Epic Tavern is partly a mix of sim management and part RPG adventure being developed by Hyperkinetic Studios. On one hand, you’re the owner of a fledgling tavern. On the other, you’re a mercenary contractor who sends brave (and by brave I mean gullible) adventures on quests for gold, loot, and reputation. If you’ve always wanted to have a living breathing tavern a la Dungeons and Dragons, then Epic Tavern will tease your appetite with its charming writing and ridiculous humor. This is our early access impression of Epic Tavern.
I’ve always dreamed of a tavern named the Groggy Wench, a hole-in-the-wall rife with thieves and all manner of other unsettling ilk. When I booted up Epic Tavern, I couldn’t wait to name my tavern just that. Quickly, my place of no repute, the Groggy Wench, was seating a mere handful of sordid folk. Each patron has something of an introduction about themselves when they first enter. They will either tell you if they want food and drink or you could offer it to them yourself, suggesting any of the wide variety of gourmet dishes you have. As tavern owner, you cannot be above feeding you customers anything including rats. I frequently upsold my BBQ rat dish once I had it on the menu. It was my best-selling dish.
The more often a patron visits the tavern, the more loyalty they accrue, which leads to additional stories about themselves and as well as showing you which foods they prefer. Patrons will also ask for a spot for the night, but the real money is made by selling meals and drinks. Everything you do in the management part of the game gains your tavern exp, known in the game as reputation. The better your tavern reputation, the more customers visit, who in turn give you access to additional quests, and the more varied your pool of hirable adventurers. Every patron is a potential party member, Dungeons and Dragons style.
Currently, Epic Tavern has little depth to its tavern building and managing. Tavern upgrades aren’t available yet, but there is a massive amount waiting to be finished in the menus. The planned depth is there, but it has yet to be implemented, leaving what quickly becomes a fairly shallow repetitive experience. Patrons’ classes vary, but character models do not, and the frequently hooded models blend together and lose most of their character.
Every action in the management section costs action points so there are only so many BBQ rats and stale bread you can sell in a single evening. The RPG part of the Epic Tavern is a real gem that requires a lot of reading and comes with a great heaping of humor. Each patron you hire has two of the four skills: mind, combat, skill, or social. Quests require particular skills but each has a wide range of random encounters that could use any combination of skills. Once you’ve gathered your party, the rest of the game is a simple roll of the dice. Winning nets the party and tavern loot and experience while failing results in injury and sometimes the death of a party member.
The questing portion is a simple point and click. The gameplay part comes in making the party from the pool of hired adventurers. But once the questing starts, there is no control the player can exact on the adventure, aside from the occasional rubbing of the lucky halfling foot and saying the all too frequent prayer to the RNG gods. Even though quests are simple, they are fun and their success relies on your ability to gain loyal adventurers with a range of skill combinations.
Epic Tavern is rather bare bone in its current state. However, the planned content promises to make all your dreams of running a hole-in-the-wall Dungeons & Dragons tavern experience come true. If you’re not a fan of unfinished games, I’d say wait on Epic Tavern, but not too long. Though if you want to try your hand at selling BBQ rats and a metric ton of mead, but be ready for placeholder content and a lack of management depth. I, for one, plan on revisiting Epic Tavern and drinking deeply from the Groggy Wench’s barrel of questionable wine.
Preview copy provided by PR for PC.