The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

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The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by sear » July 22nd, 2016, 7:11 am

Today we have a new Bard's Tale IV update for you all! This one is a big one as it discusses our plans for character progression, including our skill tree, equipment and mastering new abilities, and the return of the Review Board...

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/in ... ts/1636433
Experience is a concept that RPG fans should be very accustomed to. Besting foes, solving ancient riddles, and rediscovering forgotten parts of the old world all grant experience, which naturally leads to leveling up. In The Bard's Tale IV, our goal with character advancement is to find a balanced system that always provides a meaningful amount of growth at even its smallest increments, while also being fun to use. For us, this centers around our skill tree.

The original Bard's Tale trilogy had a character progression system closely tied to your starting class, plus the fascinating idea of evolving into different types as you reached higher levels. A budding Conjurer could progress down that track, or change professions and learn to be a Magician, Wizard, Sorcerer, and ultimately an Archmage. We are retaining this strong class-based focus in The Bard's Tale IV. We’re also opening up this more in-depth character progression to all the classes, allowing each class to specialize into their own set of sub-classes. By merging the sub-class concept into a tree structure, we are better able to give each adventurer meaningful and impactful choices each time you level up.

Each class has access to its own unique skill tree. From here, your adventurer is able to learn how to wield new gear, gain attribute points, learn new abilities, and gain passive effects. Basically, your character can be fully described through their skill tree. At a glance, you can tell a Sorcerer from a Wizard, a Thief from an Assassin, and a Vanguard from a Commander, all just by looking at their skill tree. Each time one of your Adventurers levels up, they are granted a single point to spend on their skill tree, with each skill costing exactly one point.

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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by lamata » July 22nd, 2016, 7:41 am

Did you consider an option to re-specialize in the middle of gameplay? This was possible in Darksiders 2 and I loved this concept, I did not have to worry that much when picking up a skill - I tested it and if I liked it I kept it and if I did not, I picked another skill.

Also, if you get some item which needs some skill you don't have, you might consider re-specializing because of this item. Re-specialization opens a lot of new options, though some hardcore gamers might not like it.

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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by Tuoweit » July 22nd, 2016, 8:01 am

The update mentions that new abilities are generally unlocked by equipment and are not explicit in the skill tree.

I strongly hope the game will provide that information explicitly in some way *before* I make the initial choice to pursue, say, greatsword over another combat style, rather than make me choose blindly and equip a greatsword only to find out 10 levels down the line that the abilities granted by the Tier N greatsword are not to my liking. I may not fully understand what that information means when I'm just starting out, but at least I could make somewhat-informed decisions.

Lamata's respecialization suggestion would also alleviate that potential issue.

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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by Crosmando » July 22nd, 2016, 9:31 am

lamata wrote:Did you consider an option to re-specialize in the middle of gameplay? This was possible in Darksiders 2 and I loved this concept, I did not have to worry that much when picking up a skill - I tested it and if I liked it I kept it and if I did not, I picked another skill.

Also, if you get some item which needs some skill you don't have, you might consider re-specializing because of this item. Re-specialization opens a lot of new options, though some hardcore gamers might not like it.
The reason some "hardcore" gamers don't like it is because it makes character development decisions rather redundant if you can just go to a trainer and pay to completely change your abilities and stats. Also from a roleplay perspective, characters get better as they fight monsters, complete quests, and so on, it kinda breaks the illusion of this progression when say a tough expert swordfighter can magically just become a skinny agile archer instantly by visiting a trainer.

Not that I want to dig up this old discussion, as it's essentially the same old "Game-ism versus Simulationism" debate. I think there's two ends of the spectrum, on one end there's gameplay convenience and on the other there's realism or making the game feel like it's actually a simulation of a party of adventurers. I think respeccing is at the far end of convenience because it really damages believability.
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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by thebruce » July 22nd, 2016, 10:07 am

Also, in the classics if we wanted a different class or a different skillset, we had to create new characters and build them up. Some people might have a selection of characters sitting at the AG for specialized purpose, while having their regular band of adventurers for out exploring. That was a viable strategy. In BT, you make your character, and you progress with that character. There were generally enough slots that most anything in game was accessible/usable by someone in the party, so misisng out wasn't a big deal. Even the class-requirement only popped up once or twice (based on the name of the game ;))

At that point it's really a matter of game content design decisions and balance, rather than progression mechanics.
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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by thebruce » July 22nd, 2016, 10:10 am

Reposting the comment I posted to KS (dagnabbit no edit there):

Regarding locking branches and being a 'jack of all trades', keep in mind that there are indeed many paths a character can take. It seems to me that any tree branch that gets locked is because logically training in one route necessarily precludes/contradicts training in another. Ultimately the devs would need to decide carefully which branches would be counter-productive and only lock those, but I see the multiple achievable archetypes as a form of jack of all trades in this progression style.

