Imagine that someone told you that there was an indie game that let you build and run a medieval era inn using a Sims-like interface. Chances are, whatever you might imagine is pretty close to Crossroads Inn. Crossroads Inn is a life simulation game set in a low fantasy medieval world. It started as a Kickstarter project, which evolved into the game we have today. The game centers around the building and operation of the titular inn.
There are three different game modes available to players in the game. These modes are Story Mode, Creative Mode, and Scenarios Mode. The first two modes will be familiar to most players who have experience with this genre of game. The Story Mode gives the player a specific character to inhabit as the inn’s owner and tells the tale of that character’s life. Creative Mode sets players up with various levels of resources to found their inn and lets them go wild with only the games systems to restrict their play. The Scenarios Mode is a bit rarer in games of this type. This mode starts players off with a pre-built inn designed around one of the NPCs from the game’s Story Mode.
A Canvas for Creativity
The crown jewel of Crossroads Inn is Creative Mode. The most satisfying aspect of the game is the building and furnishing of the inn itself. The interface for building structures in this game is very much a slightly fussier version of The Sims interface. Getting free reign to just build whatever without regard for attracting a specific customer type is very relaxing. The Creative Mode also minimizes some of the more frustrating or disappointing aspects of the gameplay in Crossroads Inn. As a going concern, the player’s inn needs employees and those employees need management.
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t help the player out much in terms of automating much of that management. The employees, and also the customers, work much like a Sim would in The Sims only with fewer drives and motivations. The game does a decent enough job of characterizing them in broad strokes but the process of interacting with them makes it just frustrating. A player that wants to keep their staff happy will need to praise them, for example, this is done by clicking on an NPC’s character model then clicking a little thumbs up button. Even an inn with a small footprint might need double digits worth of staff and going through and clicking each one and praising their work is just annoying busywork. Busy work is an accurate description for a lot of what Crossroads Inn expects.
While Creative mode lets players mostly ignore most of the fussy menial tasks in the game, the other two modes force the player to engage with them. In both Story and Scenario mode running a profitable inn is emphasized in a way that it isn’t in Creative Mode. Turning a profit requires engaging in the fussier, more irritating parts of the game’s interface.
Another aspect of Crossroads Inn that is a bit irritating is the level of polish in general. The game never crashed to the desktop during the review playthrough but characters often became stuck on geometry, trapped in animations, and exhibited other strange behavior. On one occasion all the worker NPCs in the game loaded in without clothes. Most of these could be resolved by simply saving and reloading the game and when that wouldn’t work saving, quitting and restarting the game would fix the issue.
Since none of these bugs caused crashes or freezes, they are more of an annoyance than anything else. Despite that, they are especially frustrating in a life simulation game. Players mostly want a relaxing experience from this style of game and the need to save and reload breaks up the rhythm a bit. Some of these bugs may have been fixed by subsequent patches to the retail game so mileage may vary.
Crossroads Inn has a somewhat plain aesthetic that doesn’t do the game any favors. It feels like the game was going for a purely realistic look and sound but was so devoted to realism that the result lacks character in a very big way. Character models are for the most part cookie-cutter copies of each other with minor changes to their skin and hair color. There is a wide variety of furnishings for the inn but they never really make the place feel personal. This is ultimately an issue with the life simulation genre as well as this specific game. Even The Sims, the pinnacle of this genre of game, struggles to give character to its environments.
The overall tone of the Crossroads Inn is well-meaning goofiness. The game makes an effort to avoid some pitfalls of the low fantasy setting through color and gender blind casting for some of the main NPCs. The flavor text is often filled with gags and the animations for the NPCs are equally silly. The workplace roles appear gendered which doesn’t fit the rest of the tone of the game. A woman can lead the army in this world but can’t be a carpenter.
Verdict: Crossroads Inn is a well-meaning attempt at building a life simulation game in a novel setting for the genre. In one specific mode, it is a pleasant, relaxing experience, so long as you don’t mind a few bugs. If you’re a fan of life simulation games, Crossroads Inn may just be enjoyable for you.
- Fun building and furnishing mechanics
- Relaxing creative mode
- Multiple bugs
- Fussy interface
- Requires incessant micromangement