Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

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Jalis
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Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by Jalis » October 12th, 2018, 8:07 am

So after playing for about 58 hours, doing everything, fighting all encounters, etc... I chose to have Rabbie become the new ... er, Maiden, as it seemed fitting given his dream.

The story and ending itself were all acceptable, early on in the game I enjoyed the paladin vs adventurers plotline, even if it did somewhat peter out while progressing. I was genuinely surprised when Mangar burst onto the scene and Yadis was revealed as an even bigger threat, etc, but I'd say that while Mangar was given a lot of "story time", Lagoth Zanta and Tarjan especially felt a bit formulaic afterward; indeed, you never even see Tarjan until after he's appeared while you were away, mopped up the adventurers, and then off to the dwarves. By time you see him, it's time to quickly fight him and that's that... his ghost is even a bit of an afterthought, unlike Mangar & Lagoth, who you hear from after killing as part of the quests. Yadis is also a bit underdeveloped, as you see her a couple brief moments throughout and then at the very end. You know she's pulling the strings, but it's unclear how she's doing what she's doing, and she never really resonates quite like the original trilogy villains did/do.

Some of the game's plot points feel underdeveloped or unfinished, but the story more than serves the game play. Locations and the maps you'll travel are hit or miss -- I could have used less Inshriarch, for example... some portion through that, I was extremely tired of the scenery, beautiful as it was; it just went on for too long. Dungeons and interiors largely satisfied, although I wasn't a fan of the style of textures in most of the interior castles/temples/etc.

Combat in the game is cool, fun, but if you're doing all of the content, taking all the +xp totem points, you'll have overpowered it for the rest of the game by some point well short of the midway point. Once you have a conjurer, you realize you need nothing else; my player made bard sat off to the side, nearly never even bothering to sing a tune. My fighter tanks sat up in the front lines, there to taunt enemies into position and maybe wipe out some armor occasionally. My rogue was put to good use as triggering DPS, but the show was dominated by my practitioner/conjurer/archmage, and her sage pal with a similar skillset. (She had taken the cleric route once I got it, but despite it coming later in the game, and rushing to fill out that tree, I never even once used any of the healing abilities or resurrect, especially given they were left out of the small amount of master slots in favor of damaging abilities.)

Given that it's easily mastered and your party wrecks most groups in one round, combat can become a tad bit stale in the latter half at times. The final act does present bigger groups with ridiculous amounts of armor, but these encounters still seldom last more than a round or two and aren't a major threat to your party. This included Mangar, Lagoth, Tarjan and Yadis, who seldom lasted more than 2 rounds each. (Yadis' final battle was very easy by that point.)

Luckily, the game has its puzzles. I'm not a Myst kind of puzzle gamer, but the puzzles here never forced me to look for the answers online or in the included cheat guide. I definitely had to use a trial and error approach on some of the gear and blood lines puzzles, but never felt frustrated and never ran into a puzzle I wasn't able to solve quickly enough. The main problem, though, is that every puzzle type the game throws at you is immediately or later regurgitated ad naseum again and again... you'll get to a Charn dungeon and know you're going to have to minecraft-wire up some blood lines. You'll round the next corner out in the Inshriarch forest and know you're going to have to direct some fairy traffic. You'll wonder why ancient beings thought the best way to lock their doors was through YET ANOTHER dwarven gear puzzle. Seriously. There are dozens and dozens of them. The final dungeon, then, of course, is a puzzle version of "fight all previous bosses again" Dr Wily's castle, in that all the puzzle types are once again presented for you to solve on a much bigger scale, albeit a really good looking and cool looking one. By the time you beat the game, you'll have had more than enough of these puzzles. Should the game ever get a sequel or DLC, let's hope the developers learn to not go to that particular well quite so much. Still, there were a lot of clever puzzles steeped in the game's lore, it's a mixed bag.

Loot in the game is one of the biggest disappointments. You'll solve puzzles or find secret hidden areas, and the game's loot algorithm will reward you with 60 coins (I seldom bought any gear and ended with something like 40,000 gold), or worse, some stale food or water... very anti-climatic to see a shiny chest across a puzzle area, and know that you're figuring out how to solve the puzzle but that chest isn't going to hold anything worth the effort. Much of my final gear, including puzzle weapons and named weapons, I got early on and then never really had to swap it out. Inventory became a mess and game of sorting stuff I wanted to sell off for coin to buy.... nothing. This area of the game probably could have used some tuning; though, if I had continued to find even stronger gear, my godly mages and stand-in "also were there" combatants would probably have been even more overpowered.

