Town of Salem (Beta) Review

I have so many games I should be playing. So many games I could be playing. I recently got a Gameboy Micro with Rayman 10th Anniversary and Mario Kart: Super Circuit. I’ve been getting into Pokémon Red. again. I’ve been playing Killzone Mercenary on the Vita. Instead, I spend my time on Town of Salem, a currently in-beta browser game based on the game Mafia.

Site: http://www.blankmediagames.com/

Price: Free

Town of Salem takes place in an alternate reality in the medieval times when the Salem witch trials were taking place. Each member of the town is a specific role, and is either a town member, a member of the mafia, or neutral.  Games are “hosted” by players, and in classic mode (we’ll get to the other modes in a second) that basically means that they choose when to start the game. It’s pretty common for most games to have 15 people playing, 3 of which are mafia, one is a serial killer, and the others are townspeople or neutral. Most of the game’s activity is split into two modes: night and day. At night, the mafia and serial killer kill people, and during the day, it is up to the townspeople to “lynch” (or hang) the people the suspect.

Such a peaceful town…

There are three members to the mafia. The first of which is a framer. The framer’s job is to frame other people, which means that if they are investigated, they will appear as a member of the mafia, even if they are not. The second member is a Mafioso, who is in charge of killing all the people that the Godfather demands to be killed. The Godfather is, of course, the third role. He commands the mafia, and it is up to him to choose who to kill each night, which the Mafioso will then carry out. The mafia has to work together as a team to win the game. If the mafia communicates well, and manages to keep all of their members alive until the end, they can outnumber the townspeople and win the game. The mafia also has a ranking system, so I the Mafioso dies, the framer will become the new Mafioso, and if the Godfather dies, the Mafioso will become the new Godfather. The mafia are the only group that can talk to each other at night.

The next killing role is the serial killer. The serial killer can kill a person each night, and if they are role-blocked (meaning that they can’t perform their role) then they will kill that person instead. I haven’t played as a serial killer yet, but it is quite difficult for the serial killer to win, as they have to kill everyone without anyone suspecting a thing.

The neutral roles aren’t too interesting. The main ones in classic are the jester and the executioner. The jester is a crazy person who needs to trick the town into lynching him. Once lynched, he can kill one of his guilty voters. The executioner’s role is to lynch a particular person, after that goal is achieved, they become a jester.

The town protective roles are where the most stress of the game comes in. The investigative roles of the investigator and the sheriff are in charge of interrogating people to see what role they are – with a catch. The investigator will get two results: for example, “your suspect works with knives. They are either a serial killer or a doctor”. The sheriff can see who is mafia and who is a serial killer, but again, with a catch – the Godfather will show up as ‘not suspicious’, and the framer can frame people who will appear to be mafia. So to be effective, these two need to work together – but if they reveal their roles, they become a high target for the mafia and serial killer. That’s where the protective roles come in. Roles such as doctors can heal people if they are injured – meaning they live for another day, but if they reveal their role, they also become a high target for the killers. A half-protective/half-investigative role is the jailor. Each night, the jailor can detain one person to interrogate, using a chat box, to ask their role, and can execute them if he thinks that they are a killer. But if he executes a town member, he will die of grief the next night. There are other, less important roles as well, but all roles can contribute significantly to whether a game is won or lost.

And if you think that’s a lot of roles, try the ‘custom’ game mode, where the host can choose all the roles – and if they pick ‘random role’ for everything, you can have 5 members of the mafia, an arsonist, a witch, a few serial killers, and then the townspeople.

The Town of Salem, which never sleeps.

As mentioned previously, there are two parts to the game. At night time, the roles can use their special abilities. This means the mafia frames and kills (along with the serial killer) the doctor heals, the investigative roles interrogate, and the jailor jails someone for the night. The high stress part comes from how it plays out – the music is really tense towards the end, and your heart rate starts beating faster, before you hear the rooster and know that you lived another night. Further strategy comes at the start of each morning in the forms of last wills. These are notes made as the game progresses, and are generally used as a diary of sorts – the investigative roles can write down any suspicious people, the doctors can write down who they’ve killed, and the jailor’s is of particular importance – if he was killed by a serial killer, the last person jailed is generally the serial killer – because the jailor counts as a role-block. There’s also death notes that can be left by any killing character (including the jailor), but these are generally used to frame people or as funny messages.

During the day, the townspeople come forward with any evidence they may have and attempt to lynch the mafia or the serial killer – but beware the jester. Daytime is the only time the townspeople can talk to each other, so if they have a private message, they can send it to someone through whispering (which takes the form /w Name Message). All roles can see who is whispering to who, but they can’t actually see the contents of the whisper – only the recipient (and the spy role) can. The only problem with this is that the community automatically assumes that all that do this must be members of the mafia – even though if the investigator and sheriff found out each other’s roles at the start of the game, they could communicate their findings in secret. The jailor, if he’s sure of the roles of the people he’s jailed, also plays a big part in this. Whispering will hopefully be accepted by the community in the future, rather than the reaction of “they’re talking in secret, therefore they must be mafia”.

Objection! 

These mechanics play out the same way in custom, although there are more roles.

This cycle continues until one group outnumbers the rest, thus they ‘win’ the game (e.g. if the mafia killed most of the townspeople, they would win).

My only issues with this game are the bugs, but this game is doing pretty well considering it’s in beta. The main issues I had were the chat box not sending through what I typed, and sometimes the game lagged considerably – I could tell it was morning but my game was still showing the dawn scene. At one point, the last wills and death notes refused to go away. I also heard quite a few people complain that their game was broken and they couldn’t vote on who to lynch. The other issue is people; not that there’s not enough (there’s always enough for a game, no matter what time it is) just the fact that there is quite a bit of swearing and other things that could be inappropriate for children. I hope               that in the final version of the game there’s a server or mode where the swearwords or other inappropriate things are censored.

Apart from those few small issues that will probably be ironed out by the game’s release, I’ve really enjoyed this game. Every experience is different, and the great thing is that even if you die, you can continue to watch the game and see how it plays out, and it makes for some really good watching. There’s even a death chat so ideas can be thrown around after death (that the living players can’t see, of course) and roles such as the medium, which can talk to dead people at night, and the retributionist, who can revive dead people, keep the dead immersed in the game. This is a great little online-gem that’s great to play, and I hope it gets more attention in the future.

Beta score (another review will be done at the time of release):

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