This would be similar to the classics where a spellcaster might change classes before learning all 7 levels of their current class. The move to switch classes would produce a 'locked' branch in their tree. That's really the only case however as all non-spellcasters were either single-class or one secondary class (save for Geomancer, which would also effectively be a universal branch-lock class change decision).

I don't see a significant problem with branch locking in the progression tree, as long as the logic behind one skill or the other actually makes sense (ie, a person wouldn't learn both skills as they'd conflict with each other - not like learning multiple weapons, but more like learning a skill that produces a physique that would not be optimal for the alternate skill, for example).
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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by sear » July 22nd, 2016, 10:22 am

thebruce wrote:Also, in the classics if we wanted a different class or a different skillset, we had to create new characters and build them up. Some people might have a selection of characters sitting at the AG for specialized purpose, while having their regular band of adventurers for out exploring. That was a viable strategy. In BT, you make your character, and you progress with that character. There were generally enough slots that most anything in game was accessible/usable by someone in the party, so misisng out wasn't a big deal. Even the class-requirement only popped up once or twice (based on the name of the game ;))

At that point it's really a matter of game content design decisions and balance, rather than progression mechanics.
This is something we'll likely touch on in future updates. We are definitely conscious how the different aspects of character progression also tie in with additional gameplay elements.

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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by Drool » July 22nd, 2016, 12:09 pm

Well... it's not as insane as, say, Path of Exile, but I always worry when trees get complex like this as it frequently leads to choice paralysis. It looks like the generic fighter there has 5 subclasses, plus that bit off to the lower left, and I count 52 skills. That's quite a bit for a "poke bad guys with sharp thing" class. That's also a sign of a lot of skills being juggled around. Warrior (there were no "fighters"), Paladin, Monk, Hunter, Bard, Rogue. 312 skills. Not counting the mages.

This feels excessive and not very Bard's Tale-y (a subjective standard, I know). But this always leads to a lot of down time and regret on the part of the player. Especially if they take all three levels of "wield axe" only to find out that axes pretty much suck, or that the Stoneblade makes every other weapon largely superfluous. And, it runs the risk of finding itself in a M&MX situation where the right party build makes the game a cakewalk and all others make it monstrous, if not impossible.

It also kinda feels like a cheap way to get replayabilty by making it so that you need to play each class two or three times to see what they have to offer.

Also, please, no level cap. I know everyone loves doing that, but please don't. Especially not here. This is supposed to be a sequel to a series of dungeon crawl blobbers. This is one of the places where grinding is appropriate. Even desired. If I want to kill boars in the forest until I'm level 50, I should be able to.
By wielding a great club you'd be able to use Lumbering Strike during battle, while wielding a battle standard would allow you to rally your allies with the ability "To Me, Brothers."
No offense guys, but this is starting to sound like an MMO.



Sadly, while this sounds like it could be a really fun game with a lot of depth, every update makes it sound less and less like Bard's Tale.
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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by IHaveHugeNick » July 22nd, 2016, 12:57 pm

Drool wrote: Sadly, while this sounds like it could be a really fun game with a lot of depth, every update makes it sound less and less like Bard's Tale.
That it does, but to be fair, making it "like Bards tale" was always going to be the biggest challenge in this entire project. This isn't like sequels to the classics from the 90s, where a lot of the systems can be more or less reused. They have to design almost everything from scratch and try to make it "feel" like Bards Tale, and we won't know if they succeeded until we get to play the damn thing in 2021.
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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by Zombra » July 22nd, 2016, 1:20 pm

Thanks for the update!

I agree that being able to customize one's characters isn't very "Bard's Tale-y" ... but I wouldn't call "dull, identical characters" exactly a "feature" of the series :) To me this is an obviously wonderful system. I love making unique characters, ones that are truly "mine". If I really wanted to tell you how I feel, what's being shown here isn't complex enough ... but I can live with it as a compromise between old BT and a truly crunchy skill system.

I would be totally OK with a menu option to "spend my points for me" into default builds of each class. Maybe the generic fighter would always be a Vanguard for example. This would ensure the game would be playable by choice-averse players while letting those of us who prefer to to explore other possibilities.

