2012. In June 2013, the game was also ported to Ouya with full controller support.

The game was remastered in 2020 and released under the title The Bard's Tale ARPG: Remastered and Resnarkled.[3]


Unlike the turn-based, first-person view of the classic Bard's Tale games, this game is in a 3D environment with the player watching the only controllable character from an overhead vantage point. It is better described as an action-adventure game than a traditional role-playing video game (i.e. there are no character classes or inventory management).

The player's character, The Bard, has magic and weaponry at his disposal to complete the task. The more the player accomplishes, the better his skills will become. The appearance and gameplay is much the same as the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance series, which shares the same graphics engine.

In game dialog uses a "snarky or nice" system that allows the player to change the outcome of many situations by deciding how they want to respond. The player doesn't know exactly what The Bard will say, but must choose between two labeled buttons. Some choices, such as being snarky to the dog at the beginning of the game, have game-lasting consequences. The first decision is whether to be nice or snarky to the barmaid in The Drunken Rat. Being nice to her gives her the impression that The Bard is a gentleman and she leaves him alone, while being snarky ensures The Bard will spend the night with her.


An advertisement for the game prior to release showing The Bard following the path "Coin & Cleavage" as opposed to "Save the World"

Although touted in early promotional materials as a remake of the classic Bard's Tale series, InXile Entertainment never had any rights to the series' trademarks of the original Bard's Tale — those rights are still owned by Electronic Arts. This meant that InXile was not legally allowed to use any of the plot, characters or locations featured in the original trilogy. However, allusions to the original Bard's Tale do exist in the game. The city in which Fionnaoch's tower stands, Dounby, is only a few kilometers away from the ruins of real-world Skara Brae, where the original trilogy takes place. The PC, Android, and iOS ports of The Bard's Tale comes packaged with the original Bard's Tale trilogy.

The plot involves "a sardonic and opportunistic musician and adventurer, driven by carnal rather than noble pursuits. The Bard, who is never identified by a specific name nor addressed by anything other than 'The Bard,' is not interested in saving the world; his humble motivations are strictly 'coin and cleavage.'" His quest is narrated by a mocking, biased man (played by Tony Jay) who cannot stand him. Many of the names and characters are influenced by Celtic mythology and the stories of the Orkney Islands. (Most of the names for places are actual locations in the Orkney Islands, including Kirkwall, Dounby, Finstown, Houton, and Stromness. Some optional areas are places in Ireland, including Dún Ailinne, Ardagh, Carrowmore, Emain Macha, and Tara.)

The Bard (voiced by Cary Elwes) ends up being recruited by a cult to help free a princess named Caleigh. As a result of this, The Bard finds himself being attacked by an assortment of fanatics from a Druid-like cult, sent to dispatch him by a being called Fionnaoch. On the way to complete his quest, the not so valiant anti-hero will have to overcome the truly terrifying challenges of three monstrous guardians, break-dancing corpses, spontaneously melodious goblins, a giant, and a fire-breathing rat.

Eventually, it is revealed that The Bard is just another in a long line of "Chosen Ones," many of whom he finds dead along his path. Caleigh is revealed to actually be a demon tempting people to come free her for years on the assumption that eventually someone would succeed. If The Bard frees Caleigh, she gives him all his heart's desires while destroying the world. If he slays Caleigh, The Bard returns to the road in search of the next bar maid. Alternatively, he can refuse to fight either the Druid Leader or Caleigh, allowing the undead to overrun the world, a situation he is content with as they make good bar buddies.


The PlayStation 2, Xbox, and iOS versions received "favorable" reviews, while the PC version received "average" reviews, according to video game review aggregator Metacritic.[22][23][24][25] The A.V. Club gave the iOS version a score of B+, praising the narration of Tony Jay, "whose incredulity and exasperation with pretty much everything in the game is a warm delight."[19] Detroit Free Press awarded the Xbox version three stars out of four and opined it was "one of the few games that is downright funny, and there were honest laugh-out-loud moments sprinkled throughout it that kept me playing."[20] The Sydney Morning Herald gave the PlayStation 2 version a score of three-and-a-half stars out of five: "The story and dialogue never cease to entertain. Objectives include rescuing prisoners, killing fearsome scarecrows and playing Cupid. But, although the developers want to ridicule, the action remains conventional."[26]


  1. ^ InXile Entertainment [@Inxile_Ent] (17 August 2017). "We are proud to announce that our 2004 #BardsTale has returned to the @PlayStation, available now on #PS4 & #Vita!…" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  2. ^ "Acclaim warns of possible bankruptcy".
  3. ^ Green, Steven (7 July 2020). "The Bard's Tale ARPG: Remastered and Resnarkled Review - Review". Nintendo World Report. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  4. ^ a b Edge staff (December 25, 2004). "The Bard's Tale (PS2, Xbox)". Edge. No. 144. p. 93.
  5. ^ a b EGM staff (December 25, 2004). "The Bard's Tale (PS2, Xbox)". Electronic Gaming Monthly (186): 102.
  6. ^ Reed, Kristan (May 5, 2005). "The Bard's Tale (Xbox)". Eurogamer. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Biessener, Adam (December 2004). "The Bard's Tale (PS2, Xbox)". Game Informer. No. 140. p. 167. Archived from the original on May 3, 2007. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  8. ^ Star Dingo (December 2004). "The Bard's Tale Review for PS2 on". GamePro: 154. Archived from the original on February 13, 2005. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  9. ^ a b Silverman, Ben (November 19, 2004). "The Bard's Tale Review (PS2, Xbox)". Game Revolution. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  10. ^ Davis, Ryan (July 11, 2005). "The Bard's Tale Review (PC)". GameSpot. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  11. ^ a b Davis, Ryan (October 25, 2004). "The Bard's Tale Review (PS2, Xbox)". GameSpot. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  12. ^ a b Padilla, Raymond (October 26, 2004). "GameSpy: The Bard's Tale (PS2, Xbox)". GameSpy. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  13. ^ Bedigian, Louis (November 7, 2004). "The Bard's Tale - PS2 - Review". GameZone. Archived from the original on October 4, 2008. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  14. ^ Wrentmore, John (November 15, 2004). "The Bard's Tale - XB - Review". GameZone. Archived from the original on June 25, 2008. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  15. ^ a b Goldstein, Hilary (October 21, 2004). "The Bard's Tale (PS2, Xbox)". IGN. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  16. ^ "The Bard's Tale". Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine: 118. November 2004. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  17. ^ "The Bard's Tale". Official Xbox Magazine: 84. December 25, 2004.
  18. ^ "The Bard's Tale". PC Gamer: 81. September 2005.
  19. ^ a b A.V. Club staff (December 12, 2011). "Dec. 12, 2011 (The Bard's Tale, iOS)". The A.V. Club. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  20. ^ a b Newman, Heather (December 5, 2004). "'The Bard's Tale' (Xbox)". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on December 10, 2004. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  21. ^ Ford, Eric (December 7, 2011). "'The Bard's Tale' Review – A Great Port of the Snarky Action-RPG". TouchArcade. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  22. ^ a b "The Bard's Tale for iPhone/iPad Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  23. ^ a b "The Bard's Tale for PC Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  24. ^ a b "The Bard's Tale for PlayStation 2 Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  25. ^ a b "The Bard's Tale for Xbox Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  26. ^ Hill, Jason (October 21, 2004). "Uneven quality". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved December 14, 2015.

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