Marenian Tavern Story: Patty and the Hungry God
Reviewed by Shaun (@reviewsbyhughes)
Developer: Rideon, Inc.
Category: Role-Playing, Simulation, Adventure, Strategy
Release Date: 29.11.2018
“You level up not by defeating monsters, but by eating food.”
If only this were true of real-life! If only!
Designed and developed by Rideon, Inc, and subsequently published by KEMCO, Marenian Tavern Story is an RPG adventure set in a fictional, fantasy land. Taking inspiration from many of the great role-playing games of old, Marenian Tavern Story flips the script with a number of design choices which work to support the unorthodox approach to storytelling and discovery. With so many great RPGs on the market, some of which being discussed for Game of The Year for 2018, it seems a tall order for any RPG in the current climate to be successful. How does Marenian Tavern Story fare? Read on for our thoughts at ‘The Switch Effect.’
It’s all piling up now…
The storyline shared at the opening of the game is creative, if a little unpolished: Patty’s brother has been possessed by the God of Poverty and the whole family has become poor, with huge debts. To pay the debts back, it is decided that an old, run-down tavern will be resurrected and reopened for business. This is where you come in, as you look to gather ingredients from the open world and bring them back to the tavern. Once successful, you will then produce new, exciting dishes ready for sale each day to draw the crowds in and earn enough money to pay back the growing debts.
Once the formalities of the backstory are shared, and I use the word ‘formalities’ for good reason, you begin to explore the landscape. At this point, I felt a little underwhelmed by the opening as the manner with which it was presented was neither engaging nor entertaining. The on-screen text conversations between the main characters were void of ingenuity and even the way the text scrolled across the screen felt cumbersome and slow. These misgivings were forgiven as I was presented with the town of Marenian, which was charming and colorful.
With so much on offer in an RPG due to the inherent nature with which the games are designed, tutorials are imperative to any success. Although Marenian Tavern Story offers one in a creative way, found in the form of NPC conversations and storytelling elements, I felt these were too heavy and not often enough. Fortunately, the gameplay itself isn’t too taxing that you cannot work it out for yourself – however it was yet another opportunity for some to become too overwhelmed and uninterested.
Tried and twisted
The gameplay itself is where the game becomes interesting. The tried and tested methods of RPGs are present and accounted for: battling foes, traversing land, purchasing new items and developing your characters abilities. Where it differs, and differs it does, is in the core gameplay.
The battle system is almost secondary to the rest of the content, and this is something it seems the developers have been keen to ensure. Your average turn-based combat is found here, with health and MP to boot, however, there are some very neat functions in the top-left of the screen which make it very easy to get back to the core of the action: the gathering and cooking of food. The top left-hand corner offers the opportunity to auto-play the battle with each of your playable characters completing the same core moves over and over until you say otherwise, or the ability to speed up the play so that the battle is over much quicker. Both were very welcome inclusions and I utilized them throughout. My only concern is that in offering these options, it calls into question the need for the battles in the first place. It offers some context in the form of making it more difficult to go out and gather resources, but this is all it does.
As well as the battle system, the other key area of the gameplay that demands attention is the gathering of resources and subsequent creation of wholesome, hearty meals. Reminiscent of other games that offer cooking based gameplay, including Harvest Moon and Zelda: BOTW, you follow recipes or produce your own to create meals. These meals can be used to sell at the tavern to make money which can then be spent on more ingredients, cooking materials or weapons. They can also be used to level up your character, meaning they are stronger in battle and possess greater power. The dilemma of which to do more often becomes more prominent during the latter parts of the game, and serves as an interesting break from tradition.
Gather, battle, cook, repeat
It has to be said that Rideon, Inc. and KEMCO have worked hard to create a unique experience and this cannot be taken away. Invariably, what it does mean is that these gameplay elements are subsequently analysed to consider their validity within an RPG. What struck me first was the repetitiveness of some of the gathering and cooking mechanics. Over the course of one game week, consisting of four days, I had to visit the same location on the world map. In said location, I then gathered ingredients from the same locations each time. By the fourth day, I knew exactly where to go and it became less engaging than I had hoped for. As the map opened up and more locations became available, the process still remained the same. This can also be said for the in-game NPCs in the village, who I diligently spoke to each day and who had the same things to say. When I compare this to the ‘AAA’ title, Octopath Traveller, or to the lesser known indie title, ‘Cosmic Star Heroine,’ Maverian Tavern Story is disappointing in this regard.
It seems such a shame, and very much a missed opportunity, that Maverian Tavern Story would remove the need for grinding in battle and instead replace it with the need to grind through other means. I believe it is this which stands in the way of Maverian Tavern Story being a great game rather than a good one, and would have been an easy inclusion to make.
Overall, I found Maverian Tavern Story to be an interesting RPG that deserves credit for its ingenuity. The battle-system functionality was great and something I wish could be transferred to other RPGs that have been released in recent months, and the cooking mechanics hold a dear place in my heart after the countless hours I have spent on Harvest Moon upgrading my kitchen to produce the next great meal. Unfortunately, for all it does well, there is an equal number of changes that could, and probably should, have been made.
For me, this year has been the year of the RPG on Nintendo Switch and as such, I believe there are other games deserving of your time before this one. That said, there is enough here for those looking for something different that won’t break the bank.
Buy Marenian Tavern Story on the Nintendo eShop
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