How do you fancy being a shop keeper in a fantasy world full of swords, shields, and sorcery? Where every adventurer, mercenary, knight of the realm, or even great wizards and ninjas come to your humble shop to buy supplies? If you answered yes then Shop Titans from Kabam Games might just be a game you’ve had your eye on now that it’s landed on Steam for PC. Does it succeed in its ambitions? Let’s find out as this is our review for Shop Titans.
The basic premise of this game is that you have recently acquired a shop to run, it’s a tiny humble abode that you’ll very quickly need to grow if you want success to reign down upon your new venture. You do this by running through a decently paced tutorial-like set of tasks that also introduces you to the various characters (who double as your suppliers) and what starts off as simple quickly becomes more complex. For example, while your first tier swords might only require small bits of iron and a few seconds to arrive from the forge, later game weapons will require multiple resources to craft with and much higher time investment.
While that might sound simple enough in premise, in practice this can be anything but. Potential customers will enter your shop and peruse your wears, eventually making a decision, they will either buy something, order something you don’t have in stock or they will leave often complaining they can’t use anything in the store. Not knowing what customers want can lead to some very frantic orders and crafting as wildly different adventurers ask for totally different items, during my time with the game I never once felt safe not to stock something I could make as there was no guarantee that someone wouldn’t want an item even if I could produce a superior item. Beginner adventurers all need that first apprentice sword I guess.
As time goes on you will open up more avenues for profit. Other suppliers will become available and certain resources can only be acquired through hiring your own adventurers to go into dangerous territory to find it. This is both great fun and frustrating as the balancing act between these competing factors can become tedious with repetition. Questing in the game is not a particularly great feature either, while the trailer for the game might give the impression that you partake in turn-based battles with your hired adventurers in reality that is not the case. Instead, you equip them with items from your own shop’s stock and send them off while a timer counts down and you get back to selling some warm tea. Once the timer is complete you can click on the quest and watch the battle unfold that took place but it is not something you have any direct influence on. You can choose to skip the battle however and once you have seen the battle animations, I imagine that you will skip the cutscene altogether as each encounter is not that different from the last. While later classes (of which the game has many) of mercs for hire may have more flashy skills and attacks. The 10-12 hours I played did not afford me any, at least none I saw while playing.
There was a feature I quite liked however and that was the ability to take my game on the go. For you see there are mobile versions of this game and if you link your in-game accounts with a code you can then have your save data syncing across multiple devices. So I can keep the spirit of capitalism alive even when I go outside to be one with nature, perfect. This, unfortunately, does lead to my biggest problems with the game. This is a mobile game that has been ported to the PC. A fact I was unaware of when I started playing Shop Titans but one I soon realized extremely quickly the first time I was offered to skip the tedious grind to unlock a character by simply paying half the price of a full retail game for them instead. Plus I was very graciously offered a new player bundle offer and so on and so forth. I’d barely learned anything about the game at this point but the game made sure to let me know I could pay to get ahead if I wanted too. I didn’t do this and just ignored it as it was all stuff I could earn in-game. Though it’s worth noting in the time I played I earned 3 coins out of the 50 I needed for this character to be unlocked and it seems random when the opportunity to earn said coins appears.
At first, the monetization pop-ups didn’t seem to bad, I was upgrading my shop and designing it without much issue. In the game you have full control of where items are placed and expanding the size of your shop is crucial in order to store more raw materials and display your finished goods. You can upgrade storage bins and display items as well chests where finished items are stashed if the displays are full. However, I quickly realized that the time it takes to complete these upgrades increases exponentially with each tier. The first upgrade I made to a chest, for example, took 15 real-world minutes. The second one took 4 hours, with a little help from my guild.
Guilds are the social element of the game and joining one is not optional. The game gets you to join up with a guild as part of the initial “tutorial” phase, though there are some neat things you can do in a guild. You can send each other gifts, unlock unique items, and help each other with tasks and upgrades by simply dusting the store or throwing some energy towards them. However, those guild members with deeper pockets can help even more by paying gems to speed up other members’ progress with upgrades (just as you can with your own items).
