Just about a year ago (September 2018 to be precise), I reviewed The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrow’s Deep and thoroughly enjoyed the game’s story, writing, voice acting and turn-based combat. Part of an RPG franchise that began in the mid-1980s, Bard’s Tale IV updated the series with spiffier visuals, more complex combat and overall, better production values than anything possible when the first game was released. The new Director’s Cut adds a handful of UI changes, opens up new dungeons and expands the quality-of-life features that make the game even more accessible, especially for casual players.
Besieged since the original Bard’s Tale, the seaside town of Skara Brae is the epicenter of an ongoing battle between the forces of magic and those opposed to it, not to mention political, racial and economic strife that generates endless conflict around and under the town in its many dank dungeons and secret spaces. The Bard’s Tale IV is a classic dungeon crawler, and there are dozens of hours’ worth of quests to complete and piles of shiny loot to find or win through combat while exploring around and under Skara Brae’s city streets.
Coming back to the Director’s Cut, I was reminded how much I enjoyed the game’s voice acting, wry sense of humor, interesting character design, colorful environments and eye-catching spell effects. Although levels are essentially linear, there are a number of environmental puzzles that can impede progress until solved, and the Director’s Cut edition adds a Bard’s song that essentially allows the player to skip them. There don’t seem to be any fundamental changes to the game’s grid-based combat system, which is good news if you were a fan — as I was — of Bard Tale IV’s engaging battles.
In my original review, I complained a bit about the game’s long loading times and bestiary of gameplay bugs and I was disappointed that these issues haven’t been more thoroughly addressed for the enhanced Director’s Cut. Loading times are still pretty egregious and trying to skip out of the opening song/screen consistently froze the game from loading, just one fairly serious but not isolated example. The game’s music is still excellent and a definite highlight of the title.
Anyone who did not pick up The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep when it was released in 2018 missed an amusing and well-crafted RPG, a definite high point in a storied and popular franchise. With some minor interface and gameplay tweaks and the addition of some new quests and significant additional areas to explore, the Director’s Cut makes a good case for itself and the game includes some nostalgic bonus content and some behind-the-scenes features as well.