Thinking back on my time in the game, I can't quite decide how I feel about it as a proper Bard's Tale entry. I certainly spent a lot of time in the game, having fun, enjoying building up my party, seeking out the villains of the past, putting an end to Yadis' plot. Some technical glitches aside (I'm looking at you, crash at wave 97 of 99 in Harkyn's Castle...), the game ran smoothly enough on my machine to avoid many of the problems others had. Yet, something still felt 'off' about this entry, not quite right. The last act, I wanted the puzzles to just be over already, and the story seemed just a bit rushed toward its conclusion. Still, there are events and new faces that I'll remember now when I think of Bard's Tale, and while it wasn't a complete success in some areas, I think in the end, I have to give it its praise for what it does well, and for continuing the series and story of Skara Brae. Who knows if we'll get another game in the series, but I have to hope we do, and hope that some of the lessons learned on this one pave the way for an even greater experience the next time the Bard and her companions are needed to save Skara Brae!

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by DNACowboy » October 12th, 2018, 10:51 am

Now that is what I call a fair and neutral review. Thanks for taking the time to share your thought Jalis.
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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by Rikkles » October 15th, 2018, 9:32 am

Jalis I agree 100% with you. I did find Mangar's tower amazing, and I did it very early on. It was the highlight of the game for me, it was simply brilliant. The problem is that the game drags on. They should have made it last half as long as it did (I did play it for 52 hours as well). The final puzzles were tiring, and we really didn't need 3 of the stupid floor lighting puzzles (nor 2 gear puzzles).
And unfortunately I totally forgot about Harkyn's castle until it was too late, and I really don't feel like restarting a new game to get that done.

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by ZiN » October 15th, 2018, 11:12 am

Rikkles wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 9:32 am
And unfortunately I totally forgot about Harkyn's castle until it was too late, and I really don't feel like restarting a new game to get that done.
You're not losing much, Harkyn's castle is just another tough gear-puzzle, another tough block-puzzle and a 40 minute faceroll fight against 99x4 berserkers. Plus a really good off-hand item, not that you need anything by that point though.

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by Depili » October 15th, 2018, 11:20 am

ZiN wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 11:12 am
Rikkles wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 9:32 am
And unfortunately I totally forgot about Harkyn's castle until it was too late, and I really don't feel like restarting a new game to get that done.
You're not losing much, Harkyn's castle is just another tough gear-puzzle, another tough block-puzzle and a 40 minute faceroll fight against 99x4 berserkers. Plus a really good off-hand item, not that you need anything by that point though.
And a boatload of experience you don't need. Liked the puzzles in the castle, as they were the hardest (in my opinion) in the game, the fight was just tedious, as you could clear about 10-ish waves per turn. Was kinda waiting for something Special for the final wave, but sadly was disappointed.

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by Rikkles » October 15th, 2018, 1:30 pm

Depili wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 11:20 am
ZiN wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 11:12 am
Rikkles wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 9:32 am
And unfortunately I totally forgot about Harkyn's castle until it was too late, and I really don't feel like restarting a new game to get that done.
You're not losing much, Harkyn's castle is just another tough gear-puzzle, another tough block-puzzle and a 40 minute faceroll fight against 99x4 berserkers. Plus a really good off-hand item, not that you need anything by that point though.
And a boatload of experience you don't need. Liked the puzzles in the castle, as they were the hardest (in my opinion) in the game, the fight was just tedious, as you could clear about 10-ish waves per turn. Was kinda waiting for something Special for the final wave, but sadly was disappointed.
Good to know, thanks. I guess they had to plug in the 99 enemy encounter somewhere, just like the old games. But it doesn't belong in this game, and definitely no one needs the experience or the loot. Both totally useless by around 2/3 of the game.

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by Drool » October 15th, 2018, 2:41 pm

Do they explain who rebuilt Harkyn's castle? Or Mangar and Kylearan's tower?
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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by Omelet79 » October 15th, 2018, 8:55 pm

Your post essentially echoes my experience. I actually enjoyed the final set of puzzles, it felt appropriate that all the puzzles were repeated in the last dungeon.

