You ever wonder about what the world would be like if other industries adopted the concept of early access in the same way as games?
I do. Frequently. And thus my fitful sleep is assailed nightly by ghastly visions of flickering, textureless houses with no walls, sandwiches with no filling, and socks that only come in packs of one.
This goes double for high fantasy universes. The hobbit’s journey to Mordor, for example, would have been a much shorter, less successful trip if the elves were still working on their Lembas Bread and magic chainmail, and the fellowship had to make do with a stale box of Krispy Kreme and a sweat-stiffened Dickies polo shirt.
This is exactly the dilemma I faced as the proprietor of the tavern I named “The Fungus n’ Rum”. Getting adventurers drunk, feeding them, and then hiring them for dangerous quests was no problem. Trying to arm them with suitable weaponry for their adventures though, I could only imagine the Blacksmith had taken the year off, as even the most basic of equipment upgrades was, as yet, completely unavailable.
Epic Tavern is a bright, attractive, wonderfully animated, brilliantly written and musically scored, hollow shell of a management sim. From the witty quest vignettes that play off common fantasy tropes, to the pint-slammingly raucous folk ditties that echo around your pub, the game exudes love, care, and talent. It’s also so threadbare in its current state that it asks about as much from the player as Cookie Clicker or similar idle games.
Play is divided into two sections. An interior view of your tavern, and a text heavy quest map. The Tavern currently consists of ordering stock, clicking on little bubbles above adventures heads to serve them food or booze, and occasionally talking to them about new quests. You can also hire adventures, who can then be sent out on quests via the quest screen once you’ve run out of action points and have to call it a day. There’s also a chaining mechanic where, upon seeing their friends drink, other adventurers will decide that they’re thirsty or hungry too. So you serve them, and sometimes the invisible dice rolls might decide that they don’t like the food or booze, and the chain stops. A lot of numbers and information appear on the screen, but the only influence I found I had over these rolls was making sure I always had the best food and booze in stock, which is easy to do because it’s cheap, and money is plentiful.
You can also level up your heroes here, when they have enough experience, which is where Epic Tavern’s very small amount of strategy comes in. Heroes have a few different statistics (Combat, Social etc.), and sometimes, when you’re offered a quest, you get to choose an approach. So you can try to have balanced skills across your roster, or specialize for certain types of quest. Or, you can ignore it completely, because there still seems to be about a fifty/fifty chance you’ll succeed at most quests anyway.
The quest screen is, in a nutshell, paragraphs of text with dice rolls at the end. You can switch each hero between offensive, balanced, or defensive modes before you roll the dice, but you’re told the exact effect this has on success percentages, so it’s not really a tactical decision, more just a choice as to whether you want to spend another few second mix/maxing. If you succeed, you get gold, experiences, and occasionally some bonuses for your tavern. If you don’t, you don’t, and then you can try again the next day.
There’s a system involving upgrading your tavern, but it isn’t finished yet. There’s a system involving equipping your heroes. It isn’t finished yet. There’s rival taverns. They aren’t there yet, either. Everything does run nicely, although occasionally lines of code will pop up in textboxes, like glitches in a matrix imagined by an AI programmed to write good pub guides.
So, yeah, absolutely can’t recommend this one at the moment unfortunately, unless you feel like supporting the developers. From what I’ve seen, they seem like excellent people and genuinely committed to making Epic Tavern the best it can be. Alternatively, if you don’t approach it like a management sim, and just want to relax and read some really well written, funny fantasy stories and listen to nice music, then you’ll probably have a great time. One to watch, for sure, but could use a bit more time to ferment.