Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Quick Take: Heroes of the Monkey Tavern

Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 17, 2017

I’m back from vacation, and up to my eyeballs in tasks. But I still spend a little bit of time staying sane playing games when I can. I put in a few hours into Heroes of the Monkey Tavern, a PC game I can only categorize as a “Casual Dungeon Crawler” in the Dungeon Master / Eye of the Beholder / Legend of Grimrock style. You move a group of characters along approximately ten foot squares in the four cardinal directions. It’s true 3D, so the movement is smooth and you stand in place and look up and down and at an angle (if you are into that kind of thing), but otherwise… it’s a flat grid-based dungeon with real-time gameplay.

It’s pretty. It’s simple. It’s pretty simple. Also pretty short, or so I’ve heard. I haven’t beat it yet, but from the rumblings I’ve heard, it represents maybe 6-10 hours of gameplay, depending on how extensively one hunts down the secrets. In about three hours of play I’ve cleared three levels and am on level four of eight. I once talked about the equivalent of “short story” RPGs. This would be an example.

Character creation is quick and dirty. For each of your four characters, you choose a portrait and a class, and assign around three extra points to your character attributes. You don’t even get to name your characters… they are referred to by their class name in-game. Leveling up is automatic, with characters gaining new abilities based on their class. Your own interaction with character upgrades is limited to equipment and occasionally choosing who will read a book that will beef up their attributes a point. Characters do level up at different rates, so a warrior will often be a level above the priest or “elementalist.”

Unlike similar games, the old “Eye of the Beholder Two-Step” (AKA “Square Dancing”) is not really an option in combat. Once a monster is active, saving is impossible, and once you are in melee, you will automatically take damage if you move. Once combat is joined, its really about efficient attack orders and resource usage.

The combat encounters (so far) are limited, and there are new monsters on every level that have their own special abilities you have to adapt to. Once I finally found a bow, I was able to engage in limited ranged attacks, doing a small amount of damage before melee was joined. That helps get an “edge” in the fight, but the damage is small enough that I haven’t been able to avoid melee altogether.

There is no non-combat interaction with creatures, and no economy that I’ve seen. So there’s not much point in carting around obsolete equipment.

Those may sound like serious limitations… and they are… but the point is to streamline the experience and reduce the learning curve. The developer was going for a quick and easy fix for your dungeon-crawling cravings, rather than a deep RPG experience. In that respect, they succeeded. The emphasis is on a few limited, interesting combat encounters, traps, and puzzles. That’s the game.

It’s not bad. I’ve enjoyed it so far. I mean, I’ve got a drive full of massive RPGs spanning decades that I need to play, so I really don’t NEED a little game like this in my life. It’s RPG junk food. But sometimes, that’s just what I am in the mood for: something I can snack on, and play in tiny 15-minute increments without having to spend much time figuring out what quest I’m on, re-learning how to use more advanced abilities, or anything like that.

Anyway, if you want to check it out:  Heroes of the Monkey Tavern on Steam.

Filed Under: Impressions - Comments: Read the First Comment

  • Modran said,

    I’ve tried Legend of Grimrock and the real-time grid-based gameplay is really putting me off :/.
    I have zero reflexes and the two-step dancing make my fingers cramp.
    I’m much more comfortable with the early Might & Magic, where I can THINK about my next move.