I am definitely not sanguine with "respecs" in a game of this type. Yes, I am on the side of the "hardcore" here. Character advancement is meaningless if it can be rewritten at the touch of a button. The only way I would consider it would be if you could "forget" skills or levels and then have to level up all over again to learn something new. Like, literally drop a level and have to earn the xp all over. "Trading in" advanced knowledge for other advanced knowledge is ridiculous and ruinous to any sense of teeth or meaning to my decisions. Let me become suboptimal and live with that decision.

Lastly, I am on Drool's side re: level caps (they are bad). I would far prefer a system of diminishing returns to make "outleveling" difficult, time-consuming, or otherwise impractical; but gameplay should never involve zero returns in a game of this type. It's also fine with me if the number of skills per character is limited - more than fine - I hate the idea of a character maxing every tree. But one should still be able - at least in theory - to level up more and increase numerical stats.
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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by balinor » July 22nd, 2016, 1:57 pm

IHaveHugeNick wrote:
Drool wrote: Sadly, while this sounds like it could be a really fun game with a lot of depth, every update makes it sound less and less like Bard's Tale.
That it does, but to be fair, making it "like Bards tale" was always going to be the biggest challenge in this entire project. This isn't like sequels to the classics from the 90s, where a lot of the systems can be more or less reused. They have to design almost everything from scratch and try to make it "feel" like Bards Tale, and we won't know if they succeeded until we get to play the damn thing in 2021.
Uh, sure they could do a proper sequel. They said they were making a sequel hence why I gave them money. The problem here is that they don't seem to be making a sequel they seem to be making a different game completely and just sticking the name on it. I'll try it and hopefully enjoy it, but I don't think it is going to be a Bard's Tale game.

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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by Ronin73 » July 22nd, 2016, 4:03 pm

balinor wrote:
IHaveHugeNick wrote:
Drool wrote: Sadly, while this sounds like it could be a really fun game with a lot of depth, every update makes it sound less and less like Bard's Tale.
That it does, but to be fair, making it "like Bards tale" was always going to be the biggest challenge in this entire project. This isn't like sequels to the classics from the 90s, where a lot of the systems can be more or less reused. They have to design almost everything from scratch and try to make it "feel" like Bards Tale, and we won't know if they succeeded until we get to play the damn thing in 2021.
Uh, sure they could do a proper sequel. They said they were making a sequel hence why I gave them money. The problem here is that they don't seem to be making a sequel they seem to be making a different game completely and just sticking the name on it. I'll try it and hopefully enjoy it, but I don't think it is going to be a Bard's Tale game.
Sadly, the same thing happened with Wasteland 2. I wish I could say I was surprised that this is happnning to the Bard's Tale, but this seems to be the way inXile wants to do things.

My pledge was adjusted accordingly this time around.
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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by Lucius » July 22nd, 2016, 4:10 pm

I agree with Zombra regarding respecs, with his last point. I definitely would like a respec option, but like Zombra said, it should have a high cost. I was actually thinking the same thing, respeccing costs a skill point; doing so you are intentionally gimping yourself, which may be preferable to playing an already extremely gimped character if you made some horrible choices with terrible synergies.

Overall, I like the character system completely. I like the idea of weapons providing skills, and mastering weapon skills. I agree that there shouldn't be a level cap, but there should be some sort of diminishing returns on xp gain, making overleveling possible, but extremely so would be an excruciating process that isn't for everyone.

My biggest concern is with subclasses right now. It seems by high levels, all characters will be multi-class. I almost feel that class change should unlock another tree to specialize into or you can multi-class at that point. Pure vs hybrid is essentially what I'm getting at. I'm also concerned about mutually exclusive sub-classes. Using the fighter example, a defender who is specialized in heavy armor, shields and whatnot, shouldn't also be able to specialize into a more agile fighter build with fast attacks and extra movement. I think entire sub-class lines may need to be locked if going into certain sub trees. It wouldn't make sense to have a druid, who typically believe in life and the healing power of nature, to also be able to become a necromancer, who plays with death and the unliving, at the same time. These two concepts seem mutually exclusive.

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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by Lord of Riva » July 23rd, 2016, 3:41 am

I really like what i read so far, i love both the customisation and the skills through equipment part of the system big thumbs up!

im with the "hardcore" guys on the respec, there is no point in choices if you can just go back and redo it. Because Drool has definitely a point if the system is imbalanced in a way that makes plathroughs really hard (there is no perfect balance im aware and this may happen even if you try the best you can) you may frustrate newcomers or people who cant or wont take the time to restart/grind/learn to play the game with their awkward skills

There are systems that integrate a respec in a time consuming way/limited amount this may be an option. It would definitely not bother me this way at least and may solve any issue that results through this.

