Finished BT4

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Drool
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Finished BT4

Post by Drool » November 17th, 2019, 1:02 pm

So, I finished it awhile ago and put together a full review on YouTube, but thought I'd give a tl;dw here, since that video's 40-some minutes long.

Barrows Deep as a stand-alone, is probably a B-/C+ game, largely depending on your tolerance for endless, repetative puzzles. Fix the crash-to-desktop issue (and, seriously, why would equipping an archmage robe make the game crash?) and it's probably a solid B. If it was in the $25-30 range, I'd probably recommend it; $50 is pretty steep. It took me about 30 hours, give or take, to finish it, which is a little on the short side for a modern RPG.

Of course, the elephant in the room is the fact that it's not Barrows Deep. It's Bard's Tale 4: Barrows Deep, and that presents us with additional issues. There's been a lot of virtual ink spilled about if it's faithful or not, and I still come down solidly in the "not" camp. Which is really too bad, because, with better writing, it could have at least been passable.

Also, something that I don't really mention in the video is the horrible way the Fatherites were handled. I mean, aside from being pathetic strawmen for the Catholic church. No, I'm talking about the utter lack of payoff. In game, they're presented as the villians. They destroy the Adventurers' Guild, they hang a bunch of people in the beginning (how very At World's End), they're roaming the underground hunting for adventurers, they're seemingly framing people...

And then...

And then...

...they kinda disappear. We get another fight with them towards the end, but it doesn't feel like anything's been resolved. You'd think the events of that cutscene before we fight them at the end would have made an impression on them, but nope. Just another sub-mini-boss fight. I mean, I guess they kinda-sorta pop up elsewhere for scrub fights, but those are just that: scrub fights. Due to the lack of variety in enemies, pretty much all human foes are completely interchangable. The differences between a Fatherite archer, a bandit archer, and a cultist archer are basically just the modern version of a palette-swap. The poor handling of the Fatherites just further cements them in my mind as lame strawmen added more for soapbox reasons than anything.

I really wanted this to be better. I enjoyed it well enough, but it's just not the Bard's Tale sequel I was promised. And the thing the really makes me laugh is that during preproduction, I was most worried about how the combat was a major departure from the originals, but now that I've played it, I'm fine with the combat (it has its issues, but, meh). It's what was done to the lore that breaks my heart.
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Re: Finished BT4

Post by demeisen » November 17th, 2019, 2:16 pm

It took me about 30 hours
That's impressive (no snark meant, BTW: that's quite fast by my standards!) I'm playing spoiler-free, and I'm 85 hours in so far. I think I'm getting on towards the end, though.

Some of the puzzles took me a while to figure out without using internet references, which is where a lot of my playtime went. I agree there are too many of them. I genuinely enjoyed the first examples of most types and felt they were well designed and decent enough fun, but they got spammy. The first few energy puzzles were fun, but after the 10th huge energy room to figure out, it became a chore. Sometime less is more.

I'm shaping up to a B or B- kind of opinion, though my underlying reasons are quite different from yours. (Edit: my overall take is probably a touch better than yours, though).
Last edited by demeisen on November 17th, 2019, 3:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Finished BT4

Post by Gizmo » November 17th, 2019, 3:04 pm

But will they learn from this? I expect that they will take the predictable stance that any (and all) criticism comes from the negatively biased, [rather than informed, and initially interested] fan, and if one is not for them (praising their creation far & wide), then one is against them, and you cannot ever please —those— people, and it could never ever be their own fault, no never that.

*It's absolutely their own fault.

**I am still trying to slog through it, but it gets more disheartening every session; except for the general concept art—which I think is superb... but not often well realized in the 3d models.

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Re: Finished BT4

Post by Drool » November 17th, 2019, 5:13 pm

demeisen wrote:
November 17th, 2019, 2:16 pm
Some of the puzzles took me a while to figure out without using internet references, which is where a lot of my playtime went.
I made pretty heavy use of Struggler's Lament because I had little patience for some of the puzzles, especially when it was just another variation of what had gone before. Of course, if bashing your head against puzzles is an extra 50 hours, that says volumes too.
The first few energy puzzles were fun, but after the 10th huge energy room to figure out, it became a chore. Sometime less is more.
Agreed. A reoccurring theme in the game. As I mention in the video, the energy puzzles were great thematically, but when it's 30 plates across three rooms, I kinda check out.
Gizmo wrote:
November 17th, 2019, 3:04 pm
But will they learn from this? I expect that they will take the predictable stance that any (and all) criticism comes from the negatively biased, [rather than informed, and initially interested] fan, and if one is not for them (praising their creation far & wide), then one is against them, and you cannot ever please —those— people, and it could never ever be their own fault, no never that.
Eh. One can hope. But my intention is more to help people make a decision and, well, to rant about my issues. But, I'd like to think I was fair about it.
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Re: Finished BT4

Post by _noblesse_oblige_ » November 18th, 2019, 11:45 am

Your review was quite fair and I take my hat off to you for actually slogging through that game. I lost all will to do so early on.

