An anxious Elf, a shadowy assassin, and a vampire with short term memory loss walk into a bar. This isn’t the start of a joke, it’s the opening to Tavern Talk, a fantasy riff on the incredibly popular indie hit Coffee Talk. Adventurers of all shapes and sizes frequent your tavern and it’s up to you, dear innkeep, to listen to their stories, complete their quests, and serve them the perfect cocktails. It’s mostly the listening, though.
Tavern Talk doesn’t just inhabit the cosy genre, it embodies it. Everything about this game exudes warmth, whether it’s talking through your Elfin friend’s anxieties about becoming an adventurer or the portents of the apocalypse. Even the epic adventures have an aura of ease about them.
Of course, as a humble innkeep, your role is simply to write customers’ problems on your quest board for real adventurers to take care of, but it’s easy to find as much joy in your patrons’ successes as you would your own. This is a game about talking, and the talking is nice.
The opening hour or so of conversation and questing is available as part of the demo, and while it lacks some of the depth that made Coffee Talk such a hit, there’s plenty of room for growth. The best conversation comes between yourself and Fable, your Elven regular who’s fed up with her life tending to forest mushrooms. They want adventure, and that’s where you come in.
While there’s not too much choice in conversations – do you tell your best friend that you don’t like them or not? – decisions are baked into the drinks you make them. After geeing Fable up with a bunch of affirmations to assuage their unfounded fears, you can choose how they approach their quest. Tackle the werewolf problem head-on with a strengthening brew, or create an intelligence-boosting concoction to try to talk it out? The choice is yours – you’re the mixology expert, after all.
The integration of drink mixing into the narrative is probably my favourite part of Tavern Talk. The mixing itself is pretty simple, usually three parts of the aspect you want to boost and two parts other mixers, but each of the five ingredients represents a classic fantasy ability: strength, charisma, dexterity, intelligence, and defence. Mixing gets marginally more complicated when you add in an infusion, which gives your cocktail an extra ability (think an icy shield or the power of invisibility) and changes the recipe slightly, but you can always start over by feeding incorrectly brewed potions to your pet… thing.
The demo offers a single instance where you see the results of your choices, but I’m eager to find out what happened to the other characters I sent out on quests, fortified with my mystic brews. Innkeeper, gossip-gatherer, quest-giver. You’re more NPC than hero, more therapist than adventurer. But the hints of catastrophe and mysterious figures from your past reappearing suggest that your own adventure is soon to begin. Let’s just hope your brewing skills have garnered you a party of allies ready to defend you from whatever lies ahead.
Next: I’m Worried I’ll Never Finish Baldur’s Gate 3