Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods Review
The third game in the Escape Tales series – Children of Wyrmwoods – takes place in a world beyond our time, in villages, towers and thick forests. As the hero, Gilbert, you’ll need to solve puzzles and riddles, think laterally and see where your story takes you. Being an Escape Tales game, it uses an app, just as The Awakening and Low Memory did before it.
The biggest difference between Children of Wyrmwoods and its predecessors is the absence of a game board. There’s a map to unfold, once you’re told to (it’s written on it, so it’s not a spoiler to tell you), but your table will definitely be laid out differently to the previous games by the time you reach the epilogue.
Children of Wyrmwoods is trying to be an adventure game from the get-go, and this time around you get a character card. Your protagonist – Gilbert – has statistics, just like in a role-playing game. Certain items and cards you gain during the game will affect your stats, and the path you trample through the game’s forks and twists depend on your stats at times. It’s not an RPG, or something like Mage Knight. It is, after all, still an escape room game, but it’s a nice change to the formula.
Although the character stats are a nice addition, it’s a little bit loosely implemented. The way the items are given to you, and the amounts they boost or reduce your stats, there’s never really a moment where you just squeak in by one point. It’s there to give you the feeling of customising your character, but the branches you choose are usually quite black-and-white in terms of what you can do. I think some of this is down to me, and the way I like to peer behind the curtain to see the wizard, and examine how games works, so I think for the majority of players it’ll still feel pretty cool.
The other cool thing the game does for the first time in the series, is to let you combine items. Just like in the Adventure Game series from Kosmos, you can enter the card numbers of two things into the app and see if you make a new thing, just like in a point and click video game. It’s done well, and the combinations are all very logical. There’s no ‘rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle’ levels of abstract thinking, and it helps the game feel fresh after the previous two outings.
Back on track
In my previous review for Low Memory, I said that I was a bit disappointed after playing The Awakening before it. Things felt a bit disjointed, and there were a few design choices that didn’t gel with me. I’m extremely happy to say that Children of Wyrmwoods gets right back on track, and surpasses the original in just about every way. The puzzles are great, the story is really engaging, and your choices feel really meaningful, like you’ve just made a major fork in the story. While you had to make similar choices in the previous games, it never really felt like you were missing too much after your choices.
The theme and setting for the game are really nicely tied to the narrative and the puzzles, and although there’s still some disjoints in the way a solution is meant to fix the problem in front of you, it’s better than in the previous games. The third book in the box has the biggest change in the series so far. I won’t spoil the surprise for you, but I’ll tell you that the training wheels get taken off, and you’d better be switched-on to finish the game.
The balance in the puzzles’ difficulty feels much better than in Low Memory, where at times it veered off into being simply too difficult to be enjoyable. It’s challenging still, but you never really reach the stage where you’ve got a full notebook and calculator just to figure things out.
Children of Wyrmwoods is the best escape room game I’ve played. It’s easily the best in the Escape Tales series. It feels like the first two games were more experimental, and that this third game is the one where they’ve perfected the formula. Don’t get me wrong, The Awakening and Low Memory are still good games, but with Wyrmwoods, Lockme have smoothed off the rough edges. They’ve found their feet and the game really shines as a result.
While the first two games gave you the option of replaying to make a few different choices, I was never really desperate to. With Children of Wyrmwoods however, I really do want to go back and play it again. There’s a point early in the game where you make a big choice, and I saw puzzles later in the game where the two paths converged again, which made me wonder what I’d missed out on. I ended up with items I never used because my journey took me down a different path, and I want to know what they’re for, dagnabbit!
According to the box, there are over 60 different endings! I’m not sure how different they are, but I had a hard choice from four at the end of my game, and those were after a difficult choice of three. The writing is better in this third game, but I’m not sure if that’s just because the translations overall are better. In short, Children of Wyrmwoods is a fantastic game, with a great story, and if you’re a fan of escape room games like Exit or Unlock, you really need to get this one. It’s fantastic, and you won’t go disappointed or frustrated. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
A review copy of the game was kindly provided to me by Board&Dice. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods (2020)
Designers: Jakub Caban, Bartosz Idzikowski
Art: Jakub Fajtanowski, Magdalena Klepacz, Aleksander Zawada
Playing time: 450 mins