I will say that I did not find the combat to be mechanically compatible with the original BT combat. But, I guess you're saying that you found enjoyment in it in spite of that fact.
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Re: Finished BT4

Post by Drool » November 18th, 2019, 2:42 pm

_noblesse_oblige_ wrote:
November 18th, 2019, 11:45 am
I will say that I did not find the combat to be mechanically compatible with the original BT combat. But, I guess you're saying that you found enjoyment in it in spite of that fact.
Exactly. It's nothing like the original in pretty much any way, but I did find myself enjoying it despite walking in feeling very hostile to it.

Which is just another brick in the wall of "Not bad, but not Bard's Tale".
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Re: Finished BT4

Post by ZiN » November 19th, 2019, 3:14 am

Thanks for the review, man! I have also finished the non-DC version in 50 hours, but generally have the same thoughts, although my review would be much more harsh. The endless repetitive puzzles and trash fights with the same enemies fill 70% of the game. Very bad pacing. The non-DC was also very buggy, I take it the DC is still so. And the writing and "lore" is abysmal. The "Fatherite" (is that an analogue for the "patriarchy"?), Christian caricature is especially distasteful, if one knows Michael Cranford's background.
Drool wrote:
November 17th, 2019, 1:02 pm
And the thing the really makes me laugh is that during preproduction, I was most worried about how the combat was a major departure from the originals, but now that I've played it, I'm fine with the combat (it has its issues, but, meh). It's what was done to the lore that breaks my heart.
I guess Nathan Long is one of those people, who likes to shit on old, beloved franchises and destroy it for the fans, because they find it funny to "subvert expectations". Fallout, Star Trek, Star Wars, Bard's Tale, Terminator... the list goes on. I'll keep voting with my wallet, and never again pay for anything these kind of people are associated with.
Gizmo wrote:
November 17th, 2019, 3:04 pm
But will they learn from this? I expect that they will take the predictable stance that any (and all) criticism comes from the negatively biased, [rather than informed, and initially interested] fan, and if one is not for them (praising their creation far & wide), then one is against them, and you cannot ever please —those— people, and it could never ever be their own fault, no never that.
They won't learn anything beneficial. What they most likely "learned", is that they have their own "toxic fandom" of "entitled" grognards, who criticize their "perfect game" just for the sake of it. I wonder if the community manager will show up and copy paste his "Thanks for the feedback, I'll sure pass this on to the developers" here.

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Re: Finished BT4

Post by Gizmo » November 19th, 2019, 10:07 am

ZiN wrote:
November 19th, 2019, 3:14 am
Christian caricature is especially distasteful, if one knows Michael Cranford's background.
Indeed.
ZiN wrote:
November 19th, 2019, 3:14 am
They won't learn anything beneficial. What they most likely "learned", is that they have their own "toxic fandom" of "entitled" grognards, who criticize their "perfect game" just for the sake of it.
I think that you are probably right.

*But I would like to think that this attitude only extends downward from management—and not directly from individual developers; I would like to think that they were each just doing as instructed... Unfortunately I cannot. :( I think it's endemic of recent culture.

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Re: Finished BT4

Post by Drool » November 19th, 2019, 1:56 pm

ZiN wrote:
November 19th, 2019, 3:14 am
The endless repetitive puzzles and trash fights with the same enemies fill 70% of the game.
Largely enjoying combat helps with the latter, but I can't imagine playing without Struggler's Lament, which probably says volumes all by itself.
The non-DC was also very buggy, I take it the DC is still so.
Mostly just needing a little optimization, and the CTDs. Like I mentioned, the CTDs are supposed to be fixed in the next patch, but it's pretty major. A $50 game really shouldn't be randomly crashing to desktop with no warning. But, aside from that (massive) bug, it runs pretty smooth. But that feels a little like, "Aside from that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?"
The "Fatherite" (is that an analogue for the "patriarchy"?), Christian caricature is especially distasteful, if one knows Michael Cranford's background.
I'm not sure which I hate more, the Fatherite strawmen or turning Mangar, Zanta, and Tarjan into whiny little punks.
They won't learn anything beneficial. What they most likely "learned", is that they have their own "toxic fandom" of "entitled" grognards, who criticize their "perfect game" just for the sake of it.
That's why I tried very hard to avoid just ranting about the lore changes, and tried to keep it straight to the point and actual issues. It was a hard section to write.
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Re: Finished BT4

Post by _noblesse_oblige_ » November 19th, 2019, 3:17 pm

ZiN wrote:
November 19th, 2019, 3:14 am
I guess Nathan Long is one of those people, who likes to shit on old, beloved franchises and destroy it for the fans, because they find it funny to "subvert expectations". Fallout, Star Trek, Star Wars, Bard's Tale, Terminator... the list goes on. I'll keep voting with my wallet, and never again pay for anything these kind of people are associated with.
I'm with you in that I will vote with my wallet. But, I don't just stop there... at work, I actively pointed out the shortcomings of Barrows Deep after its release in our #pc-gaming Slack channel. Getting friends and acquaintances to vote with their wallets is how I try to punish callous exploitation of beloved franchises. (Fortunately, it seems like the world has almost had enough Star Wars exploitation at this point. Hopefully, we won't see another two "Bard's Tale" games from inMicrosoft before everyone else has enough.)

