The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep review

A vintage RPG returns with a belated new entry. Our review of The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrow’s Deep


We all need a change of pace from the horrors of war or grim apocalypses from time to time, and few things cleanse the palate better than an unabashed, borderline-clichéd fantasy.

Whether it’s elven mages and dwarven bards banding together to stop an ancient evil, plunging the depths of a puzzle-filled ruin for the mightiest of loot, or stomping across the creaky floorboards of a lively tavern, The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep offers up that exact flavour of camp to great effect.

That is, if you can stomach the unending technical problems.

Barrows Deep does away with inXile’s previous Bard’s Tale game from 2004, and instead takes place long after the original three, the last of which came out back in 1988. The city of Skara Brae is once again threatened by an immense evil, and it’s up to your bard and a band of mercenaries to save the day. Sometimes this means solving puzzles scattered throughout the world (with the help of the magical songs learned along the way), and at others engaging in some surprisingly complex turn-based fights.

With your party and the enemies set out on opposing sides of a grid, Bard’s Tale IV’s combat is a bit like chess, in that positioning and anticipating your opponent’s next move is just as important as which skills you choose. Setting up traps, distracting the enemy long enough to charge devastating channelled abilities, shifting focus between the team – each confrontation is its own, highly satisfying puzzle to figure out.

As would be expected of a game of its size, The Bard’s Tale IV is a bit of a slow burn, especially at the start. Skara Brae is a muddy, miserable city full of corruption, but a few hours in and the true beauty of the world becomes abundantly clear. Dungeons and towers offer up plenty of cerebral challenges, while the lands surrounding Skara Brae are stunning. Every crevice begs to be explored.

Unfortunately, every good idea Barrows Deep has is overshadowed by an extreme number of bugs, performance issues, and other technical problems. For example, every time the game is launched, it starts on the wrong screen, in the wrong resolution, and in German.

From there, loading takes multiple minutes, textures pop in when they feel like it, everything stutters incessantly, and something as simple as opening the inventory causes the game to lock up for at least a second. These glaringly rough edges mar what might otherwise have been an immersive fantasy experience.


Despite the series spanning decades, The Bard’s Tale IV still has interesting takes on standard fantasy fare inspired by Scottish lore. Dwarves are large and blue, the Trow (ugly, mischievous, usually friendly pixie-types) are a prominent race, and everyone speaks with thick Scottish accents. Bust out the Highland Toffee for full immersion.

Verdict: 55%

Brimming with potential but infuriatingly rough around the edges.


Genre: RPG
Format: PC / MAC / LINUX / PS4 / XBO
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Publisher: inXile Entertainment
Price: £27.99
Release: Out now

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