I’ve been playing the Bard’s Tale game recently. It’s…sort of tragic. The writing is excellent. It’s legitimately funny in a snarky, Black-Adderish sort of way. There is so much BAD writing in games (and having written some excellent dialogue for the Chimera expansion of Myth II, which was then butchered into a dreadful pseudo-Beowulf thing by a Bungie employee with delusions of adequacy, I harbor deep burning resentments towards bad game writing in general) that seeing genuinely entertaining writing in a game thrills me to no end. Nor can I remember the last time a trio of trow jumped from the bushes and went into an Oompa-Loompa song about my upcoming demise, or where the beautiful heroine was an annoyance, but you bonded with the cantankerous old farmer. It’s actually very well done.
And the game play sucks ground sloths. That’s the tragic bit. Combat is a click fest not done nearly as well as Diablo, with the cascading circular menus that were in vogue for awhile but which are a bloody pain in the ass to use if you plan on doing anything during combat. The arrow keys can’t be used to move you around. Combat is boring, repetitive, and hard in a “this is poorly designed” way rather than a “Wow, combat’s hard,” kinda way, and the camera angle is both set and craptacular.
But the writing is so funny, that I’m still playing. And thus we see the great truth of life–people will forgive bad art for good writing, they will even sometimes forgive bad gameplay for good writing, (at least for awhile, and within limits, like “What do you mean, there’s no mouse support for Monkey Island 3? Bugger that.”) Whereas good art cannot redeem lousy writing for long, and good gameplay with no writing (yes, Dungeon Seige, I’m lookin’ in your direction) will hold the interest for awhile, but eventually you get majorly bored and wander off. Eh, go figure.