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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by Drool » July 23rd, 2016, 12:39 pm

Zombra wrote:I wouldn't call "dull, identical characters" exactly a "feature" of the series
I wouldn't call the classes in BT1-3 dull and identical either. Okay, the Warrior was kinda dull but still.
Zombra wrote:To me this is an obviously wonderful system. I love making unique characters, ones that are truly "mine".
Honestly, it kinda reminds me of Torchlight. But, sure, it's a great system, but I'm not sure it fits particularly well here. A Corvette is a lovely car, but I wouldn't pick it to tow a boat.
Zombra wrote:Yes, I am on the side of the "hardcore" here. Character advancement is meaningless if it can be rewritten at the touch of a button. The only way I would consider it would be if you could "forget" skills or levels and then have to level up all over again to learn something new.
I'm torn on respec. I generally agree with Sawyer that it exists on a sliding scale with how critical and permanent your choices are. Incidentally, the level cap kinda ties into this as minor "errors" can be paved over if there's no cap and you just need to get a couple more levels to get that skill point (or whatever) back.

If the five Warrior (no fighters, dammit) paragons are reasonably well balanced and the differences are mostly playstyle, say, Berserker vs Duelist then a respec is unnecessary. Likewise, if you can just scrap the Warrior and build another (like replacing a Warrior with a Paladin in the originals), then there's no need to respec.

However, if it's something like, say, Dragon Age, where the setup is a lot more important, or M&MX where there's no repeatable fights so no XP grinding to bring a new member up to speed, then some kind of respec becomes important. Yes, I know the "hardcore" opinion is "just start over, scrub", but for a lot of people, "just start over" is the same as "stop playing". And "stop playing" frequently leads to "tell people the game is shit".

I'm not saying it needs to be as easy as Borderlands where it's just X% of your current cash. Hell, it could be a one-time item at the end of the first dungeon. But if BT4 ends up being like WL2 where you're locked in with your party, and the advancement differences are pretty major, then something should exist. I like replaying games, but I don't like replaying something I just finished because it turns out my given builds are laughably unprepared for the game.

Of course, that also means that the closer this game is to the originals, the less need there'll be for respec...
Zombra wrote:Lastly, I am on Drool's side re: level caps (they are bad). I would far prefer a system of diminishing returns to make "outleveling" difficult, time-consuming, or otherwise impractical
I still remember overleveling my Monk in BT3. Their AC dropped with every level, and I leveled him so much that he hit some internal limit in the game's code. And then wrapped around to +128 or so AC. Funny as hell.
Lucius wrote:Overall, I like the character system completely. I like the idea of weapons providing skills, and mastering weapon skills.
Now I remember why it's so familiar... this is what Final Fantasy 5 and Tactics did.
Lucius wrote:I'm also concerned about mutually exclusive sub-classes. Using the fighter example, a defender who is specialized in heavy armor, shields and whatnot, shouldn't also be able to specialize into a more agile fighter build with fast attacks and extra movement.
Well, their example was Heavy Armor blocking off taking a Medium Armor route, so I would assume that your Walking Tank Defender would be mutually exclusive to your Dread Pirate Roberts Swashbuckler.
_noblesse_oblige_ wrote:Part of me wishes that inXile would just suspend BT IV development, go make the game that they want to make under a different name, and then come back and make a proper BT sequel, once they have gotten the desire to make non-Bards-Tale-like things out of their system.
Heh. I'm trying to be positive, but... yeah.

And that's kinda the kick to the balls, isn't it? WL2 was a perfectly fine game, but it felt much more like Fallout than Wasteland. This looks like it might be a great game, but it doesn't look like Bard's Tale right now. It looks like... I dunno... a freakbaby from Pillars of Eternity, Hearthstone, Torchlight, and Final Fantasy. With a bit of Celtic and Scottish lore sprinkled on top.

Maybe sequels 30 years on aren't a good idea after all.
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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by _noblesse_oblige_ » July 23rd, 2016, 3:28 pm

Drool wrote:This looks like it might be a great game, but it doesn't look like Bard's Tale right now. It looks like... I dunno... a freakbaby from Pillars of Eternity, Hearthstone, Torchlight, and Final Fantasy. With a bit of Celtic and Scottish lore sprinkled on top.

