Bardbarian, the latest from developer TreeFortress, tells the tale of Brad, a local barbarian village protector. He’s quite used to his routine by now: He has to protect the Town Crystal by fending off the various monsters and baddies that attack. He’s so used to it, as a matter of fact, that he’s outright bored with it. He’s also a somewhat refined barbarian, having an affinity for music, and thusly strings his battleaxe, turning it into a lute. This makes the chore of defending the town much more palatable to our hero, but is it enough to keep gameplay fresh?
The game takes place over a day in the life of our hero and is divided into four chapters (morning, noon, evening, and night) that total 21 waves of bad guys to fight through. In order to keep advancing through the waves, you’ll need to collect gold to level up. You begin the game with three other members of your party, of your choosing. You start out with archers, brawlers and black mages, each with their own range of attack. Certain combinations of friends can be more beneficial at times depending on how many monsters are on screen. There are also boss fights every few waves, which keeps things interesting and tense.
Brad plays his axe-lute and picks up musical notes that let you summon more friends, should any of your party be slain, and to use power-ups during gameplay which can be a big help in times of need. The game’s first couple waves don’t present a very big challenge, but you’ll soon realize that the game is designed to have you play through levels multiple times.
You will level up Brad, making him a barbarian to be reckoned with and a fantastic band leader. You can also level up your allies, increasing their attack power and range, making them all the more help during battle. And you can level up different aspects of the town itself, like increasing HP of the Town Crystal, which is useful since if the enemy destroys it, your game is ended. Another nice town level-up is buying yourself a Ratcoon, which will collect gold for you so you don’t have to get it yourself.
The hand-drawn graphics look great, and the animation is very smooth. It would make sense that a game in which the hero never stops playing his axe-lute would have great music, and it does. The power metal that Brad plays is catchy and maintains the spirit of the game, increasing in tempo and vibe during different elements of gameplay, such as boss fights or when Brad uses a power-up. Fans of power metal or even some viking metal will appreciate the effort put into this game’s score.
As for the controls, you press anywhere on the game field and drag your party wherever you want. It can get clunky when the screen is populated by numerous monsters, but overall it allows enough flexibility to get the job done. The game also has a survival mode has you play as long as you possibly can, which until you level up quite a bit probably won’t be very long. It’s nice to have this variety, but it doesn’t add enough to warrant playing through them often.
Bardbarian is a fun game that mostly delivers what it attempts to offer. It is very repetitive, but the consolation is that you can keep any gold you’ve collected before your team is killed/fails at protecting the Town Crystal, which you can save and use to better your team, Brad or the town. There is an in-app purchase that doubles your gold collected, and that may not be a bad investment if you’re really enjoying the game. If the repetitious gameplay is a bit too much you may want to pillage elsewhere, but if you’re a brave enough warrior not to be deterred by such things, Bardbarian is a spoil unto itself.