Alternate Reality Game + More
The Detective Society have been hired to find the daughter of a diplomat, Claire Makova, who suddenly disappears, but the deeper you delve into Claire’s disappearance, the more secrets you uncover.
I must admit, prior to March 2020, Gord and I didn’t venture much into the world of Play at Home, escape room-style games, having really only tried the Exit and Unlock series. I’m even more ashamed to say that finding such games and backing them on Kickstarter was even more of a foreign concept for me (what can I say, I live in a bubble), so I had no inkling about the Detective Society until after it was launched, but apparently this is not the case for the rest of the world, as the project was fully funded within eight hours of launching their Kickstarter campaign at the end of April 2020, so clearly many people had faith that this was going to be excellent. *Spoiler Alert*: That faith was not misplaced.
First things first, the basics. The Detective Society is an episodic subscription-based play at home box game. The Disappearance of Claire Makova is the first season of the game, comprised of six episodes. At the time of writing, Episodes One and Two have been released, with Episode Three making its way through the Postal Service to subscribers even as I type.
At £30 per individual episode (although you can Subscribe and save £3 per episode) or an upfront cost of £144 for the entire six-episode season, The Detective’s Society is close to double (or more than double) the price of many of the play at home options currently on the market. However, unlike many of the box games that we’re familiar with, The Detective Society is an immersive Alternate Reality Game, and unlike many of the digital ARGs that have sprung up in the last few months, The Detective Society comes with high-quality physical components, and (at least in the case of Episode One) could even be replayed, making it really rather good value for money – before you even factor in the entertainment value.
And it certainly was entertaining. Our mission began even before the case file for The Disappearance of Claire Makova was posted through our letterbox, with an intriguing email…
Upon receiving our beautifully presented case files in the post shortly after receiving our initiation email, it was time to track down Claire Makova. Episode One is really a game of two halves: The first half contained a series of training missions that were completely unrelated to the task of finding Claire. Although the purpose of these three tasks was worked into the narrative, they did feel out of place, despite being satisfying puzzles. However, once we were able to open the padlocked envelope containing the true case files for the main mission, the narrative took over, driving forward the second half of the game and allowing it to become the immersive hunt for the missing daughter of a diplomat that was promised.
The first half of the game was completely open, and the “training” missions could be solved in any order, giving us the opportunity to either work on separate things simultaneously if we wanted. But once we were through to the main mission, the game switched, sacrificing the open structure for a linear, but highly narrative-driven adventure. With the introduction of “real-world” tasks, and using a variety of media and platforms, the immersion level rose, and the real world fell away.
As you would expect from a game that felt divided into two halves, the puzzles felt as though they were wildly different in style between the two sections of the game. The first section of the game contained a series of multi-step tasks, that were clear enough (and satisfying in their completion), but relying heavily on logic and maths, which we expected to set the tone for things to come.
But in the second half of the game, the style of play dramatically shifted, with tasks closer to social engineering and spy-craft, which of course, still rely heavily on logical deduction. But these types of “puzzles” feel less like a puzzle, and more like a natural extension of what you would need to do in the presented scenario, flowing seamlessly from task to task and allowing the real world to disappear.
Clue systems are a necessary evil of the play at home experience, so of course, The Detective Society has provided assistance should you need it. This assistance is provided in the fairly standard granular manner for each episode but is presented in the guise of another, more senior, detective’s case notes. It’s a little thing, but by presenting the information in this manner, the game is able to retain much of the immersion
Alternatively, if you’re stuck, you could always seek help from your fellow rookie detectives by asking for help on either The Detective Society Community Facebook group or Subreddit, a nice touch for those that want to share their experiences with other puzzle fanatics.
In their marketing, The Detective Society promises to deliver an “immersive, narrative-driven world,” and they certainly haven’t disappointed. If you enjoyed games like The Network, Hunting a Killer, and Missing, (among others), this is definitely one for you, and well worth the price. Not only that, I’ve heard Episode Two is even better. With even more missions to come, I think there are great things ahead for The Detective Society.
- Desktop or laptop computer
- Internet connection
- Notepad for taking notes
- Mobile phone
|Value for Money|
Team: 2 players
Time Taken: 40 minutes
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review.