If you’ve ever hankered for a hamburger-themed role playing game, well, Wendy’s is here to fix your craving. That’s right, Feast of Legends takes you to the far off land of Beef’s Keep, where intrepid adventurers can explore the French Fry Forest and defend the Nation of Freshtovia. This is not a joke. Though firmly tongue-in-cheek, Feast of Legends is thoroughly imagined and fully functional. Both Forbes and Nerdist declare the game is surprisingly playable.
For you gaming nerds, Feast of Legends relies on the same d20-based game mechanics that drives Dungeons & Dragons. For the uninitiated, this means that gameplay is relatively easy to pick up. Playability aside, Wendy’s commitment to gamifying their brand fills me with mixed emotions.
On one hand, it’s awe-inspiring. Despite some really silly content, the thoroughness with which the world is built is admirable. I mean, where else can you don crispy chicken armor and wield a two-handed spork as you travel through a landscape adorned with fountains of ranch dressing? But much of the joke is played with a straight face. The artwork is pitch perfect. Monsters and heroes are rendered in exquisite detail.
Feast of Legends is free to download but, of course, Wendy’s wants their cut, and this particular catch is directly incorporated into the gameplay. Eating Wendy’s products in real life gives players special “buffs.” Eat a cheeseburger and you get a strength bonus. French Fries boost your character’s intelligence. Yet adventurers must be wary of the various “debuffs” that result from eating non-Wendy’s food. Gas station food weakens characters’ intelligence. Eating tacos diminishes your ability to do magic. Since Wendy’s has yet to develop a means to keep us under constant surveillance, this aspect of gameplay more or less relies on the honor system . . . although a savvy game master will probably insist that she see you consume said food to get the bonus.
So as a catch, it’s not too tough to ignore, but it’s a catch nonetheless. It’s also where I feel compelled to draw the line. I can accept a role playing game that is basically a giant advertisement. Sure, I could roll up a character and make her a warrior of the Order of the Baconator. But I can’t imagine myself gorging on Wendy’s all day to cop an advantage, even though Frosty’s are delicious and could boost my character’s charm rolls. My first encounter with Feast of Legends fascinated me with its mix of creativity, nerdy trappings, and naked commerce. But the buffs and debuffs system is just too nakedly commercial. And herein lies the rub, or at least my rub. If I play the game, which is not unimaginable, Wendy’s has won the day… even if I defiantly ignore the buff and debuffs.
And this is my ultimate take away from Feast of Legends: it’s seductive and insidious, but plenty of fun—just like the economic system that produced it. Neoliberalism consumes everything in its path, and employs breathtaking resources and creativity in the process. As much naïve passion as one may feel about something, it takes very little scratching to find the hard rules of financial imperatives buried under the surface.
So where does one draw the line? Do I embrace the cleverness and artistry of it? Or should I dismiss it all as crass commercialism? Is it feasible to effectively choose between the two? Personally, I think I’ll pass on this one, though, because I can. It’s practically impossible to stay above the fray of our economic system (unless you consume zero media and don’t shop almost anywhere), so I’ll take my agency where I can get it. There are plenty of other excellent gaming systems whose only catch is actually paying for it.