Shoppe Keep isn’t going to be a game for everyone, in fact, I dare say that it’s not going to be a game for the majority of players who give it a once over. By and large, Shoppe Keep does a lot of things right, but the biggest problem here is that for everything it gets right, there tends to be much room for improvement. This is made apparent from the get-go. Shoppe Keep is, as you might have guessed, a shopping simulator that takes place within the confines of a magical environment. The best way to describe this game is by picturing any given RPG you have played, many of which come with merchants and shops that you can utilize to buy goods. Now picture swapping the role of the hero, for the role of one of those shop owners.
First and foremost, it takes some time and perseverance to understand how this game works, despite the tutorials that are on offer. The overall aim of the game is to successfully run and manage your very own retail business. You begin the game with very little to go on, which is a standard for most management games. You have little gold and all but a small room to evolve into something meaningful and grand. You’re able to customize your shop keeper using a fairly decent pool of options, and although not as in-depth as expected, it gets the job done nevertheless, and then from here on out you’re ready to start expanding. Not only will you be managing your business, but protecting it too, which means slaying any greedy thieves that come sniffing for free loot.
Obviously, the core focus within is to be as appealing to your customers as can be. It’s pretty bleak from the onset simply due to your limited space and wares, but before long, you’ll be completing quests and unlocking a wider set of goods. This, in effect, will broaden your reach. That, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. You’ll also need to ensure that your shop is clean and accommodating, at the same time as managing the upkeep of your stock and stock appliances. There’s a lot of things to keep on top of, but to the game’s credit, it never feels overwhelming thanks to the well set pace. Everything is manageable so long as you sink into a routine and stay on top of your needs. One issue that I think will be the make or break point for those that invest, is that the game doesn’t do a fantastic job at feeding you into the task at hand.
Sure, there’s no shortage of information that will help you get by on a week by week basis, but the game really would have benefited from a more structured tutorial. Instead, you’re expected to read tiny-text filled sheets to get a firm understanding on what’s what. Due to the fact that Shoppe Keep is such an original and unique experience, some more thought and consideration for newcomers would have been a wise design choice. It doesn’t help matters that the first hour of play is about as exciting as watching a hamster on its wheel. NPCs will walk past your shop as though they’ll catch a plague upon entry, forcing you to be more upfront and in-their-face, defeating the immediate appeal of the game in the process. First impressions are vital, but Shoppe Keep takes quite some time before the true magic of the game begins to pull through.
The core functionality of the game and its progression system works well enough to get by, but the ugly UI and botched controls let this down in the long run. Management games are taxing enough by design, so to have to wrestle with poor control layout and confusing UI, is a nuisance to say the least. The developers have clearly put some thought and effort into ensuring that this game works well on console, but the end result lacks refinement and polish. It’s a shame really, because on the flip-side, Shoppe Keep is a very intriguing experience that will quite literally swallow hours of your time. The constant need to bulk up your shop and defend it from unwanted individuals is entertaining enough in itself, and is certainly worth the price of admission alone. I quite enjoyed the structure of the progression system too, which typically sees you completing quests and leveling up to achieve better merchandise.
You can eventually hire help to take care of the mundane tasks, freeing you up of some much needed time to truly focus on business growth. This is one of the most important factors of the game. How much did you buy said item for? vs. How much you will sell it for? Set the price too high and you’ll find customers going elsewhere. Set the price too low and it will take forever and a day to make some money. The balance of play is solid, and all of these systems and mechanics go hand in hand to produce a compelling business affair. Shoppe Keep goes much deeper than I was expecting, but again, I was constantly drawn back to the poor controls and shoddy UI. Furthermore, the loading screens are pretty excessive. Hopefully Shoppe Keep 2 will remedy this, if it does indeed make the hop to console like its predecessor. Visually, there’s not a lot going on here. Textures are bland, character design remains repetitive, and everything else in between is equally as such.
Shoppe Keep is a management game that delivers depth, innovative gameplay, and decent functionality. The problem, however, is that it doesn’t come without a fair share of issues; lengthy loading screens, poor UI, and wonky controls. This would have been a much better game had the developers spent more time optimizing and fine-tuning it for console.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.