Fundamentally, video games strive toward rewarding, and indeed teaching their players in some capacity. Whether that’s through interesting enemies, unique environments or difficult to predict movesets that better your hand-eye coordination, is up to the developers. But when you’re idea of bettering the average gamer is to pit them against a wall of running bulls that kill you in only five hits: you’re just being cruel.
A Bastard’s Tale is less about a bastard knight roaming the lands, and more about the bastarding controls. Most titles would build a grand tale of pain, loss or revenge around the rampage that incurs at the hands of the player, but this idea of narrative/character is ignored by the development team. This isn’t a drawback however, as it means you get to spend more time screaming at your own lack of skill.
Attack, move and roll buttons are all fairly simply to learn and understand, so you’ll get the hang of whacking hapless villagers with a claymore in no time. The block and timing mechanics though, are far more sadistic. To block, the knight stops moving and then raises the sword high, to negate hits. Not all blocks are the same. Not even the enemy attacks are the same.
By pressing different buttons along with the block trigger, you’re able to put the sword at different angles to halt a variety of attacks. This is where the skill requirements go through the ceiling, and into the upper atmosphere. Enemies nicely telegraph their attacks and skills, to start with. And since every enemy has a unique path its defeat, your knightly talents are tested when it comes to learning the movesets. A Bastard’s Tale then decides to go super sayian by throwing knights, lancers, polemen and even mythical creatures at you later on. As the inevitable rage sets in, you’ll gradually become intimately familiar with enemies you struggled with before (assuming that the learning curve isn’t too steep), and edge toward the end of the area.
The background and soundtrack, even the art style, all become irrelevant as you battle that one villager with always manages to hit-and-run you as the wrong block is pulled. That’s not to say that those things are awful, if anything the art is a wonderful attraction that’ll likely pull you further in, while medieval tunes plink away over the hills.
Everything kept in mind then, A Bastard’s Tale is perfectly balanced between unfair and intuitive. In invites players to learn the controls and mechanics without being babied or overly taught, whilst also maintaining a easily accomplished task that only seems daunting when you don’t understand it.
A Bastard’s Tale – 8/10