Selective dialogue and story driven games have been gaining ground since the rise of the indie game market. It’s no surprise to learn that game developers Moral Anxiety Studios continue this trend with The Tavern. What we see here is a thrilling tale solely based around your actions and responses in dialogue. Clinging to the slim hope of survival, The Tavern delivers an eerie story where the threat of defeat lurks around every corner.
Starting the game, you’re placed in control of a lone mercenary by the name of Nalia. Determined to support your family, you venture off for work in the dangerous lands around you. Adopting the retro semi-isometric style of early RPGs, The Tavern plays and explores just as any adventure title would, but where it differs is the action portion of the game.
No button mashing, gun-toting or spell wielding action awaits you in this story driven title. The visual novel style is similar to the popular Telltale games: you’ll be given a list of dialogue options for each major interaction, where every response or action could have minor, or major consequences, sometimes even ending the game. Luckily, you can save when you want, making easy work of dishing out the appropriate solutions with dialogue options. Multiple endings are available throughout the game too, leaving the decision to either continue further into the dark journey or, for whatever reason, to end it early. That’s up to you…
Interaction is a key feature of the game. Focusing on its RPG side, Nalia can interact and explore her surroundings, revealing sometimes important notes and additions to her journal. Other times useful items or friendly lore may be found, adding to the depth of exploration displayed in the grim adventure title.
The Tavern is relatively short in terms of today’s modern gaming era though, clocking in at around an hour for my first playthrough, and the second in just over 2 hours, after what was deemed an “appropriate” ending. The deep characters and story give you plenty of reason to make multiple playthroughs and encounter new scenarios and endings each time you play. Tough choices make up most of the game’s difficult moments, so taking the time to re-live gripping moments and discovering different outcomes proves to be a rather satisfying feature.
A lone tavern shrouded in mystery, filled with enigmatic characters in the depths of a dark land amidst a war, The Tavern places itself among few others in the adventure category of video games. Thrill and excitement surface from rich text and story, deep and personal relationships, as well as the fear of losing it all before every decisive action. A truly unique experience as an average mercenary looking to save her family, The Tavern is filled with enough grit for story enthusiasts to indulge in. Familiar and easy ‘selective dialogue’ gameplay, a fantastically grim soundtrack echoing throughout your journey and intriguing decisions along every step of the way make for a welcome break from the everyday norm we see in mainstream games today.