The RPG genre is huge. So huge in fact that it holds countless sub-genres within it; turn-based RPGs, crafting RPGs, open-world RPGs and many more all residing within what makes an RPG an RPG. As someone who’s had a lot less time on my hands in recent years, having the time to sit down with an epic adventure isn’t something I’ve been able to do as much as I’d have liked, but with Marenian Tavern Story: Patty and the Hungry God looking to mix the crafting RPG and turn-based RPG into one splendid brand of its own, I couldn’t ignore the lure of such an exciting prospect.
Marenian Tavern Story: Patty and the Hungry God is the latest in a long line of KEMCO titles to arrive on Xbox One in recent months and in this adventure players step into the shoes of a young girl named Patty, and her younger brother Gino, who are the children of a famous local Tavern owner. After spending so long living the finer side of life, Patty and Gino hit bad luck after the God of Poverty possesses them, leaving them poor, and forcing them out of the comfortable lives they once enjoyed. Not content to sit by and watch as things go against them, Patty decides to start over, joining the business empire from scratch with her own Tavern, whilst continuing to pacify the God of Poverty with freshly cooked meals in the hope of relieving themselves of their unwanted possession.
That’s the tale we are working with here and unlike most RPG adventures, Marenian Tavern Story doesn’t have a humanity ending threat to deal with, or some gigantic quest to rid the land of evil. Instead, it’s all about the building blocks of life and returning Patty and her family to their former glory.
The way it does that is by mixing two of the most unexpected sub-genres together into one interwoven experience – turn-based battling, and cooking!
How does that work you might ask? Well, until I got several hours in, I was still scratching my head, but the idea is simple. Throughout the game, your job is to scour the land in search of some fine ingredients to use in your meals, helping build your tavern’s reputation. To get those ingredients however, you’ll first need to take a brave venture into the land and either obtain ingredients from the local shops with money earned, or step foot in the many dungeons, whilst overcoming the vicious threats of evil that lie within them, trying to bring harm to your and your party of characters. Thankfully it is here where you can farm and harvest points and will find enemies who also drop suitable ingredients when defeated. The experience is essentially what you would expect to find if you were to mix Harvest Moon with an old school Final Fantasy title, and the result is just as shocking as that unexpected comparison sounds!
As players progress, their tavern reputation will increase, with a levelled ranking system showcasing just how well you are doing – the ultimate goal being to achieve a five-star status. How quickly you rank up will depend on a number of factors including the completion of story missions, keeping the God of Poverty full courtesy of your well-cooked meals at the end of each day, and the sales you make within your tavern from your customers. With each rank comes the next chapter, so everything moves forward together.
Now if you were to treat this as a typical turn-based combat RPG adventure, you’d probably find yourself down in the dungeons all day looking to beat off the enemies and level your party as much as possible. Here, typical fighting is only good for one thing, ingredients, and if you want to level your characters, you’ll need to put those cooked meals you’ve made with all your ingredients in the bellies of those heading out to collect them.
With that knowledge you can probably already surmise that Marenian Tavern Story: Patty and the Hungry God is very much heading towards the realm of being a somewhat grindfest, and that couldn’t be any closer to the truth. Cooked meals are at the centre of all progression in Marenian Tavern Story and with players having three cooking lists to choose from – Recipe Cooking, Original Cooking and Lookup Cooking – you can be sure as hell that you’re going to need to fill every pocket and cupboard with every ingredient you can find. Not to mention most meals usually require a lot more ingredients than you’d probably expect.
What makes things even more time consuming is that meals are only cooked at the end of each day once players have been out in the world and collected everything they wish to collect. Then, after splitting those cooked meals by the way of the party characters, the Poverty God and the Tavern itself, you will need to head back out to gather more ingredients. Surprisingly, despite having the option of where in the land to travel to each day, you can only take on a single dungeon per day, meaning it’s going to take a lot of back and forward before you get close to that elusive five-star rating – or indeed the end of the game. This is something that feels way more repetitive than it needs to be and could have been a lot less time consuming by being able to traverse multiple dungeons in one outing.
As for the combat itself, Marenian Tavern Story proves to be a capable experience with smooth attacks and easy to follow action in battle, all which is easily accessible to even those new to turn-based combat.
Away from gameplay though and with a focus on visuals, Marenian Tavern Story: Patty and the Hungry God lends itself to a retro 2D visual look whilst providing a series of 3D backgrounds which looks fantastic for those wanting a classic RPG feel to things. The visuals aren’t exactly ground-breaking and anyone who’s played the aforementioned Harvest Moon titles will certainly feel that things look overly similar, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The cutesy design is sure to appeal to even casual players.
KEMCO may not usually be seen delivering this type of RPG adventure, but the breakaway from the norm is certainly a welcome one, even if the grind is going to turn away some players. The general idea is an interesting one with two completely unexpected sub-genres mixing together to create a unique and inspiring adventure. There are ways that we could have seen a less ‘grindy’ experience but if you’re after something unique then Marenian Tavern Story: Patty and the Hungry God is certainly a game worthy of your time.