“Death and drek!”
With the wicked sorceror Mangar vanquished in the first game, peace had returned to the Realm. Or did it?! Interplay didn’t rest on their laurels for very long before cranking the sequel out…bigger, badder, and which had a number of crushingly mean tricks for players. Come with me as we take a look at another ad, this one for The Bard’s Tale II: The Destiny Knight!
The sequel was basically a bigger version of the first game’s gameplay, though a number of enhancements were made to the gameplay to give players something new to fiddle with. The same first-person, grid-based movement gameplay was used, the graphics were dressed up a bit with more animated monsters, and the story was much more epic. It would also later go on to be ported to a number of different platforms, including the NES like the first game.
In this one, a wicked Archmage named Lagoth Zanta seeks to conquer the Six Cities and the Destiny Wand has been shattered. Only by seeking out the pieces and assembling the wand can a party of heroes hope to stop his plans and save the day. As with the first game, much of the fiction lay in the manual with players simply jumping right into the dungeon crawling as they seek out the pieces of the Destiny Wand.
One thing I didn’t mention with my first look at the Bard’s Tale is that those old school CRPGs that go in for a big story setup of their world oftentimes left players to figure things out on their own in the actual game by setting them loose to head off to the nearest dungeon. That meant no cutscenes, no dialogue trees, or no romances. Just pure dungeon crawling by the numbers with plenty of dead monsters to hug and fill your party’s pockets with the nectar of loot.
Seeing animated monster portraits, results scrolling by on the CRT as a Mindblade blasts a group of 99 enemies, and graduating a few of your characters to new classes made Bard’s Tale stand out from other CRPGs. Packing dungeons with anti-magic zones, spinners, and plenty of darkness were also part of the fun.
Interplay went big for the second game which now involved multiple cities (though they all still looked alike) spread across a wilderness that was more like a green plain with a few trees. But at the time, the idea was great, and mages also went through a few changes of their own with more spells and the ability to graduate to the Archmage class which had a number of insanely powered spells with creative names like the Brothers Kringle which filled any empty party slots with a…Brothers Kringle. Or Mangar’s Mallet which delivered hundreds of points of damage to everything. Summoned monsters could even be renamed.
Cities also had simple casinos, a bank to keep your gold safe, and the usual sundries such as a store and a tavern where a Bard can sate his thirst or where new rumors can be heard. Each had different layouts but looked mostly the same. Graph paper was one again your best friend in keeping track of what was where here as it was in the dungeons.
There were also more dungeons and these were nastier than the last batch. One new addition was the “Death Snare”, the rooms where the pieces of the Destiny Wand were hidden in. The box and the ad below do warn players about these, though neglect to mention how they might frustrate players into attempting to make their keyboards merge with their monitors.
These weren’t any ordinary rooms, oh no. Guiding your party into one of these trapped them until they figured out the puzzle within to escape without dying. The problem was that some of the clues could be incredibly obscure. There was no option to skip these, either. Either you solved them or you failed. Or used the cleverly written strategy guide.
One interesting thing about the guide is in how it’s written. Reading through it was like reading through a short story. An opening vignette set it up introducing a party of adventurers sent on a “dream quest” to decide which adventure to embark on next. By participating in the “dream”, a magic notebook filled with the details that would go on to be the hint guide. The ending was also pretty good and the guide was packed with a lot of great info. Each page was illustrated along the edges and artistic pieces were also interspersed throughout the book. Quality stuff from cover to cover.
One of the things that I often did was farm the starter dungeon. Especially useful for when I didn’t have a convenient import from the first Bard’s Tale (because I formatted the wrong floppy for another game thanks to running out of labels). Bard’s Tale II also did the multiformat thing allowing you to pull characters from other games such as Wizardry and Ultima III. Imagine being able to import your Geralt into Mass Effect. On second thought, that could be really awkward.
Once I had a solid party, and after running through the game, I’d take great pains to keep that floppy safe short of vacuum sealing it. A handy label was really all that was needed as long as I had a few left. Back then, character disks were like gold to CRPG enthusiasts. Losing one was akin to losing your character sheet in D&D, especially when it could be used again in other adventures that supported it.
One interesting twist that the game threw players in for a loop was the role of the Destiny Knight, the person that would wield the Destiny Wand and lead the party into battle against Lagoth Zanta. I expected it to be one of my warrior-class types, but you actually need to promote an Archmage to the role instead.
The ad was fairly plain featuring the box art in the center circle, presumably with whatever character you chose to become the Destiny Knight standing proudly in the middle with the reformed Wand. Some fiction on the side added a little meat to the pictures boasting the features it came with along with the improvements over the first such as ranged combat. All this to prepare you for the ultimate conflict to come in the third game.