I love casual management games. Stardew Valley and Slime Rancher are some of my go-to relax-and-shut-down games, full of cutesy art and easy mechanics. Resource-management and base-building games are fun to me! I get to run my own little place, without having to worry about (much) danger or big goals or difficult puzzles. It’s a way for me to unwind — and to exert a little control over a hard-to-control world.
Recently, I saw an ad on Twitter for a game on sale. It was a little pixel art management game based around owning your own tavern for adventurers on the road. I knew I had to try it.
Traveller’s Rest, from Isolated Games, is currently in early access, but it already shows a a lot of promise.
Building and Tending Your Tavern
You start the game with one table in your tavern, and a few little things in your inventory. From there, it explains how you serve drinks and food, and how to place and move items in the Build menu.
You can definitely build your tavern up to be quite the fine restaurant! Mine now has a 30-person capacity and lots of decorations — axes and shields on the walls, banners, fancy rugs, and candles in fine holders on every table. The more you decorate, the better your reputation will be and the more things you’ll unlock. It’s satisfying to watch your reputation score soar when you place new items and expand your seating.
Also, you get to hit people with a mop if they kick up a fuss. A+ game mechanics!
I will say that the time it takes to build up to that is a bit annoying. The game’s tutorial isn’t very intuitive, giving you tasks that don’t seem to add up to knowing how to run the game, and the menu is under a strange button (I for Inventory, and then scrolling through tabs, though there may be a more direct way that I’ve forgotten).
The menu system is also slightly lacking. There are onscreen prompts for various actions including cleaning and interacting with objects, which is helpful, but none for the menus, which can make it difficult to access your objectives and inventory.
Also, it takes a lot of trial and error to build up the reputation you need in order to expand your business. You gain points for reputation when customers leave your tavern satisfied, and that depends on a huge number of things including the kinds and amounts of food and drink you have, the cleanliness and decorative quality of your tavern, and even the temperature.
You have to have Level 6 in reputation before you can hire staff, which, when you’re managing the kitchen, the restaurant, and the crafting system on your own, can be a little overwhelming.
Still, it’s a very fun game. I’ve loved decorating and reorganizing my tavern into the perfect little fantasy spot, and I find running a long, successful workday rewarding. There are no set times you need to be open and no penalties for staying closed, so you can take the time you need to dedicate to tasks other than daily operations and learn the game at your own pace, which is nice.
Crafting and Cooking
Something I love about Traveller’s Rest is the cooking mechanic. After you complete the tutorial, a crafting room opens in the back with an oven that you can use to stock your bar with delicious foods of all kinds — porridges, soups, stews, breads, and, later on, pies, jams, roasted meats, and more. You can also build machines that allow you to brew beer and wine from scratch — all the way from the malt up!
You can add different ingredients to the food and drinks to change how they taste, and how much you can sell them for. I’ve had a great time creating new and exciting recipes to share with my patrons and to match the popular trends and requests you can unlock. I particularly like that each ingredient is assigned a quality (Fruity, Sweet, Spicy, Aromatic, etc.), each of which adds value to the finished product. Finding out which ingredients do what and how to stack as many of them as possible is a treat.
My one serious gripe with this particular mechanic is the amount of time that it takes. While I understand the reflection of real-life timing, I find it incredibly inconvenient that it takes all day (or all night) to grind a single unit of flour or wine mash — it makes it difficult to meet requests quickly, especially if you’re unsure what you’re out of. Fermenting and brewing also take quite some time, but I’m more understanding of this.
I also think there should be slightly more instruction on the storage system in the game. I didn’t know until I discovered, completely by accident about one in-game month into my playthrough, that you could put one central storage unit in the kitchen that you could access from any machine.
In addition to this, there’s a crafting system that you can use to build various pieces of furniture, decorations, and machines for your tavern. These crafting units are built outside, which makes finding and transporting resources very easy. They produce products quickly and include a favoriting system that lets you keep important recipes at the tops of their lists for easy reference.
With this system, my main issue is the sheer amount of materials necessary. You have extremely limited resources, in the immediate vicinity of your tavern, so collecting enough to make some of the larger items can take up to a week or more in-game, not including the time it takes to actually craft the items.
Regardless of these minor issues, the systems are still incredibly fun to explore. You can basically build your tavern from scratch, buying only seeds, if you're really determined, which I think adds a layer of autonomy that lots of management games are missing.
Traveller’s Rest is a Great Game in the Making
The best thing by far about this game is the community around it. Given that it’s in early access, the developers are looking for any and all feedback to make sure that the finished game is exactly what the fans want and exactly what the developers envisioned it to be.
I’ve joined the community Discord server, and it’s great fun to chat with everyone about bugs, suggestions, and upcoming features. It’s also great fun to watch the screenshots of people’s developing tavern designs. And there’s going to be more added soon — a magic system and social mechanics are on their way, and I can’t wait!
Traveller’s Rest is a cute, retro-style, relaxing game. It’s perfect for Stardew Valley and Tycoon game fans, as well as for fans of traditional RPGs who may have wished they could’ve run the cute little inns in the games. It’s available now on Steam for $14.99, and it’s worth every penny.
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