Tales of the Unknown: Volume I, better known by its subtitle The Bard's Tale, is a fantasy role-playing video game designed and programmed by Michael Cranford, produced by Interplay Productions in 1985, and distributed by Electronic Arts. It spawned The Bard's Tale series of games and books. The Bard's Tale was noteworthy among other role-playing computer games at the time for its unprecedented 3D graphics and partly 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, Amiga, Atari ST, MS-DOS, Macintosh, and NES platforms. In August 2018, a remastered version was released for Microsoft Windows, followed by the Xbox One release in 2019.
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 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, armor, and other equipment.
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. On some platforms, the player could import previously created characters from Wizardry and/or Ultima III, which was somewhat revolutionary at the time.
Of particular innovation to the genre was 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 RPGs. 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).
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. However, when using a mouse (in the DOS, Amiga, and Macintosh versions), the full names of the spells would appear in a list to choose from.
Combat is turn-based, 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.
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5 different online emulators are available for Bard’s Tale 1: Tales of the Unknown. These emulators differ not only in the technology they use to emulate old games, but also in support of various game controllers, multiplayer mode, mobile phone touchscreen, emulation speed, absence or presence of embedded ads and in many other parameters. For
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features of each emulator available for this game Bard’s Tale 1: Tales of the Unknown are summarized in the following table: