“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
Unless you happen to be playing Throne of Lies instead. Then things aren’t quite so straightforward. A social deduction game of betrayal and deceit, Throne of Lies is a solid idea with a misguided execution.
Created by Imperium42 Game Studios, Throne of Lies brings the familiar werewolf/mafia format to 3D, with a medieval flair. The Kickstarter campaign is seeking $20,000 and the developers hope to have an alpha version ready as soon as Q1 of 2017.
For those unfamiliar with the formula, each round consists of 7 to 15 players. Each player is randomly assigned to one of two opposing factions hell bent on destroying each other. To accomplish this, the Black Rose (evil faction) will murder a player each night. During the day phase the Blue Dragon (good faction) must investigate the crime and execute the murderers. This is complicated by the inclusion of two neutral factions with their own priorities and the hidden Black Rose agents working to sway suspicion away from their teammates.
Live Long Enough To Find The Traitor, Or Be Hung As One
I’ve played a few variations of this model on game forums before and it can get pretty intense with the right group. BlankMediaGames used this same formula for their own mob hysteria game, Town of Salem back in 2014. Going with a 2D cartoony look, BlankMedia was able to raise $520,392 over 3 Kickstarter campaigns for different versions of Town of Salem, including $389,005 for the card game.
There is clearly a market for multiplayer social deduction games. Imperium42 has greatly expanded on the original formula, with unique player classes, abilities, and even a royalty system to determine who replaces the King, should he meet an untimely demise. With the right group of people, Throne of Lies could be a compelling game. My only complaint? The 3D graphics are terrible.
The campaign page shows off gorgeous concept art. Unfortunately, the game’s screenshots don’t hold up to this comparison. The appeal of having the game in 3D is that it allows players to customize their character a bit. They can equip weapons and armor before exploring the castle. It also allows executions to be more hands on than ever before.
On the downside, the 3D graphics look stilted and unnecessary. Social deduction games can easily be played with no graphics whatsoever. Players are meant to rely on their cleverness and persuasion to survive. Throne of Lies looks like it’s trying to take an RPG approach, with character customization and item trading. Elements that are wholly unnecessary at best and which potentially distract from the game’s objectives.
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Put It In 3D
Sadly, it also looks like the developers currently lack the technical ability to make the 3D graphics fit the atmosphere they’ve designed. I can’t help but think that they’d be better off just putting their game interface over the concept art and letting player’s imagination do the rest.
There is also a rather questionable “death note” mechanic. This allows players to taunt their enemies by leaving a picture on murdered corpses. It’s a fun idea, but ultimately there is no way this won’t lead to crudely drawn dick pics showing up in every game. Some features just aren’t worth the trouble. Hopefully Imperium42 can figure out which features are worth keeping in Throne of Lies and which should be extinguished.