Simulation games are big business, you name it, it’s been simulated. Throughout my short reviewing career, I’ve played some weird, wonderful, and frankly absurd games from this colourful genre. The one job that I hadn’t tried in a virtual setting was barkeeper, that was until I played Crossroads Inn. It’s an interesting take on the role of a ye olde bar owner and his rabble of unruly clientele.
Developed by Kraken Unleashed and published by Klabater, this is more than a simulation game, it’s also a resource management come RPG adventure. You soon discover that the life of a barkeeper isn’t all dancing girls and jugs of mead. No, it’s stressful, full of issues, and you are constantly filling your shelves with stock.
Crossroads Inn is a challenging and political nightmare.
I loaded into this expecting a good old knees-up down the local boozer. Oh, how wrong was I! The medieval world you exist in is in turmoil. The king has just died, and there are rumours that foul play is afoot. His heirs all mysteriously died at a young age, leaving the throne empty and the people leaderless. Those in power are vying for their chance to seize control, but unbeknownst to them, an illegitimate son is hiding in the shadows. You are this young man, and instead of taking your rightful place on the throne, you are learning how to run your uncle’s bar.
The story follows this man’s legacy, and his struggles with the rich, the poor, and everyone in between. The bizarre story takes many twists and turns, and you must become the best barkeep on your way to possibly becoming the king.
The gameplay is split nicely between a simulation game and resource management.
Once you get over the seedy and political nature of the plot, and you overcome the many backstabbing snake-like characters you encounter. You can get to grips with what makes Crossroads Inn great. The brilliantly balanced gameplay is split between simulation elements and resource management. There is also a hint of RPG traits during discussions. You can choose two game modes to fill your time, Story and Sandbox. The Story takes you on the aforementioned journey from rags to riches. Whereas Sandbox has you focusing your energy on a singular tavern and what it takes to make it a success.
You are free to hire staff, level them up, expand your pub, decorate it, choose the menu, etc, etc. There’s lots to take in, and plenty to do. Alongside this, you must manage a plethora of resources to ensure that business ticks along nicely. You will control the flow of stock, take on missions, manage relationships, all while balancing the books.
It was quite the handful to play, and like a house of cards, one mistake could make the whole thing come down. Keeping everyone happy is nigh on impossible, so you make the most of every situation. Its in-depth nature makes it a complex beast to master, and it isn’t the easiest title to get to grips with. You’ll try, fail, and try again until you understand the fundamentals.
Crossroads Inn comprises confusing tasks and pointless conversations.
As you undertake the story mode, you are given tasks that form a long-winded, but much-needed tutorial. In theory, this is fantastic and should have been a great help. Sadly, though, it wasn’t always clear what was needed to complete an objective, and you’d waste money and time on unnecessary items. This lead to frustration, plenty of exasperated huffs, and many shakes of the head. This was unfortunately made worse with the constant crashes that wiped progress as the game reset to the dashboard. Hopefully, the last issue will be patched out before release, so you may not experience this problem.
When I saw conversations impacted the gameplay and the surrounding relationships, I was genuinely excited. This RPG element was something unusual, and not what I expected to see. Imagine my disappointment when it amounted to nothing more than an RNG moment of chance. Yes, the response either helped, or hindered progress, but there was little skill involved other than selecting the one with the highest success rate.
Crossroads Inn is more of a success than a failure, and I really enjoyed setting up my bar and micromanaging the day-to-day tasks. This for me is where it excels, and Kraken Unleashed should have focused their attention along these lines rather than diluting their gameplay.
A medieval spectacle.
With so much going on you may be worried that it’s going to be a horrendous mess to look at. Worry not, a well-designed UI keeps the screen as clutter-free as expected. I loved the dark tones and earthy colours that enhanced the medieval theme. The choice of a bird’s-eye perspective, or tabletop view, made playing it very easy, even when the action got hectic. The character models and world map are detailed, interesting to look at, but won’t wow you with their art style.
As you’d expect, the audio is a delightful mix of medieval tunes and folk music that transports you to the era. The wonderful sounds were sadly interrupted by the constant sound of your patrons complaining about food and drink. There was no pleasing these moaning fools, and sadly this is something that you’ll have to put up with throughout your time as a bartender.
Unresponsive and cumbersome controls.
Having originally been released on PC, there was always a risk that this would be tough to control. Unfortunately, my fears came true as this can be tough to play. From the slow-moving cursor to unresponsive actions, and the menus freezing for no reason. It was a shame as it impacts the gameplay, and makes an already challenging game much harder. Where it excels, however, is the ease at which you can move between the menus when they don’t freeze, that is.
Between the story and sandbox mode, there is plenty for you to see and do. You’ll lose hours of your life setting up the perfect tavern, ordering in stock, and making each visitor happy. You’ll enjoy the politically charged story, and the many characters you meet, even if the conversation choices are a moot point. A challenging achievement list makes this hard to complete, and you’ll want to return to it repeatedly to get the 100% status.
Crossroads Inn is a great game with a few negative points.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Crossroads Inn, even if the negatives were frustrating. The story kept me interested, and the in-depth management system challenged me throughout. If you love simulation or resource management games, then you’ll adore this. I recommend you try it, so buy it here! Can you make the tavern of your dreams in sandbox mode? Or will you become the king that you are destined to be? Only time will tell.