Bard’s Gold on PC
One of the most fascinating trends in gaming right now is the massive popularity of extremely difficult games. Bard’s Gold, an action-platformer with RPG elements and a sadistic bend, is yet another in a stream of games that seem intent on punishing their players. While this can work wonderfully in some cases, such as the Dark Souls series or Super Meat Boy, there’s a subtle touch to these that I think is important to how well they work. This, in essence, is a sense of fairness, and I think that’s the piece I found lacking here.
In Bard’s Gold, players take on the role of a young bard exploring a deep dungeon system in search of his lost wealth. It’s not exactly a compelling plot, but it serves well enough. Gameplay is essentially a standard 2D adventure, though the bard can spend some of his hard-earned gems at shops found within some stages to buy upgrades and weapons that help get through things. Of course, most of these items will only last as long as the current life; this isn’t necessarily bad, but when you put this together with the fact that our hero is a one-and-done sort that’s killed by a single touch, it does get a bit trickier.
The problem that plagues Bard’s Gold isn’t just the fragility of its hero, though. The thing I ran into more than anything was that, in the dark depths of this dungeon, players are often forced to make leaps of faith into unknown areas. Since you’ve got no way of moving the camera, this means a lot of falling into previously-unseen enemies or traps that were waiting below. This means that, more often than not, there’s no chance to react to these threats. This leads to some very frustrating moments that can feel like the game is cheating you out of a fair chance at success.
Beyond this lack of fairness, Bard’s Gold is a functional but relatively basic game. There’s not much to make it stand out against other titles in the genre, though I didn’t encounter any of the bugs or crashes that can pop up in indie titles. The game’s weakest point, really, is the lack of innovation or risk-taking. With nothing to make it “pop,” for lack of a better term, it’s tough to really get into despite the fact that on a design level, everything seems to be working as intended. While I don’t expect to be wowed by every game I come across, it’s much easier to enjoy and recommend titles that include things that make them stand out.
All in all, I can’t fault Bard’s Gold for any real technical shortcoming. That said, its simplistic approach has little to offer that you won’t find in dozens of other titles, many of which include that something extra that makes them stand out. Still, if you’re a glutton for challenge and don’t mind a very basic approach to play, the $7.99 price on Steam isn’t a bad deal for the amount of content you can find here. I can’t say it’s a game for everyone, since the difficulty may push some players away and the failure to deliver anything special makes it hard to really get invested in. Still, hardcore fans of the 2D adventure style of game may get more out of it than I did, and the fact that it all works as intended is a point in its favor.
Update: After this review was written, developer Erdem Sen reached out via Twitter to let us know that a patch addressed the “blind jump” issues noted here, and players can now pan the camera down to see the path ahead!