Epic Tavern looks to capture the magic of D&D in a tavern sim-management–style game.
All the best adventures start off the same way. The large oak door creaks open and light pours into a dimly lit room. Many of the patrons’ eyes squint at the light as you enter and close the door. The room is lit by candles and a few lanterns dotted across the stone walls. You feel as if a thousand eyes lie upon you and you see a dwarf cleaning a large stein from behind a long bar. As you approach, your nostrils are assaulted by the many strange denizens of the establishment. You could swear you hear a hiss from a dark corner. Loud, rousing cheers rise from one table full of orcs. Finally, the dwarf bartender looks at you with his one good eye as he puts down the stein. You aren’t here for a drink, though — you are here for adventure.
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for information, a drinking competition or just a place to chill with your fellow necromancers: the tavern is a staple of all fantasy. Bartenders are especially famous for being almost otherworldly beings who always have some sort of useful information. Developer Hyperkinetic Studios asks ‘What if you ran that tavern? What kind of adventures would begin at your bar? How much for a plate of chicken wings?’ You get the point.
Epic Tavern puts you behind the proverbial bar and lets you call (and serve) the shots. The key difference is that you hire adventures to do you favors and help grow your sprawling business. Epic Tavern still has a long way to go — keep in mind that Epic Tavern is still in early access and plans to be so until early 2019. In any case, I decided to open the Screaming Scoundrel Inn and see what shenanigans awaited.
Upon start-up, I didn’t exactly know what to expect, but here we go: Epic Tavern has an interesting way of showing you how its adventures work via tutorial. The gist is that the game is split down the middle (currently) — in one part you run the tavern and provide food, drink and all sorts of amenities to your patrons. This can be a room, infirmary, bath house and things you wouldn’t expect, like an alchemy lab or blacksmith. The second part of the game has you sending out adventurers under your employ to help build the tavern’s reputation and gain phat loot. Your adventurers level up and each adventure can play out differently depending on what classes you employ.
At its core, Epic Tavern has really cool ideas but seems more like adventure management than tavern management. The tavern side of things was not really the focus when I played the game. You pick your menu, you click on adventurers, serve them and get quests. The cool stuff for me was learning about the back story of my Flame Mage, Murgul. Having been born with a fiery gift, she describes how she was an outcast and left for dead. She tells you of the kind outcast that raised her. After enough adventures and a few pints, a new quest appears and she wants to introduce you to her adoptive parent. This triggers a quest that I don’t want to spoil, but this for me was the highlight of my time with Epic Tavern.
There are things that of course I would love to see in Epic Tavern, such as far more customization and perhaps actually being able to construct my own tavern. Right now, you get a static room and blackness all around it. I would have loved to actually be able to place my upstairs infirmary or watch my adventurers head to the beds I rented out to them.
The adventuring side of things is fantastic, though. The game breaks things up into combat, social, mind and survival. Each category has set skills which can be leveled up for your adventurers and helps out during certain quests. The cool part was the way the game auto-generated the banter, story and actions of the characters. My barbarian leapt to his feet as he saw my poor doctor being trounced, taking the crossbow he had equipped and laying waste to the enemy. I imagine the text would have been different if he had a sword or had perhaps used magic. However, if he had failed the roll he might have accidentally shot my doctor. It’s these random, fun written moments that make it feel like a D&D game.
To wrap up my quick first impressions, I love the idea of Epic Tavern and I can’t wait to see the final product in about a year. It will be interesting to see how they balance the game between the tavern and adventuring aspects — it has great potential, but definitely needs to ramp up to truly be ‘Epic’. While there is some fun to be had, it did begin to feel a bit grindy after only an hour or so of play. Of course, these things are subject to change, so who knows. I definitely want to see more focus on the tavern side of things and even more fun creative writing with choices on the adventuring side.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Feel free to check out the game, give developer Hyperkinetic Studios your support and enjoy running your very own Epic Tavern.