The Dragon’s Song
The Dragon's Song
- Played November 2019
- Toronto, ON
- 90 minutes
- 2-12 players
- $41 - $47 (Non Prime / Prime)
- Good for families
- What People Say
Every now and then we find ourselves in conversation with fellow ERA members, North American escape room enthusiasts, owners, and pretty much anyone willing to talk about escape rooms for hours on end. Inevitably a common opinion gets thrown out that the escape room industry is diversifying, changing, and becoming so much more than anyone could’ve predicted, it’s pretty much impossible to say what a ‘good’ escape room is, and what a ‘bad’ escape room is anymore. And sometimes, we’re inclined to agree… until we played a game like The Dragon’s Song which united our team and reminded us there’s still a LOT of agreed upon fun!
But let’s start at the beginning… Like all of their other games in the Casa Loma series, you’ll start by telling the Casa Loma parking attendant you’re here for the escape room, then park your car where instructed. Note: If you’re taking the TTC and walking, be sure to check the weather ahead of time because it’s not a short distance from the nearest streetcar stop or subway station. Instead of the main entrance, you’ll be entering through a small, staff entrance, door which is about 70 feet east of the main Casa Loma entrance. A Secret City Adventures sign will be out front letting you know you’ve come to the right place. Once you enter, you’ll head down a set of stairs into the cellars where you’ll check in and wait for your game master. In this hallway you’ll most likely see other people who are joining you for your game, and perhaps even other groups who are waiting for one of the different Casa Loma games to begin… Once your group has been called it’s up, up, up (and did we say UP?) a whole bunch of stairs to one of the two Casa Loma towers where your game is about to begin! You’ll be given the chance to place your belongings in a large chest that’s locked for safe keeping throughout the course of the game, and there’s some benches for you to sit down with your newly introduced teammates. We strongly advise NOT being shy, and taking every chance to get to know each other. In this game you’ll need to openly communicate and have the freedom to brainstorm together. After some brief introductions, and a couple videos explaining your quest and the rules, you’ll need to pick a team name (another reason you should get to know each other as fast as possible). So that’s what you can expect when you arrive, but there’s a few things we wanted to highlight in addition. First, it’s a good idea to wear comfortable shoes because you’re going to climb up and down a LOT of stairs before, during, and after the game. We’ll say it one more time for those who sign up hoping for accommodations to be made – you cannot avoid stairs in this game (the game is literally set inside an old castle tower with several steep, narrow, staircases). You’ll also want to make sure you’ve had dinner, water, or a snack before you come. There are no refreshments available aside from a water fountain where you first check in. On the plus side, we absolutely loved the briefing room for the pre-game videos, team introduction, and pre-game interaction with the characters. From the very beginning our game master and accompanying hosts (actors in character) were INCREDIBLE and set the tone for what was about to come. We won’t give anything away, but we found ourselves immediately drawn in and ready to go find The Dragon’s Song!
The design and build quality of the game ranges from decent to incredible depending on which props and parts of the game you’re looking at. We enjoyed how solid, well-constructed, and tactile everything was. Unlike some of the previous Casa Loma games, The Dragon’s Song does a great job of letting you explore, touch and interact with pretty much everything (a few exceptions aside, but you’ll understand why when you play the game). Having the game set inside a real castle tower is a huge boost of course, and the props were high quality for the most part. There were a couple moments in time we felt the audio quality could’ve been a bit better, alongside a couple props that were oddly inserted and/or of lesser quality, but these were definitely the exceptions to the overall design and build quality. Each floor of the tower had props, furniture, and other design pieces that just kept wowing us.
Typically the immersion goes hand in hand with the quality of the set design and overall build quality… but in this case it exceeded the build quality by a large degree, which is impressive given how much we liked the build quality! This game is all about the acting and engagement you have throughout the experience. The actors who played the roles as our guides might very well have been the best actors we’ve ever encountered in a live action escape room! They were funny, interactive, engaging, and perfectly in tune with giving us gentle nudges when we needed hints to complete a task. Better still…and mark these words because we don’t get to say it often… the story actually developed IN THE GAME!!! Yes you heard correctly! Although there is a lot of pre-scripted story you’re acting out, there’s parts of the game that focused on US being the main active characters with experiences that weren’t already told in the pre-game briefing! The only drawback to immersion in this game comes from the type of game design it is (an open puzzle path where a large group needs to be divided amongst several puzzles at once in order to advance). This left some people feeling a bit removed from what was happening at other part of the room, but again, it’s more the inherent drawback of the game style (which of course also generates a lot of advantages as well).
And that brings us to the puzzles. As we just mentioned, the puzzles for Dragon Song are in the same format as most of the Secret City Adventure games where it’s an open path, meta-puzzle, design that will have your large group breaking into smaller groups to complete puzzles in order to gain the pieces of information you need for the larger puzzle that will advance the story. What we enjoyed about The Dragon’s Song puzzles was how well they were integrated into the immersive experience. Each time we completed a meta-puzzle (essentially there’s one meta-puzzle for each level of the tower), the actors had actions, story development, and tasks for us to do which added to the joy of completing the puzzle. Admittedly we also had an incredible team of people playing the game with us, so we were fortunate everyone worked together so well. Without revealing too much about the game, the standard pattern of ‘spells’ (meta-puzzles) you need to cast are unlocked by discovering four parts of the spell. In most cases when something is repetitious and follows the same pattern over and over, it can get dull, but we honestly didn’t care thanks in part to the amount of creativity and fun the puzzles were. Some of the puzzles were a bit more of a challenge depending on each person’s skill set and talents, but in the end it seemed that our group had the right balance of players to have everyone enjoying the puzzles they focused on. The only drawback as we mentioned before is that you’ll probably only get to interact with about one-third to half of the total puzzles in the game.
In case you’ve skipped reading everything until this point… this game is FUN…and it’s fun for a variety of reasons! The main reason of course being that the actors we had were incredible, and the story was partially developed within the game which is great. But it’s more than just incredible immersion! Those who love authentic set designs won’t be able to find much better than a real castle tower, and those who enjoy the freedom of working collaboratively as a team on a meta-puzzle are going to love that aspect also. In our group we had a range of ages (10-50+yrs), and we also had a range of experience levels (those who were doing their first escape room, up to those who’ve done close to 400 rooms). If there was one caveat to the experience, it’s this… you need to play this game with a willingness to go outside your comfort zone and work together with the people in your group. If you’re reserved, shy, have a hard time talking to strangers, or generally don’t tend to vocalize much, it will hurt your chances to win this game. The same is true for those who are over-bearing and struggle to work cooperatively. It’s fast paced, requires everyone brainstorming, and everyone needs to participate towards the goal… alpha wolves and wall-flowers will ultimately hurt their team unless they can work together with everyone else (which in our opinion is one of the best parts of the game). So there you have it young knights, it’s time for you to go save the kingdom!
We want to hear your thoughts! Be sure to comment in the section below or send us a message via ERA’s email, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitter… As always, happy escaping!