What are gems I hear you ask? Well, there are two kinds of currency in Shop Titans. Gold and gems. Gold is what you buy and sell goods for and invest in your suppliers and other utilities to upgrade there ability to produce a resource. Gems, on the other hand, are used for upgrades speeding things up that otherwise might take some time or to bypass level restrictions. Desperate for another slot to craft more items at the same time but not the right level for it? Spend 100 gems and get it now. Job done. In fact, gems aren’t even that hard to get as while you don’t earn them from sales you get them from achieving milestones or challenges. The problem I already see though is eventually you’re going to complete all the milestones/challenges and then the only way I see to get gems (at least in my stage of the game) is to buy them with real money.
There is also another resource to worry about, one you will be all too familiar with if you’ve ever played a mobile game. Energy. If you run out you can’t perform actions and will have to wait to do anything. One good thing I will say though is this game does at least do interesting things with it and allow you to use it to charge people more money for an item or offer a discount and recoup some energy back. As a result I never really found myself closing the game to wait for more energy. I just discounted some cheap items and I was back in business.
Graphically speaking the game is going for a cartoony look and it suits the game but it’s nothing amazing, same goes, or the audio. The music is repetitive and the sound effects are the bare minimum for what you’d expect. I found myself turning both of the audio options down and listening to podcasts while playing this.
In all honesty, though I actually really got into this game, while it may have a few rough edges I genuinely believe that the people behind this had a passion for this project and it shines through in just how addicting it can be keeping up with the demand for your goods. I spent a good uninterrupted 4 hours making sure I was not going to run out of Black Robes and got extremely lucky when I picked up a bunch of druid tunics I couldn’t even craft yet on a quest. As a result, I was able to upsell these for a tidy profit. Speaking of upselling, the game also features a market where you can sell to other players can set there own prices and you can charge gold or gems but in my playthrough, I only saw gold on offer. That said selling on the market made me extremely rich with barely any investment. I sold one weapon, in particular, that wasn’t hard to make (bearing in mind I’d only just started) for 12 times the price an NPC would buy the item for in the shop direct. After that, I constantly checked the player market and made a killing.
Sadly though, it isn’t just microtransactions or “packs” you’ll have to deal with in this game. You’ll also be encouraged to buy the monthly pass that gives you extra for everything you do. You’ll not only be told about this but you’ll also be shown the things you could have got if you were subscribed to the pass, for example when going on quests you will always get a type of item (the amount will be random) that you can’t collect unless you have the Royal Merchant monthly subscription. The worst offense of this “optional” subscription fee though is repairing. Namely the fact that you can’t do it unless you are a paying member. Yes, you read that right, if your heroes gear breaks while they are fighting off monsters and you aren’t a subscriber then you can’t fix the item. I mean you can use a repair kit but they are few and far between. If you are a Royal Merchant though then you can just pay with gold to repair the item. For my characters though? They just discarded the broken items on the floor and I had to replace them. For a free to play to game it seems really intent on making it not be. Then something happened. I logged in and was greeted by a new vendor. A mystical academy that could teach me how to forge rings and new blueprints for runestones and other fun things. I was excited to add yet another line of goods to my store. Right up until the point, she asked me to pay. I backed out of the pay menu thinking it was just another offer to skip the grind but no. This vendor can’t be utilized unless you pay for the privilege, oh, and if you do she also grants you bonus experience as an added perk. At which point my gameplay came to a shuddering halt and I exited the game.
The bones of a great game are in here and I only wish the game had a less intrusive monetization method. Ultimately this is nothing special and if you’ve played any kind of mobile game where you spend most of your time waiting for things to complete then I’m afraid to say that despite all the extra window dressing this game has, you’ve really already played this.