Fortune’s Tavern Review
Hey Set Leap Games reader, are you tired of those boooooring JRPGs where you end up traipsing around the whole damn world for days on end? Fighting endless battles, fixing every moron’s life problem that asks, and having to listen to a bunch of windbags blather on about nothing? And all just to get back some dumbass crystals? Sheesh!
Well have I got an indie game for you, brother (female brothers included).
Fortune’s Tavern is an RPG about a little man in a darling little top hat who runs a bed and breakfast. This chill-ass dude doesn’t have any need to go anywhere except into the kitchen to add a new recipe to delight his guests, or at the very most, into the forest that happens to be right in his backyard to make money by killing monsters. Now that’s the life! Only problem is, things can get a but dull and repetitive in the land of Fortune’s Tavern. But first let’s talk about the aesthetics.
The graphics are pixel-y. There is a certain charm to some of the sprites, but overall there is a lack of polish compared to what is being put out these days in most pixel sprite games. I don’t need to go on about what they look like because you can look at the pics (sorry blind people), but basically Fortune’s Tavern has a somewhat original look that isn’t all together bad, it just comes off amateur-like at times. But what you can’t see in the pictures is the frame-rate, which though I wasn’t able to measure due to the engine the game runs on, had a lot of shutter to it despite having such simple graphics. And there are many times where the sprites overlap in ugly ways, for instance a fence that is meant to be behind the character appearing on top of him.
The music sounds like stock tunes (please forgive me if I’m wrong, developer). The few tracks in the game actually aren’t bad out of context, but they rarely fit the mood of the game. For instance the main over-world theme is very intense and gives somewhat of an annoying energy that never lets up. I found myself turning down the volume to bare minimum during play because of this tenseness in the soundtrack.
Of course gameplay is really where things are at, and Fortune’s Tavern does some things right and some things wrong. I’ll say that there is enough depth in the sim/city-builder aspects of the game to actually muster up the “gotta keep playing” feeling at some level. There are always quests to do; there is always money to make; there are always things to repair and buy for your tavern and the surrounding area. That’s the part that was done right—the “tycoon” aspect. But what drags the whole process down is the questing itself, which is the activity that keeps the game moving forward. You have to go on quests in order to get items and gold for building up your property, but alas, the “fighting system” is so unrefined that it more lends itself to chaotic button spasming than anything else.
Allow me to elaborate.
You are given a pet early on (I received a lizard) which is to be your fighting companion. Instead of your pet being in your pocket or following behind you obediently, he’s constantly freaking the fuck out around your general area, obviously running on some kind of random direction AI. It can be quite distracting when you are just talking to people in your tavern and you have a lizard that is spinning donuts around you or is stuck in a corner spazing out. But more to the point, when you are “questing” your pet and any hero you have hired to accompany you fights in a similar fashion—randomly squirreling around the enemies. This makes it extremely easy to begin beating the shit out of your own companions rather than the enemy when everyone is tumbling around you like maniacs. What compounds this chaos further is that each new attack you pick up is permanently mapped to a different letter button on the keyboard, so unless you take the time to use remapping software to organize your attacks to certain buttons, you find yourself having to look at your keyboard for the right move to make while in the meantime your enemy and friend have switched places and you roast your dear pet with a fireball instead. Below is an example of an early quest, start to finish.
Even though I made a bit of fun of the game’s premise, I actually enjoyed building and repairing the tavern grounds. Sure the game has quite a number of graphical and mechanical hiccups, which definitely detract from the experience, but if the core of the gameplay was fully fun and engaging, all would have been forgiven. But that happened not to be the case. The building part is fun, but its necessary counterpart—the questing—turned out to be repetitive and chaotic.
And so we’re left for most of the game bumbling around in a forest, fighting enemies with indistinguishable behavior, and attempting to collect gold which might be hiding behind trees (and you have to press a button while standing on the same tile to pick it up).