REVIEW: Crossroads Inn

Nov
03

REVIEW: Crossroads Inn

The tavern simulator that we’ve been waiting for has arrived but it’s less of a party and more of a hangover until its further distilled.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-player
Genre: Simulation, Strategy
Platformer, Puzzle
Developer: Kraken Unleashed
Publisher: Klabater
Release date: 23 October, 2019

Overview

Crossroads Inn is a business management simulation where you take on the mantle of tavern keeper. You’ll be building a booze-slinging establishment while managing its staff and resources as you guide it from its humble origin as a single room hole-in-the-wall to a sprawling inn of legendary renown.

At least that’s the expectation. As anyone interested in the medieval tavern sims already knows, the genre seems to be cursed and success stories are rare. Nearly every entry shows great promise until it is met with general disappointment upon its release. Unfortunately, Crossroads Inn fits this mold though the elements that are currently functioning leave me more optimistic for its future than usual.

Today’s Special: Bread Soup and Lager

Crossroads Inn offers three game modes that will be familiar to veterans of the business sim genre: campaign, scenario, and sandbox. As is recommended on the main menu, I began my career in the campaign, though in a matter of moments I realized that this was a mistake. The story seemed interesting enough (although its audio and video were not synced) as it details the recent death of the king and the pretenders who seek to capitalize on it before introducing us to a young man of unknown lineage (whatever could it be?) I never managed to progress very far into this tale due to a significant number of bugs that hindered me at every turn but it did give me a good first impression. The unique aspect of the campaign itself is the character progression system for your tavern keeper via dialogue options; the more you use a specific demeanor, the more success you’ll have using it in the future. For example, if you lie consistently you’ll build a tavern keeper with an impressive talent for deception while one who takes the aggressive approach more often will be specialized into intimidation tactics. The nice twist that keeps this fresh is that different demeanors are better in different events and with different than others are and any build is sure to bring complications with it. I enjoyed this feature though I didn’t get much time with it as both of the times that I attempted to play the campaign I was met with game-breaking bugs that prevented any further progress.

I spent the majority of my time in the sandbox mode due to the aforementioned issues with the campaign and the fact that the scenario mode seems to not have any scenarios to choose from. Unlike in the campaign, your sandbox tavern is non-existent and you’ll be building your establishment from scratch on the plot of land that is provided to you. The ideal first room is the main room, which is the location that patrons will spend their time enjoying your hospitality, and you’ll be able to modify its size and shape to your liking as long as you have the gulden to afford it. From here you’ll furnish it with tables and seating for your guests, a counter for your staff to perform some of their service duties, and whatever decorations you decide on to spruce the place up.

As you find success in the tavern business and send customers stumbling away with full bellies and hazy vision, your fame will grow. This will result in patrons arriving more frequently and bringing higher expectations with them. The bulk of your early guests will be of the ‘distressed’ group, poor peasants who prefer cheap drinks and cheap food, but as you expand your services you’ll have to ability to attract townsfolk, outlaws, travelers, and even nobles depending on the atmosphere and focus of your establishment. Each of these groups has preferences that you must meet if you hope to attract and satisfy them; bread soup and lager may be enough to satisfy the peasantry but no self-respecting noble will set foot inside your public house unless you’re offering exceptional food, drink, and service. You decide on the specifics of what you offer on your menu and how you decorate, so you can tailor it to suit whichever groups you prefer and I had a lot of fun with this. One of the taverns that I messed around with was built for occupancy and I packed it full of poor peasants and made my profits by selling sheer quantity while I focused on designing another one to look like something of a rogues’ guild and pulled in a seedier clientele.

There are a number of aspects that you’ll need to manage to keep your business working efficiently. Expanding and building rooms (like the seedy game room) are certainly important but you’ll also need to get a handle on managing your staff and resources. You’ll frequently be visiting the world map and shopping around for the best deals on everything from mugs to table wine to candles to beans. A number of settlements and trading posts are available and you’ll be able to use both gulden and juicy gossip that your staff has overheard to secure trade routes, price reductions, and even protection for the supplies that you purchase as they are delivered to you. I found this to be an interesting feature and it certainly adds depth to the overall experience, though I look forward to using more of the mechanics for becoming self-sufficient so that crops are grown at the tavern itself instead of having to frequently import them in.

Your staff will grow alongside your business as your need for tavern maids, laborers, kitchen workers, and so forth increases. Each employee that you hire has a number of traits, both positive and negative that differentiate one from the next. One of your bar wenches may be a hard worker who accomplishes her tasks very quickly but, as a drunkard, she’ll be taking the occasional drink from your stores for herself. Your workers will also gain experience as they perform their duties which leads to increased efficiency and eventually even upgrading to a new job title with expanded abilities. The staff do their job as you would expect and you are free to hire and fire them as you see fit, something I took full advantage of if I discovered the traits of an employee to bring more complications than benefits.

Ancient Curse of the Tavern Sim

As much as I love the concept and design of Crossroads Inn, it may be one of the buggiest games that I’ve played at its official release and it feels like a promising Early Access title. The campaign is unplayable, the scenario mode is empty, and the sandbox mode crashes at least once every hour resulting in sizable losses of time and progress. I wasn’t able to even get the game to run until I discovered that unplugging my controller seemed to do the trick and even then it seemed to struggle as it was being launched. Some of the tooltips in the game were in the wrong place while others simply did not exist at all and my staff and guests frequently got caught on door frames and other objects which slowed them down in a sim where time is of the essence. There are just a few of the many bugs that I encountered during my several attempts to run a tavern, bugs that hopefully will be fixed quickly so that this title can overcome the curse and be remembered for the fantastic game underneath.

Verdict

Crossroads Inn is plagued with bugs that make it impossible to recommend in its current state. If it were working as intended this game would be a must-buy for just about anyone interested in its concept but it’s currently a frustrating shadow of what it could be. The heart is clearly there but the technical side of the game is a complete mess. If Crossroads Inn has caught your eye, wishlist it for later as it has a lot of potential if its many issues get ironed out but even the most hardcore fans of the genre will find it frustrating and disappointing as it is now.

About Aurumlamina

There are few things that bring me as much joy as an immersive strategy game, but I'll play and enjoy nearly any genre with the exception of racing. The magic words for me are grand strategy, 4X, tactical roleplaying game (you get the picture), and I've waved farewell to far too many hours of my life when they were involved. That said, I've found myself completely hooked on a number of roleplaying games, including the tabletop variety, as well as the occasional first-person shooter. I spend a lot of time writing and world-building outside of games and I have a soft spot for just about any game that has a solid amount of content for those who enjoy getting in touch with their creative side to play around with. Steam

2 comments

  • Peter Kiem
    Nov 4, 2019 @ 1:22 am

    I was excited to buy this but sadly I agree with this review. It seemed to be rushed out without much internal quality testing and is riddled with bugs. It should have been released as an Early Access title instead of a full release.
    I was able to progress in the campaign mode but for now I have shelved it until the bugs are sorted out – which the developers do seem to be trying to do as they are releasing new patches at a good rate.
    What I have been able to play has been very promising so I am not refunding it but looking forward to when they get most of the bugs fixed to try again…

    Reply
    • Aurumlamina
      Nov 4, 2019 @ 18:08 pm

      The developers have certainly been cranking out patches which is keeping me hopeful. I have faith that the game will be fantastic if the technical issues are resolved with real fixes. It definitely seemed like it would be a lofty goal when I last played it, though, so I’ll be giving it some time before I try again but I’m looking forward to it all the same as the game was fun even when it was broken.

      Reply

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