Very good review and summary.

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by ZiN » October 15th, 2018, 10:15 pm

Drool wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 2:41 pm
Do they explain who rebuilt Harkyn's castle? Or Mangar and Kylearan's tower?
Nope, but I bet it was the same guys who also "built" a sea next to Skara Brae.

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by Tuoweit » October 16th, 2018, 9:35 am

Drool wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 2:41 pm
Do they explain who rebuilt Harkyn's castle? Or Mangar and Kylearan's tower?
Mangar and Kylearan's towers are not rebuilt in the game. You get to go into the basements of their ruins. Similarly for Harkyn's Castle - although there's a recognizable castle structure visible (if partly buried) in the Skara Brae underground, there's only a small one-room ground-level area accessible, which unlocks a slightly larger two-room basement area.

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by Mindblade » October 18th, 2018, 3:20 pm

I agree with the sentiment that combat becomes too easy in the second half of the game. I estimate that I won 80% of all battles within 2 rounds, at that point. I only lost 2 battles and that was due to bad planning on my part (and forgetting to heal).

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by Themadcow » October 19th, 2018, 4:15 am

Excellent review, thanks.

For those that completed it... do the puzzles ever ease up in terms of frequency? I've heard the opposite - which is just scary.

When on earth did the devs decide that the BT series should be a puzzle game rather than combat and exploration? I knew that the game wasn't a genuine dungeon crawler in the BT/Wiz style from the moment I stepped into the Beta... but by the time I'd finished Kylearean's Tower I was already deflated. Puzzles in the original BT games were few and far between - mainly a case of exploring to get the right clue, and certainly nothing that took up large portions of time. Traps, darkness and special squares sure - but not many puzzles.

I'm absolutely gutted that I backed what I thought was a genuine sequel to BT1-3 - a decent budget Western blobber for the first time in decades. Instead inXile decided to make something completely different. I get more of a BT vibe playing Elminage, Etrian Odyssey, Starcrawlers... or quite frankly another 10-20 games out there... than I do from BT4.

Monsters - limited and unimaginative, classes - sloppy, skills and spells - botched and limited by the mastery system, combat - occasionally fun but once you find the right combo it's no more complex (maybe less) than we saw in the originals... and that's not mentioning the weird execution lag. The graphics are absolutely beautiful in places, but then you encounter a humanoid and it's like we're back in 2004.
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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by ZiN » October 20th, 2018, 3:04 am

Themadcow wrote:
October 19th, 2018, 4:15 am
For those that completed it... do the puzzles ever ease up in terms of frequency? I've heard the opposite - which is just scary.
You heard right, it gets worse as you progress. It's pretty much 2-3 mindless trash combats, which you win on the second round, but still take 2 minutes each due to slow animations and delays. Then some corridor walking toward 2-3 tedious "puzzles" which reward you with 50 gold and various trash items. Then at a certain point all the trash mobs you defeated are respawned, so you can fight all of them again on your way back.

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by demeisen » October 20th, 2018, 7:19 am

Mindblade wrote:
October 18th, 2018, 3:20 pm
I agree with the sentiment that combat becomes too easy in the second half of the game.
I haven't been able to play yet (it's not shipped on Linux yet :( ) but that seems to be an attribute of many CRPGs for some reason. I had the same complaint about PoE 1: it starts out decently difficult, but with only a few exceptions, the challenge evaporates by mid game even at the highest difficulty level, and you steamroll everything without much effort. I'm not finished with Kingmaker yet, but so far it seems like it's going to be similar. Early levels are hard, and now at mid game, with no power-gaming whatsoever on my part, it's becoming much too easy.

It seems important to "feel stronger" as you go through an RPG, but I think that can be accomplished by occasionally giving you some of the early-game creatures to fight later in the game, so you realize just how much you have grown relative to them.

From the OP's (nice) review, sounds like I'm in for a similar experience with BTIV too.

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by ZiN » October 20th, 2018, 8:51 am

Pillars offers a decent challenge on hard and especially on PotD. Flawed as it is, compared to Barrows it is a masterpiece in all aspects, be it challenge, systems, character and party customization, itemization, encounters, story and so on. Same with Pathfinder. Those games are actual RPGs, sure not the best ones, but still solid RPGs.

