Town of Salem review

Hey guys! Sorry for the extended absence. Things got hectic in my life, in between FINALLY moving out (at 27 years old, yeesh!) and getting to set up a whole new writing space. My desk is awesome! It’s got a little L on the side so I can set up some organizational tools. All I need now is a bookcase to put research materials and I’ll be golden!

Since I haven’t done anything in a while, I decided to do another game review. People seem to like them and, hey, I like writing them. I haven’t played much besides Final Fantasy XIV recently, so here’s a free browser-based one. You can find it here – it’s called Town of Salem.

Town of Salem is an interesting game. It has a simplified presentation and minimal interactions. When you enter a game, you’re presented with a graphical representation of you and your up to 14 fellow players. These are real people, so of course, your interactions will be based on how well you get along with them. On the top-left of the screen you’re presented with two windows: the graveyard, where dead players and their roles appear, and the role list. The role list is important in most games, as it provides a hint as to which roles are left in the game once people start dying. On the top-right you have your role. In case you’re not familiar with your role, it gives you a summary of what your goals are and how to go about it. If you mouse over the bottom of the window, it will show you who you win with. For example, the Town must kill the mafia, witches, werewolves, serial killers, and arsonists. Executioners, Jesters, and Survivors can live through the game. On the bottom right of the screen is the player list. Players who are still alive will show up here, and this is where most roles will interact with other players.

The most important part of Town of Salem is the in-game chat. During the day, players will share information with each other. Information gained during this chat will provide clues to investigative roles – two players claiming survivor, for example, will tip the investigators on who to check out. If the role list says only one survivor can be in the game, then one claimed survivor is lying. The chat window can be expanded with a button at the top so players can look back through the log and see what was said. They can also see who died on what night and from what, if need be.

Now on to the actual gameplay and the roles. There are a variety of roles in the game, categorized as investigative, killing, protective, and support. The mafia can see who other mafia members are, so their investigators will focus on finding important town members to kill at night. Town investigators will check out anyone suspicious, but their investigators are split into three roles. Lookouts can camp outside houses and see who visits a given person. Spies can hear the mafia and see who the mafia visit at night. Sheriffs can detect every mafia member except the godfather. Investigators will get a general summary of a person’s goal – “Your target seeks justice.” Then they are given up to three possible roles for that player.

As you can see, it’s important for investigative roles to report their findings. Separate, they can be virtually useless. When combined, mafia members and neutral killing roles can be identified quickly. They are the most important roles in the game, second perhaps to only the Jailor. The Jailor, as implied, can jail one person at night. If the person is suspicious, they can be executed. However, if the Jailor refuses to execute, they can be killed by an imprisoned serial killer or werewolf.

The protective roles are exclusive to the town. They are the bodyguard and doctor. The bodyguard chooses a target at night and, if that target is attacked, they will kill the attacker while dying in the process. The doctor will heal one person at night. They will protect known town roles, with priority given to the jailor and mayor. If they work in tandem, they can render a player impossible to kill at night.

Support roles seem boring at first, but they can help! The mayor may not be strictly a support role, but his weight is not to be trifled with. When the mayor reveals, his votes towards lynching count for three. However, once revealed, the doctor can’t heal him. In most games, once the mayor reveals, he’ll ask for the town’s roles in whispers. This is called a mayor game, and I personally don’t like them. It’s an easy win for the town and is honestly kind of cheap, in my humble opinion.

However, the other support roles are much more exciting. Escorts and Consorts distract a player for the night, preventing them from using their night ability. The mafia has blackmailers, janitors, disguisers, and framers. Those roles muddle the waters for the town investigators and can make innocent people seem guilty. The town has the Transporters, which swap the places of two players. On the one hand, it can muddle up investigators who don’t realize they investigated the wrong person. On the other hand, Transporters can cause a mafia member to kill other mafia or run into a night killing role.

The Medium and Retributionist roles are special roles. The medium will chat with any dead players at night – useful for getting information from dead investigators. If they die, they can talk to one living person to pass on their information. Retributionists have only one purpose: revive a dead town member. They can’t revive people who leave the game, but they can bring back important roles, such as jailor or mayor. Once they’ve used that ability, they have no purpose save as a vote for the town.

The killing roles are, in my opinion, the most fun. The mafia has Godfather and Mafioso, town has Veterans and Vigilantes, and the neutrals have arsonists, serial killers, and werewolves. The mafia can kill every night – the mafioso does the killing for the godfather, however. Veterans can kill anyone who visits them when they decide to go on alert. Vigilantes can kill up to three people at night, at the cost of suicide the next night if they kill a town member. Arsonists don’t kill immediately. They douse one person at night, but ignite all doused targets at once when they choose to. Werewolves only kill on nights of the full moon, but they kill anyone at the house of their choice. Serial Killers can kill every night, but just one person at a time.

The last few roles are the last neutral ones – witch, jester, executioner, survivor, and amnesiac. The first three are categorized as evil, in that they just want to wreak havoc. The witch controls one person at night, while the jester kills one person who lynches him. The executioner wants to lynch an innocent town member, but becomes a jester if his target dies at night. The survivor and amnesiac are neutral benign roles. The survivor just wants to live and can win with anyone. The amnesiac can remember one role from the graveyard and assume its abilities.

Whew, that was a lot of explanation! Now on to how the game actually plays. When the game starts, you don’t know your role until you enter the town. There are two phases, day and night. During the day, everyone chats with each other and shares information. They can vote one person to be lynched. Only the jailor, medium, and mayor can use their abilities during the day – the jailor decides who to lock up, the dead medium decides who to talk to, and the mayor chooses to reveal. The real fun comes at night.

Most roles can use their abilities at night – this is when investigators snoop around and the killings happen. The medium chats with the dead while the escorts role block suspected mafia members. When you choose your target, you wait for the timer to run down to see if you succeeded. Most roles only get results during the transition between night and day. The jailor is the exception, as he jails his target at the beginning of the night. If he executes, however, it’s at the end of the night. This is also when most people find out that they’ve died.

It’s a simple game with many layers. If you like chaos and the idea of it, this game is for you. If you’re not happy with simple sprite graphics or players who might annoy you, steer clear. I happen to enjoy the game. I just recently got a cool achievement – 100 wins! Now, if only I can get that elusive executioner win.