An adventure, in every sense of the word
IT’S A RACE AGAINST TIME TO FIND AN ANCIENT RELIC BEFORE THE DARK MASTER LOCATES IT.
We sent a previous party, who established a camp within the walls of a locked temple beside the Tambo river, but we’ve since lost communication with them.
Your mission will be dangerous. You’ll have to explore the jungle, master puzzles, avoid traps and who knows what else. Have your wits about you with this one.
After our summer road trip around the Midlands (and a bit of the North), we at Review the Room were rapidly approaching our 300th escape game. Having made a plan with Amy and Ian of Brit of an Escape Habit to join together for their 500th game and conquer Spellcraft at Tulleys together to mark the occasion, it seemed only logical to plan a trip to play some of the other games in the area for our final few games in the 200’s. Especially since the games in question were new and receiving rave reviews.
DarkMaster is a relatively new venue that has opened in the last year or so (we think), and they’ve certainly set the bar high with their first games. Although, that’s not really surprising, given that their closest Escape Room neighbours are the likes of Tulleys, Clue Cracker, and Hounds Escape; in other words, venues known for high-quality games with amazing set design. Finding DarkMaster was easy, and once we were parked, we were warmly greeted upon entering the building. The building is interesting, as, from the outside, it doesn’t look like it should be warm and cosy, but the reception space could definitely be described as such, with comfortable couches, little games on the table, drinks and snacks available for purchase, and lockers for your belongings that are actually hidden within the walls.
Dark Master is a family-run establishment, and when we arrived we were warmly greeted by Ellie, owner and game designer, and her mother and business partner, Jane. We do love a chat with the owners of escape rooms, but eventually, it was time for the main event. We were briefed thoroughly on health and safety in reception – make sure you pay attention: Into the Reliquary has a few more instructions beyond the usual “Don’t stick your fingers in plug sockets.” Even our footwear was checked to ensure our time in the game would go off without a hitch! Fully aware of what pitfalls we should keep an eye out for, we ascended the steps and stepped through the door into the jungle.
Covid-19 Precautions: DarkMaster are still utilising Track and Trace, and Hand sanitiser was readily available in the public areas. Our hosts weren’t wearing masks, but did continue to practice social distancing, remaining at least two meters apart from us. We kept our masks on in public areas.
If your favourite thing about an escape room is the set, and becoming totally immersed in the game as you explore your surroundings, then Into the Reliquary is probably perfect for you (with the caveat that it is not even remotely accessible if you have any difficulties with mobility.) The set design is absolutely gorgeous, and yes, the river and boat you see in their marketing are real, and part of your game. I would be curious to see their risk assessment and to know how much DarkMaster are paying for their liability insurance (trust me, if you play you’ll see what I mean), but the things they have come up with make for a simply stunning, if somewhat treacherous, adventure. And I do actually mean an adventure as one navigates a river and eventually makes the descent into the temple, only to encounter yet another obstacle in the path to escape.
I’m not exactly clear on who the “Dark Master” is, but DarkMaster Escape Rooms have used this character to provide an overarching story that touches on all of their games, giving each a connection to the other, while still allowing for totally and completely different theming. Although Into the Reliquary didn’t feel particularly narrative-driven, the story was ever-present, and there were moments of exposition throughout the game. The loose narrative actually allowed Into the Reliquary to be somewhat open in its design. Yes, there were moments where one task led on to another that had the entire team working in tandem, but there were also certain points in which Gord and I were working independently of one another.
What really made this game remarkable, however, was the lengths the team have gone to provide some real “wow” moments not just with the set design, but also with special effects. The adventure aspect and the immersion that comes with both interaction with my surroundings and a physical challenge are a couple of the many reasons that games that make me feel like Indiana Jones are my favourite, and Into the Reliquary had a few moments to rival some of the most memorable moments I’ve had in similarly themed games (and I’ve encountered swinging on “vines” and moving walls.)
As much as I keep talking about the visually impressive set design, I do think it’s important to double back to something that I mentioned earlier. Into the Reliquary is not suitable for players that have difficulties with mobility. I would even go so far as to say if you have issues with heights or vertigo you may want to contact the venue prior to booking. In fact, due to health and safety concerns, their FAQ’s even state that children under 12 are unable to play the game and anyone under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Either way, this is one of those games where you probably want to listen very closely to the Health and Safety briefing and actually read the waiver before signing.
While Into the Reliquary was visually stunning, on the puzzle side, it was a little more basic. Searching, observation, and a little bit of logic all played their parts in the puzzles, with some added codes, translating, and some more physical challenges rounding out the collection. In fact, there were a number of these physical tasks that weren’t really puzzles, but did add to the adventure and the immersion. The puzzles that were there were designed to fit well within the theme of the game, and often felt quite natural, but the real “wow” moments came from the set, rather than the game being full of amazing “Ah-ha!” moments from fiendishly clever puzzles.
When you’re headed into the jungle, it’s always good to have some backup, and Ellie was on hand to lend her assistance through a walkie talkie when required. We’re a little bit useless at searching, so needed a bit of a nudge to look at something again with a fresh pair of eyes, but Ellie waited until we asked for help to tell us we’d overlooked this, and with just a simple nudge we were back on track.
When we did determine that we needed a bit of a nudge, Ellie replied instantly, knowing exactly where we were in the game and exactly what to say to ensure we got back on track without spoon-feeding any answers to us.
The set of Into the Reliquary is truly something to behold, and there are certain moments throughout the game that we are unlikely to forget for some time. The puzzles didn’t wow in the same way as their surroundings, but still made for a fun game, although that was somewhat overshadowed by a moment or two of what felt like legitimate danger.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 49 minutes
Address: Unit 5 Plumyfeather Farm, Plumyfeather Lane, Lye Green, Crowborough, East Sussex, TN6 1UX