When a review is marked as ‘in progress’, it is done on the basis that enough time has been invested to obtain solid impressions even though we have been unable to beat it. This may be down to an extreme length or brutal difficulty, but either way it is a title that has overcome us… at least for a period of time.
Games marked as such will receive the usual review treatment, plus some additional footage to help give you a general idea of what to expect. These games will likely be finished at some point, and the review will be updated accordingly. As such, keep checking back if you want to keep a track of our full final thoughts when we have them!
Many thanks to Klabater for the review code.
The management simulation genre is full of differing business for you to manage. We have cities, tower blocks, farms, and even lemonade stands – but one area that seems to be lacking is the lowly Tavern. It’s honestly quite surprising considering the medieval theming seems ripe for the style. The recently released Ravenous Devils came close, but that was far more focused on the … cooking … side of things.
So here we are with Crossroads Inn, a game that came out a few years ago on Steam and is now releasing on Switch.
Is this game worth a knees up, or is it unable to organise the proverbial piss-up?
A DUKE WALKED INTO A BAR
Pleasingly, the game not only has a story mode that gently guides you through the Tavern management business, but the narratively is surprisingly enjoyable and coherent too. Set in a land in turmoil, the king and his heirs have all died under mysterious circumstances. This power vacuum has resulted in a bunch of unruly power-hungry bastards vying for the throne.
And here you are, a young man helping out his uncle in the local bar as you try to prepare for a wedding event. You’ll find yourself in the middle of many political situations as you try your best to get by and keep people happy. There’s the dastardly Duke with his overpriced wine to contend with, as well as competing smugglers. You won’t be able to keep everyone happy, but you also don’t want to piss people off.
Oh, and did I mention that you are the secret heir to the kingdom?
There’s a lot of twists and turns to the story, and you’ll take active control as you make decisions as to how you want to proceed. With multiple endings, the story mode is certainly good enough to warrant playing and rarely feels like it’s just a tutorial for the sandbox mode.
CROSS THAT ROAD WHEN YOU GET TO IT
The management side of the game has a lot of things to deal with, so the story mode helps guide you through in a very gradual manner. Starting with a simple expansion of your Tavern and some additional furnishing, you’ll soon be tasked with setting up tables and lighting to get your Inn going.
Eventually, you’ll gain access to wine and then you’ll need to hire staff to deal with customers. AI is typically pretty awful, and your workers have a habit of just doing whatever the hell they want; however, you’ll soon learn that you can prioritise certain tasks (or even disable them) to make things flow a little smoother. It’s needed too, as your waitress tends to think that sweeping the floors is more important than dealing with a burly thirsty bandit. As I say, the AI is pretty dumb – but at least the game is rarely punishing with it, so you don’t have to worry about it too much.
Learning how everything works is functional, even if some elements require you to essentially figure things out for yourself. Certain basic elements, such as rotating or selecting the room you want to expand, aren’t really told to you; and it left me scratching my head at various points. It’s not completely counter-intuitive though, so typically these moments tend to slow down your progress rather than function as an actual roadblock.
As you start to grips with things, management becomes a little bit more complicated as you start to set up trades for produce, and build extra rooms that will help you expand your business. It goes at a steady enough pace to ensure you feel confident with management by the end of the prologue, so you don’t feel completely lost when tasked with building a new Inn from scratch.
What really sets the game apart from other management titles are the RPG elements. Throughout the story you will encounter various NPCs who you’ll need to chat with. Many of these will require you to choose between dialogue options, which all have varying degrees of success. Succeed and you’ll improve your reputation with that faction; fail, and they’ll go off you a bit. Of course, this all links into the storyline and will make your role as Tavern owner that bit easier or harder depending on your choices. It’s a shame that important NPCs will force the camera to zoom in super-close before you speak to them, leaving you to zoom back out again manually. Zooming requires you to click and hold the right thumbstick whilst moving it up or down, so it’s always an unpleasant experience when doing so.
Zooming and general camera movement is the only real issue with the controls and the rest is quite functional once you get to grips with what each button does. In the opening hours I did need to consult the control layout a fair bit to remind myself of how to do certain things, but the issue was mainly down to how many buttons there are rather than their actual placement.
Outside of the story mode, there’s the usual sandbox mode that has you doing things at your own pace. With varying options to choose from to make it easier or more difficult, it’s the ideal way to play once you’ve seen the story through to its conclusion. There’s also a scenario mode too that offers around a dozen different situations and challenges you to overcome the problems it throws your way. This mode feels a little bit more throwaway, but it’s a nice bonus for those wanting a little direction.
The most surprising thing though is how well the whole game runs. Featuring multiple game speeds, there’s rarely any noticeable slowdown – even when your Tavern starts getting bigger in size. This is likely down to the games simplistic, yet stylistic, cel-shaded graphics. It’s a style that isn’t particularly pleasing at first, but one you’ll start to appreciate as you get further in. The aforementioned Ravenous Devils attempted a more realistic look, but had to go for an extremely low resolution to ensure it ran smoothly. This is thankfully not the case here.
Crossroads Inn certainly has more than its fair share of jank, but it still offers a rather pleasing and straightforward Tavern simulator that just about works. So long as you don’t focus on the finer details and some of the fiddly elements, you should have a good time pouring ale for rowdy customers.