As for whether Nathan Long and the others find it funny to subvert expectations, I don't know. I think some of them have an agenda, which consists of being "edgy" or "counterculture" in the mistaken belief that this somehow makes others see them as creative or enlightened. When they attack a venerable institution like the Catholic Church, then they are usually trying to teach others to eschew "repressive, racist, sexist Western culture". (Note that I'm not religious myself, but I don't agree with people engaging in this kind of propaganda and personally find it insulting to my intelligence. When I play a game, I just want to escape from the modern world and not have it preach to me about the world according to the 2019 Edition of the Political Correctness Handbook.)
ZiN wrote:
November 19th, 2019, 3:14 am
I wonder if the community manager will show up and copy paste his "Thanks for the feedback, I'll sure pass this on to the developers" here.
Ha! If that person did, it would still be an improvement over the response we've gotten for most of the past 4 years... which is dead silence.
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Re: Finished BT4

Post by Drool » November 28th, 2019, 4:30 pm

Just finished recording a video of the ending fight, cinematics, and credits. In actually watching the credits, I got to hear the other two "original trilogy songs". I have to say, I really liked them. The were a very nice summary of the games, and a lovely tribute.
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Re: Finished BT4

Post by waltc » December 1st, 2019, 8:59 am

I didn't see the Fatherites as a play on the Catholic church, necessarily, as much as I saw it a play on the Crusades, a play on the hypocrisy of those who would dare to hide their murdering injustices behind the cross of Christ--ie, they were hypocrites with evil intent--and those can be found in every age, in both secular and religious institutions. Today's counterpart might be Islam, and so on, which pretends that "Allah" chuckles every time a head gets whacked off. Not that the Catholic church doesn't deserve criticism, of course. But I didn't see it that narrowly when playing.

I actually liked all of the puzzles, with maybe one exception which I can't readily recall. To me they are like mini-games within the larger game, and in the DC they become optional. CTDs I have to say I didn't have--I only recall one, actually, in 76 hours in the original (unfinished) and 39 hours into the DC (also unfinished.) I'll get around to finishing eventually, I'm sure.

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Re: Finished BT4

Post by Drool » December 1st, 2019, 1:16 pm

waltc wrote:
December 1st, 2019, 8:59 am
I didn't see the Fatherites as a play on the Catholic church, necessarily, as much as I saw it a play on the Crusades
...which was the Catholic Church. It was just too over the top and overt, especially the background preaching character outside the church. He was about three steps from shouting "Ein volk".
a play on the hypocrisy of those who would dare to hide their murdering injustices behind the cross of Christ
You're certainly welcome to your interpretation, but to me, it felt like any number of strawmen propped up by fifteen year old atheists who just discovered a Nietzsche quotation. They were tiresome when I was fifteen, and I really don't have time for it now.
Today's counterpart might be Islam, and so on, which pretends that "Allah" chuckles every time a head gets whacked off. Not that the Catholic church doesn't deserve criticism, of course. But I didn't see it that narrowly when playing.
It's not specifically Catholicism, no. Textually, it was Christianity, but the visual queuing was certainly the Catholic church, especially with the style of the robes and the titles of the hierarchy. Perhaps it was just visual shorthand, but just imagine if they had gone with a different visual coding...
I actually liked all of the puzzles, with maybe one exception which I can't readily recall. To me they are like mini-games within the larger game, and in the DC they become optional.
When you add a skip button to something that makes up a substantial portion of your game's content, you really need to reassess said content. Struggler's Lament is an admission that they went way overboard on the puzzles and that they weren't enjoyable, at least not in toto. And like I said in the video, the puzzles are fine in and of themselves. Each type was enjoyable and interesting to figure out; they just weren't all that great on the tenth or twentieth iteration. A room of energy puzzle with a dozen plates is fine, less so that same puzzle across three rooms with thirty plates.

Especially since the original games were combat-oriented with a couple puzzles sprinkled in, not puzzle games with some combat sprinkled in.
CTDs I have to say I didn't have--I only recall one, actually, in 76 hours in the original (unfinished) and 39 hours into the DC (also unfinished.) I'll get around to finishing eventually, I'm sure.
You're lucky. I quite liked how equipping a robe caused my game to crash ten times in a row. Hopefully this was actually fixed in the fix. I haven't checked because after uploading my last video on it, I'm done with the game.
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