I fly somewhat regularly for my real-life job, and I like bringing along some sort of mindless, grind-heavy RPG to pass the time. I happened to have a 13-hour flight this week, and that seemed like a great opportunity to try out “Forgotten Tavern,” a choice-based game that has the same feel as an old-school console RPG.
Gameplay: The idea of the game is that you run across the epoynmous tavern while fleeing from some sort of predicament, and you settle down into a routine of fighting battles to help out the tavern’s proprietors. As is conventional for RPGs, the battles get more difficult over time, but you also get access to better equipment and items. There definitely seemed to be more to the game than I encountered in my time with it, from an overarching plot to the characters of the two proprietors. 5/10.
Mechanics: Unfortunately, the mechanics of the game didn’t support the interesting frame story. The turn-based combat is simple: You can choose among a few basic commands, the enemies choose the same, and you keep fighting until one side wins or runs away. There’s little depth to it, though you do get power-ups as you fight more battles. In a game that takes place almost exclusively through combat, the combat system isn’t deep enough to carry that much of the game. Frustratingly, combat effects are communicated entirely in prose descriptions, with even basic stats like HP hidden from the player. Combat is therefore mostly a matter of trial and error, which gets tedious quickly. 3/10.
Presentation: Although combat is the bulk of the game, there’s much more of a frame story and supporting characters than in most works in this genre. Your goal is to improve the tavern; as you win more and more battles, you broaden the tavern’s dinner menu, meet NPCs who are pleased with their tavern visits and reward you accordingly, and progress on the plot. The two tavern owners have distinct, recognizable personalities— not particularly deep ones, but enough given their roles in the stroy to be interesting. The monsters have different attacks and combat descriptions, although the pacing on revealing new enemies seemed to be a bit slow (especially given that it’s a text-only medium). 6/10.
You might be interested in this game if: You like old-school RPGs and are interested in a text version of them.