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Review: A Bastard's Tale

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Charming, but a bastard to play

I love campy medieval guff. If there's a knight strutting around a small wooden village of peasants under the command of a king eating an over-sized turkey leg, I am totally up for it. And that’s exactly why I was drawn to A Bastard’s Tale.

A Bastard's Tale (PC)
Developer: No Pest Productions
Publisher: No Pest Productions
Released: May 26, 2015
MSRP: $4.99 

A Bastard’s Tale is a side-scrolling melee game that places a huge emphasis on careful movement and quick parrying. It prides itself on each level being a short but challenging barrage of enemies that will rip you apart countless times. There’s even a running total of how many times you die, just to rub it in your face.

Despite all of that sounding incredibly Souls-y, it’s obvious that the game was a labor of love. While it’s pretty short, coming in at five wildly different levels, the '90s Sierra-style pixel art is absolutely charming and a joy to look at.

The diversity doesn’t stop at the levels either, as each enemy faced is something new and interesting to take on. The game quickly ramps up from your generic peasants with pitchforks to some really cool stuff like dark knights, wizards who can turn into crows, men with spears riding horses, and guys twirling staffs all over the place. I was constantly surprised by what the game threw at me, which for such a short game is really impressive.

Unfortunately, that charming presentation comes at the cost of the gameplay.

There are two significant problems with the combat that drag A Bastard’s Tale down. Firstly, the enemy’s attacks are often telegraphed poorly, leaving only a few pixels of difference to signify where an attack is coming from. Secondly, the hitboxes of both you and the enemy are just weird, resulting in some attacks hitting when they shouldn’t, and others not hitting when they should.

Those two problems give A Bastard’s Tale a very strange flow. For the first few attempts at a level, there’s a brilliant, satisfying feeling of learning the stage, and every death is just an opportunity to try something else. For those attempts, A Bastard’s Tale is superb.

But then all too soon comes the point where you’ve learned how to fight everything, and just keep getting snagged on a wonky hitbox or vaguely telegraphed attack, being forced to start the level all over again for the hundredth time. At that point, A Bastard’s Tale isn’t compelling. It’s just plodding and mindless.

I like A Bastard’s Tale, I just wish that some more care and attention went into the gameplay. It tries to go for the Souls-y tough-but-fair difficulty, but its problems means it ultimately falls flat. Despite that, it’s still a short, campy, and very pretty experience that has a lot of heart to it, and for what it costs it’s definitely worth checking out.


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A Bastard's Tale reviewed by Joe Parlock

6

ALL RIGHT

Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
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Joe Parlock
Joe ParlockFormer Hardware Editor   gamer profile

Destructoid's former Hardware Editor. Has a, quite frankly, disturbingly large collection of Monsters Inc. merchandise that nobody ever seems to ask him about. Still, he's mostly harmless. --- ... more + disclosures


 



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