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The Bard's Tale (Tales of the Unknown: Volume I) is a fantasy role-playing video game created by Interplay Productions in 1985 and distributed by Electronic Arts.[1] It was designed and programmed by Michael Cranford.

Based loosely on traditional Dungeons and Dragons gameplay and inspired by the Wizardry computer games, The Bard's Tale was noteworthy for its unprecedented 3D graphics and animated character portraits.

It was originally released for the Apple II, and was also ported to the Commodore 64, Apple IIgs, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, MS-DOS, Apple Macintosh, and NES platforms

The following text from the box cover summarizes the premise:

Long ago, when magic still prevailed, the evil wizard Mangar the Dark threatened a small but harmonious country town called Skara Brae. Evil creatures oozed into Skara Brae and joined his shadow domain. Mangar froze the surrounding lands with a spell of Eternal Winter, totally isolating Skara Brae from any possible help. Then, one night the town militiamen all disappeared. The future of Skara Brae hung in the balance. And who was left to resist? Only a handful of unproven young Warriors, junior Magic Users, a couple of Bards barely old enough to drink, and some out of work Rogues. You are there. You are the leader of this ragtag group of freedom fighters. Luckily you have a Bard with you to sing your glories, if you survive. For this is the stuff of legends. And so the story begins...

The introduction depicts a bard sitting in a tavern. Between occasional sips from his mug, he strums a lute and sings:

The song I sing
Will tell the tale

of a cold and wintery day;

Of castle walls
And torchlit halls

And a price men had to pay.

When evil fled
And brave men bled

The Dark one came to stay,

'Til men of old
For blood and gold

Had rescued Skara Brae
The Bard's Tale is a straightforward "dungeon crawl". The objective is to gain experience and advance characters' skills through (mostly) random combat with enemies and monsters. This is done while exploring maze-like dungeons, solving occasional puzzles and riddles, and finding or buying better weapons and armor.

When beginning the game, the player may create up to six player characters, chosen from among the following classes: bard, hunter, monk, paladin, rogue, warrior, magician, and conjurer. The classes sorcerer and wizard were available to experienced conjurers and magicians. A typical well-balanced party might consist of a couple of fighters, a rogue, a bard, and a couple of magic users. On some platforms, the player could import previously created characters from Wizardry and/or Ultima III, which was somewhat revolutionary at the time.

The most important character was arguably the bard, whose magical songs functioned like long-lasting spells and affected the player's party in various ways—such as strengthening their armor, or increasing their attack speed, much like "buffs" in modern day MMORPGs. A number of obligatory puzzles in the game were unsolvable without the use of bard songs. Each bard song triggered corresponding music while he played (some classical, some original).

With only a map of the town of Skara Brae included on the box, it was usually necessary for players to use pencil and graph paper to make their own maps as they played through the game. In the first two games, each dungeon level was set on a fixed 22 by 22 grid.

Magic users were allowed to change classes permanently. The game manual describes a magic user who has mastered all spells from all four classes as "an Archmage, the most powerful being in the world of The Bard's Tale." However, Archmage status had no effect on gameplay other than simply having all spells available.

Casting one of the 85 magic user spells consisted of typing a four-letter code found only in the printed game manual, which perhaps helped limit piracy and contributed to the commercial success of the game. However when using a mouse (in the DOS and Amiga versions), the full names of the spells would appear in a list to choose from.

Combat is round-based and abstract, described in text rather than shown graphically; there is no notion of moving characters around on a map during combat. Cash and experience points are distributed evenly to all surviving party members after a particular encounter is won
Critical reception

The game was reviewed in 1986 in Dragon #116 by Hartley and Pattie Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers rated the game well, concluding that "Bard’s Tale, a game of high adventure ... is one we recommend for your software library."[2] The game was revisited in Dragon #120.[3] In a subsequent column, the reviewers gave the game 5 out of 5 stars.[4]

The ZX Spectrum version of The Bard's Tale, released in 1988,[5] was favorably received. CRASH said that "the Skara Brae environment is so complex and involves so many different factors that it's hard not to get completely enthralled in your quest" and rated it at 86%.[6] Sinclair User rated it at 89%, but noted that it would not appeal to general gameplayers, saying that "The Bard's Tale will enthrall diehard pixie fans [...] but there's too much text, and not enough graphics and animation, to convert the uncommitted."[7] Your Sinclair were similarly positive about the game, rating it
A magazine advertisement for The Bard's Tale.

The Bard's Tale was both a best-seller and a critical success, and produced three official sequels:

* The Bard's Tale II: The Destiny Knight
* The Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate
* The Bard's Tale Construction Set

A compilation of all three The Bard's Tale games, entitled The Bard's Tale Trilogy, was released for DOS by Electronic Arts in 1990.

According to Bill Heineman (programmer of The Bard's Tale III) the name of the overall series was to be Tales of the Unknown, and the three games were to be entitled The Bard's Tale, The Archmage's Tale, and The Thief's Tale. This is supported by the cover art of the original Bard's Tale release, which proclaimed the game as "Tales of the Unknown, Volume I." However, the immense popularity of the first game prompted Electronic Arts to re-brand the series under the more well-known name.[9]

In 2003, Brian Fargo (who created maps for the first two Bard's Tale games and directed the third) left Interplay Entertainment and began a new game development company named InXile Entertainment. In 2004 they released their first game, also titled The Bard's Tale, an irreverent console-style top-down action game which pokes fun at traditional fantasy role-playing game tropes -- such as, for example, those found in the original Bard's Tale. It was not a sequel to the classic series, nor was it connected in any respect apart from the title. Although a legal loophole allowed InXile to use the Bard's Tale name and the company had evidently planned to incorporate more elements of the original games[10], Electronic Arts still owns the original trademarks for the Bard's Tale series itself, and InXile was not legally allowed to use any of the plot, characters or locations featured in the original trilogy

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Ram : 1024 Mb

CPU : 3.2

VGA : 256 PS3