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Innkeep satisfies my craving for a fantasy game that's just a grim drudgery simulator

Something need doing?

The dank and dark main hall in Innkeep
Image credit: Daniel Burke

I'm the kind of awful person who looks at the background actors in TV shows and wonders what life is like for e.g. the old woman who sells birdfeed in Trafalgar Square in Mary Poppins when said upper-middle class domestic isn't singing about her. What fate the Warcraft grunt when he is too old to work work? It's probably pretty bad, right? Now let me slop Innkeep down in front of you like a big bowl of rat stew. Developer Daniel Burke furnished me with a little playable slice, and boy, Innkeep is a grim old time. I mean that as a compliment.

In it you run a big pub with room for a lot of grizzled adventurers, in a dog-eat-dog dark fantasy RPG sort of a world - think a roadside pub in one of the early seasons of Game Of Thrones, before everyone hated it. You do a lot of plate-spinning drudgery like cooking, cleaning, and serving, but also eavesdropping, rumourmongering, and knowing when to slip in a ribald joke as a distraction while you size up a mercenary's sword.

Becoming the innkeeper is a classic case of mistaken identity, i.e. your friend got killed for being in debt, his uncle runs an inn miles away, and this uncle gets murdered as soon as you turn up ready to assume your pal's life. It's all good! Just get to keeping this inn, baby!

What I played was a very early build, with placeholder art in the opening cutscenes and a couple of crashes while I was snooping around, but there's enough going on that I really want to see where it's going. The basic tasks are way more granular than you might expect: to make stew you chop ingredients one by one, add them to the pot, put logs on the kitchen fire, check on it a bit later. When it gets dark you have to light the candles on the chandeliers one by one, and keep the fire in the main hall burning.

Ingredients for stew - including a rat - in Innkeep
The innkeepers roster of stories and jokes in Innkeep
Image credit: Daniel Burke

But your patrons, many of whom are trying to graverob the mystical catacombs in the hills around you, are dangerous, so while you're serving you hang around listening in on conversations to uncover more about people. You can also eyeball them, but doing either will slowly arouse their suspicion. Better grab your serving tray and slowly clear their table, which helps the suspicion - but you have to make sure you're looking and doing at the same time. Plus that guy the other side of the room wants soup, godammit, and you can't take too long about it. Still, if you piss someone off you can tell a story or a joke to get them back onside - as long as you don't pick the wrong kind of joke.

So you can see how things quickly stack up, and Innkeep becomes something of a real time strategy game. You can get even more nefarious by sneaking into rooms while drunk customers are alseep, and steal their valuables. And though I have described it as a grim drudgery simulator, I think things will actually get increasingly fantastical in Innkeep as more of the aforementioned mysterious catacombs are uncovered. At least one screenshot on the Steam page appears to be a ritual.

No release date for Innkeep yet, but this bad boy is on my Wishlist, I tell you what.

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