Crossroads Inn Review
Reviewed on PC
Crossroads Inn, developed by Kraken Unleashed Studio and published by Klabater, is a unique combination of simulation and RPG set in a medieval tavern environment. Set in the fictional continent of Delcrys, players are tasked with building, supplying, and managing a tavern, for better or worse it seems.
While Crossroads Inn features several game modes including Sandbox and Scenarios, the game strongly recommends starting with the campaign mode. Following said recommendation, this review focuses on the campaign mode itself. Thankfully, following that recommendation was a sound choice indeed. Menus are fairly self explanatory, though the pace of actions in game is rapid enough that I welcomed all the hand holding available to me until more familiar.
Crossroads Inn's campaign begins with the passing of the beloved King Owen and initial descriptions of the other relevant characters in the kingdom. Fast forward a bit, and we are introduced to Martyn, one of the late king's most trusted friends and servants, tasked with helping King Owen's last living child to grow, prosper, and become a renowned inn keeper. Oddly enough, the purpose for this path is to help the player regain the family crown and inheritance. Weird career path for a royal I felt, but to each their own.
Your first task as a fledgling inn keeper is to actually get Martyn's inn up and running the way it deserves. This involves expanding the size of said inn, furnishing it with tables and benches, and hiring a bare-bones staff of workers. For some crazy reason Martyn decided to toss the new inn keeper into the deep end by agreeing to host a wedding reception in the inn, despite not having any furniture, let alone enough space for actual people! Thankfully the construction/building process of Crossroads Inn is fairly fluid and organic, so things get up and running pretty quickly.
Shortly after starting out in the game, the RPG elements of Crossroads Inn begin. This mostly consists of successfully navigating various conversational hurdles with important characters. Essentially, what these boil down to is doing traditional checks for success against things like intimidation, passion, oratory, and so on. Depending on how well these checks go for you, relationships with important characters either improve or worsen, with relevant consequences either way. While I did enjoy having choice-based consequences to liven up the simple life of tavern ownership, the repetitive nature of some of these checks took a toll after a while.
For example one of early "missions" to undertake involves smuggling wine from a local bandit camp. Of course, a tavern should have wine, so why is it necessary to smuggle such a necessity? Well, when a pompous royal by the name of Duke Artar of Rockburry hold a monopoly on the wine trade in the region, leading to poor quality wine at exorbitant prices, smuggling doesn't sound like that bad of an idea. This plays out in game is by the lead smuggler giving you a few days to smuggle and either store or sell his wine without getting caught by the Duke. The means by which you try not to get caught by the Duke is through the toss of the dice of conversation checks. Again, I respect this game mechanic choice, but the fact that you are forced to engage in nearly identical conversational confrontations with him a solid 6+ times while the days of smuggling drag on became tiresome. Add in the fact that, upon a failed check, all of your wine is confiscated at a point when the only thing you have to sell is wine, the tiresomeness takes on a markedly frustrating quality.
Trade routes are available between your inn and surrounding villages, camps, and estates. It is a good idea to shop around when needing certain supplies as not every location sells every item, and prices vary from location to location as well. Upgrades to shipments are available, such as protection and express delivery, though even with express delivery I still ran into difficulties with restocking from time to time. The issue became, even when being properly staffed, with assigned tasks for each worker being optimized for what I needed them to do, I felt helpless looking at my much needed ingredients sitting on a pallet outside while my workers would either do whatever they felt like doing, or simply get stuck somewhere. It should be noted, however, that between my playtime with Crossroads Inn and the writing of this review, an update has been released that is said to correct these pathing issues.
All in all, Crossroads Inn is not a bad game. I enjoyed the art style, the music and ambiance were quaint and pleasant. There were just too many rough edges that made my time with the game feel more like a chore than being an immersive experience. Right out of the gate there were graphical/sound woes. The intro video seemed out of sync with the audio to a noticeable degree, to the point that the background story was being very well told only to be abruptly cut short when the video finished before the audio finished. While I thought this may have just been an unfortunate oversight that could be easily corrected, I was again met with the same complication when the next cut-scene came on.
And while the art style is pleasant, it would have made play much smoother and enjoyable if the workers in the inn were a bit easier to recognize. For example, while each character has their own avatar head image representing themselves, their in game representations often failed to reflect those same visuals. I spent a fair amount of time initially trying to figure out which of my workers went with which character sheet, only to discover that their coloration of hair and such in the image was not the same at all. This would not have been a significant issue, if it weren't for the fact that menu navigation was sometimes clunky or non-responsive. These issues, combined with graphical artifacts and menus overlapping each other, sadly decreased the engagement I felt.
Thankfully, none of my issues with Crossroads Inn were story or basic mechanic related. I could really tell that there is a fun and clever sim game under all of the bug-related rubble here, and in all likelihood the true potential of this game will be revealed after a few (hopefully soon) patches clean up the mess.