Maybe sequels 30 years on aren't a good idea after all.
Haha. Yeah, I'm also trying to stay positive, but I think your characterization is pretty accurate.

One thing I hope they don't do is make too many compromises. For their sake, I would rather they gave up all pretense of trying to please old fans of the originals and just make a good game. I'll stop short of saying that I'm insulted by having to go to the Review Board to level up to the next "tier" of a skill tree, but I wish they would either go all in or all out and not try to appease us grognards by pulling in random bits and pieces from the original series. Of course, I really wish they would stop trying to make a game that isn't Bard's Tale in anything but name.
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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by Sacred_Path » July 24th, 2016, 1:03 am

Great update!

I welcome the amount of choices, though it remains to be seen if there are really five distinctive ways for a fighter to specialize. But I'm glad it's not just the mages anymore who have such flexibility.

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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by ZiN » July 24th, 2016, 4:51 am

Interesting, but alas, not too Bard's Tale-y in my opinion. Looks like every class is getting 5 sub-classes now.
Much like how Conjurers can specialize to become Wizards, Magicians, Sorcerers, and ultimately Archmages in the classic Bard's Tale games...
More accurately, both Conjurers and Magicians were starting classes, who could specialize further, including learning the spell levels of each other. Also the Chronomancer option was a nice touch in BT3.
other classes are also able to specialize and attain titles of their own to evolve their capabilities. The Fighter, for instance, is able to become a Vanguard, Veteran, Commander, Champion, or Defender – each carrying with them their own game-changing abilities, gear, and passives.
Hopefully they can also become Geomancers at some point?

Looks like the itemization will be rather complex as well (like Diablo, MMOs etc.), so we will need to explicitly spec for that high-level, epic-tier Stoneblade, Conjurstaff, or Fire Horn.
Your character can be fully described through their skill tree. At a glance, you can tell a Sorcerer from a Wizard, a Thief from an Assassin, and a Vanguard from a Commander, all just by looking at their skill tree.
Or, just by looking at their portrait. That's many portraits, i hope they will be just as cool as in BT2:

Image Image Image Image Image
Magician, Conjurer, Sorcerer, Wizard, Archmage
thebruce wrote:Also, in the classics if we wanted a different class or a different skillset, we had to create new characters and build them up. Some people might have a selection of characters sitting at the AG for specialized purpose, while having their regular band of adventurers for out exploring. That was a viable strategy.
Very much this, in BT1-2. I think it's important that we're able to create more than 5 characters total in the game, although some of them will be sitting in the Guild, until we decide to power-level them and give them some good gear we've found. For example in BT2, my 4 Archmage party had their own army of spellbound monsters, as well as a Bard and several Rogues/Hunters for major anti-magic zones.

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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by chaney » July 24th, 2016, 8:00 am

The skill points is straight out of Dragon Wars. I enjoyed it there, so will have to see if it implements here, as well. I have read all the posts, and can definitely see both sides. With each update, it does feel like they are going further away from the BT of our day, and in a whole new direction. I can't say that the new direction doesn't sound fun, it just doesn't sound like a true sequel. In replaying the original series, I am sure everyone has had those,
" I wish they had done this", or "I don't like this aspect" moments. There really is no way to please everyone with this effort. In my mind, the only way they could have made a true sequel, was using BT builder, and as much as I loved BT, the engine was way clunky by today's standards. On the positive side, It is amazing to see how much passion still exists for the original series.

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Re: The Bard's Tale IV Update 30: Character Progression

Post by Zombra » July 24th, 2016, 11:14 am

ZiN wrote:Looks like every class is getting 5 sub-classes now.
To me, other classes becoming as interesting as magic-users is not something to complain about! :)
At a glance, you can tell [a character's class] just by looking at their skill tree.
Or, just by looking at their portrait. That's many portraits, i hope they will be just as cool as in BT2:
The BT2 portraits are great! What a nice style. Of course I expect BT4 will be high res, detailed "realistic", static paintings, just because that's the default art style for every game nowadays, more's the pity.

And I definitely expect that the player will choose portraits from a (probably too small) pool, not have portraits assigned based on class. That would be downright foolishness.
I think it's important that we're able to create more than 5 characters total in the game
Don't hold your breath on this either. I think it would be great too, but it just doesn't fit the mentality of games today. Your starting party will be able to do everything, no need for a large roster. Deplorable, but that's the reality.
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