You "feel powerful" because you have chosen your stats, spells, feats and gear optimally from a vast selection of options. In Barrows you just equip the item with the highest STR (or INT) and spam your level 1 spell against the same copy pasted trash mobs over and over.

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by Depili » October 20th, 2018, 5:19 pm

For me it is the opposite, the first maybe 10 hours of pillars 2 were good, then it turned into piss-easy encounters (hard with scale up), no interest in touching the equipment at all, uninteresting and short storyline. It actually took me 51 hours to finish pillars 2 doing _all_ side stuff etc and 54 hours for BT4, and enjoyed BT way way more (but still loved pillars1 even more, pillars2 is just a mess and lacks content)

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by Marthos » October 21st, 2018, 6:30 pm

Just completed the game, and rather than create a new post I figured I'd tack on to this one.

Story hooked me in the beginning, with the Paladins vs Adventurers conflict. There was a real sense that this game had an identity of its own. Even with Mangar's appearance, that felt pretty cool. But it quickly lost it's charm when the throwbacks to the original series just wouldn't stop: Lagoth, Tarjan, and all the special items from the older games. They weren't done well in my opinion, and could have been replaced with any other named sub-villains and trinkets. In the end, the game felt like it lost its identity. Sometimes, less is more.

Combat...oh geez...the combat. This is a good system, but it feels like it's still in development. Arcane Barrage + Conjurer's Mark is way too over-powered. This should be fixed (lots of choices here, don't apply the mark on barrage, limit it to one mark per round, lower the damage of mark etc). The enemies need a buff in AI or something - most of the time they would just use one attack, shuffle places, and then end their turn with a bunch of opportunity points remaining. Limiting masteries to 4 was a big mistake. Once I started getting special weapons that replaced masteries, it really felt like I was handcuffed. Utility spells and abilities really suffer because of this, things like summoning and stuns are way too situational to be in my regular line-up, so I just never used them. At the end I just put all my points into Str/Con and other stat skills and stuck with the skills that I acquired from early on in the game. If we had all of our skills at our disposal, and combat AI was significantly improved, this combat system could be really fun. Instead, it was boring.

Puzzles. Mixed feelings on these. I liked the variety and challenge of them, but I didn't like that they were all pretty much forced on you to complete the game. If my brain wasn't in the mood to solve puzzles, I would play something else. I think I would make more size quest or hidden areas that are puzzle-heavy with cool rewards, but limit the number of puzzles needed to get through the main storyline. Combine this with the boring puzzles, and I found myself just playing the game to complete it, rather than playing it to have fun.

Music and artwork was really good. Lots of variety in the different areas of the game, lots of memorable tunes. I'm a bit sad that there won't be a song written about my party though...assuming the Elf Queen's plan works.

Despite the overall negative tone of this post, I think this was a good game. Not great, not perfect, but good. I would really like to see a BT5 created that builds off of the systems that they made for this game.

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by Mindblade » October 22nd, 2018, 6:44 pm

While the amount of puzzles was surprising, I overall didn't mind them. I like puzzles, and BT1-3 had some puzzles, incl. the snares in BT2. So I felt that it was well placed.
I really liked the references to the original trilogy, including all the villains and places you get to visit.

After the final battle, I would really like the opportunity to go back and explore the rest of the maps and complete all remaining quests and side-quests. I haven't entered Harkyn's Castle yet, and tried going back several save games but lost interest when the 3-4 games I loaded would all have a barrier in Skara Brae Below that wouldn't allow me to reach it. I guess I would have to go even further back in my save games list?

While it took a while to get used to, I do like the combat system. I'm really glad it's something new. I do agree with above poster that the AI is pretty bad. My go-to strategy (in the second half of the game) was to leverage the party-wide "Hide in Shadows" to place flame columns on the battle field. Pretty much every combat, enemies would just walk into these and catch fire, including in round 1.

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by phimseto » October 25th, 2018, 8:18 am

@mindblade one thing we're looking into doing is adding a "past this point, the endgame begins" prompt to make sure players know to take care of unfinished business. I imagine that will make it into a future patch.

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Re: Another "I Completed It, Here's What I Think" Post

Post by thebruce » October 25th, 2018, 10:52 am

Hopefully masked as something obvious in-game rather than just a meta "You're almost done the game, better do all the quests you haven't done yet before moving forward" alert. :lol:
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