If there’s one form of video games that I don’t play nearly enough, it would be browser or ‘flash’ games. You know, those games you would play in Computing when you were bored and already knew all the stuff you were being taught thanks to being a PC gamer for a number of years; or maybe that was just me…. But I digress, a number of great games have emerged from this genre like Pandemic 2, Happy Wheels and even, if you can go this far, Minecraft. But there’s one browser-based game that was successfully kick-started for and was released that has caught my attention lately: The deception game based on the party games Mafia and Werewolf, Town of Salem. The game recently made it onto Steam and I decided to give it a go after a friend of mine recommended it to me: It was only about £3 so I thought “Why not?”
Every round of the game starts with an input of your alias for that game, you do get your own username for game lobbies and friend requests but in-game you get your own separate name to give it that sense of anonymousness to the game as well as to stop any player troll targeting. Then, each player is given their role, which comes with a number of abilities and an allegiance to one of three ‘sides’: The Townies, who’s primary goal is to eliminate all evil roles, The Neutrals, who all have their own unique goals such as ‘Survive till the end of the game’ and ‘Kill everyone who would oppose you” and the Mafia, who’s primary goal is to eliminate the Townies. The game proceeds by to the actual game, which proceeds on a day and night cycle with many stages within. For example, there’s a discussion stage, a voting stage during the day and the Night is just one big 30 second event where everyone gets to use their abilities. For example, the Mafioso can kill one person each night except fellow mafia members and the transporter can swap two people around so that if someone attacked Person A and Person A was transported with Person B, then Person B would be attacked instead of Person A and vice versa.
The gameplay’s, whilst it is just clicking a few buttons occasionally and using text chat to communicate with all the other players, fun is entirely based on the people you’re playing with. If you have really crap teammates who will just vote guilty on a person to screw with others or will randomly vote someone for no reason, then you obviously going to have less fun than someone who actually looks at all the evidence in people’s wills and such an determines who’s evil based on that evidence. So word of warning, if you don’t like multiplayer games then you are not going to have a fun time with Town of Salem…
The game’s visuals are pretty flat and uninspiring, although it is a browser game after all, so they’re not exactly going to have Crysis-level graphics, especially for a game of this type. The UI gives a lot of information to the player, which is incredibly useful but so much to the point where the UI can be a bit invasive on everything else in the background. About 50% of the screen is taken up by the UI, which to some people is going to be a massive turnoff but since there’s really nothing visually interesting going on behind the UI, I don’t find it to be a big issue.
All of the music in game does a very good job of fitting in with each segment that they are played in: The night time music does have quite suspenseful music which only builds at to very big climax at the end of the night when it is revealed what happened to you or what your ability did. The voting section has quite mysterious sounding music to give off the vibe of ‘is this player telling the truth?’ and so on. The game also know when to use and not use music, like when someone is being lynched it is dead silent and only the sound of the person being executed can be heard, adding to the feel of ‘did I just do the right thing’?
The game really doesn’t have any controls to speak of. You use the mouse to click on buttons next to players in order to target them with your abilities and you use the keyboard to type and communicate with other players. The use of Text Chat is used specifically to limit what the player can say in a set amount of time, like for example when they are putting up their defence against being lynched which adds to the enjoyment of the gameplay. However, it also easily allows players to paste in written evidence on their will for example, which levels out the difficulty.
Over the last few months I’ve played Town of Salem, I’ve encountered one or two little bugs. Once or twice, I loaded into a game to find that none of the background had loaded in and I was left with just the UI on a completely white background but this was quickly fixed by the game’s developers. I also had an incident where the game decided not to respond to any of my commands in a crucial situation where we were hanging the Godfather and my one vote made the difference of him walking off the podium and the rest of the mafia instead lynching the only other Townie left, losing us the game as they shot me the next night and won however I have not had this problem pop up since…
So is Town of Salem a good digital adaption of Mafia and Werewolf? Definitely. Is it any good if you’re not playing it with friends? Ehh…It really depends on whether you can deal with other people’s stupidity honestly. But if you’re looking for a good online game where you can lie, cheat and deceive your way to victory with your friends, then Town of Salem is definitely for you.
Town of Salem is available on all modern internet browsers and Steam, for free on browsers and for £3.99 on Steam.