In order to stand out amongst their competition, many developers attempt to incorporate other types of genres into their games, thus blurring the line between one genre and another.
Unfortunately, many of these titles are unsuccessful because they feel unfocused to the player, mostly due to various genres’ elements being added in for the sake of uniqueness and not to help support the other elements as a whole. Moonstone Tavern has some interesting elements incorporated into it, but it does not feel like a truly fleshed out or satisfying gaming experience.
Moonstone Tavern was developed by Michael and Elizabeth Flynn and published by FlynnFour Games. The story is simple; your aunt recently passed away, leaving you as the primary caretaker for her once famous Moonstone Tavern. The only way to bring it back to its former glory is to embark on quests, earn money, and repair it. As you do this, the tavern’s renown will be expanded, allowing you to accompany more guests and hire more staff. The concept is a great idea, but more often than not I felt like I was merely an adventurer who happened to run a tavern on the side, instead of that being my main focus. This is because most of your activity, whether it's going on quests for items, money, etc. or grinding for crafting materials takes place outside of your tavern. Most of the time I spent playing Moonstone Tavern, I was running around doing menial tasks in order to scrounge up barely enough to make a minor repair, or buy enough materials to craft a few meals or drinks to keep my guests happy. It’s to be expected to begin business simulation games at bottom level, but it took me several hours in Moonstone Tavern to achieve any noticeable upgrades to my tavern. Throughout this grinding process, I never felt like I was accomplishing anything.
The gameplay of Moonstone Tavern is mixed. On the one hand, the business side of the gameplay is quite what you’d expect, and has many upgrades and renovations the player can make in order to bolster their taverns. Some features of the tavern include crafting, alchemy, and cooking, all of which help add an incentive to grind for materials. The grind for said materials, however, is about as bare-bones as you can get. Combat consists of mashing the attack button until an enemy dies. This system is made even worse by the control scheme. I prefer to play games using the keyboard, as I find it (usually) more responsive than my mouse. But by making the two central attack keys k and control, it’s quite awkward to position my fingers comfortably. No matter whether I use the arrow keys or WASD to move, or which control key I use, I feel like my hands are playing twister on my keyboard.
Moonstone Tavern’s graphics and sound are also unimpressive.
It was very obviously made with RPGMaker, and though there’s nothing inherently wrong with this engine, it does look very similar to the many other titles created with it. The music consists of generic techno songs, which just loop after they end. There is one song for whenever you are in the tavern and one for when you are outside. Both sound similar and seem like they would be much more fitting in a space-related title than in a fantasy adventure one.
Although I could be fairly forgiving of some of these issues because this is an independent title, I cannot condone the blatant act of the developers lazily copying and pasting their own work as new material. Upon doing some research, the people behind FlynnFour Games have developed and published five titles thus far (not including Moonstone Tavern). These titles have mostly mixed reviews, but one stands out among the rest, an aptly titled Fortune’s Tavern - The Fantasy Tavern Simulator. Fortune’s Tavern was released on March 5th, 2016 and received mixed reviews. Most of the negative feedback focused on game-breaking bugs, very shallow gameplay, and overall polish. I did not encounter any bugs that made Moonstone Tavern unplayable, but I can relate to the other criticism stated. Screenshots and footage of Fortune’s Tavern showed me that it is practically identical to Moonstone Tavern in both appearance and gameplay. The developers claim that Moonstone Tavern is a prequel to Fortune’s Tavern, however, they have not released any updates on Fortune’s Tavern or addressed any of the issues players had with the game. Their updates were only announcements of DLC and sales on their other titles. A successful sequel (or prequel in this case) in a series is supposed to address its predecessor’s issues and fix them, and although I’m happy that Moonstone Tavern is a functional game, the evidence shows that it has many of the same issues as the previous title in the series.
I cannot conclusively say that the developers do not care about their audience or feedback they’ve received on their titles, but considering they seem to repeat the same mistakes and issues without addressing them or listening to player’s criticism raises a warning sign that they are more interested in monetizing however they can instead of creating a substantial and fully functional game. Moonstone Tavern is simply an average game. It has an interesting and fairly unique concept but an uninspired execution, and to top it all off, it's a clone of another mediocre game. I give it a final score of 5 out of 10.