Empire Of Atlantis
Empire Of Atlantis
- Played August 2021
- Vancouver, BC
- 60 minutes
- 2-10 players
- Great for families
- What People Say
Located in Vancouver’s suburb of Richmond, British Columbia, you’ll find one of EXIT Canada’s many locations. And when we say ‘many’ we really mean it. EXIT hasn’t just built or taken over a lot of franchise locations in British Colombia, they’ve managed to almost become a monopoly, which is the first and only time we’ve seen this across North America. More to the point, they have THIRTEEN (yup that’s 13!) locations within a two-hour drive of downtown Vancouver. Equally impressive is how they’ve managed to start breaking out from BC and are now located in Alberta and Ontario as well. Hold onto your hats folks, we think we see the emergence of a new industry ‘mega company’ coming your way sometime soon. So the question remains, did Empire Of Atlantis match the size and prestige of the franchise itself? Let’s dive in and find out…
Starting with our team’s thoughts on pre-room, there was a mix of impressive elements and those that could be improved upon. On the plus side there was a large and spacious lobby, with an attached arcade, some beautiful bathrooms, an animatronic dragon that nearly ate us, and a team of staff who were noticeably friendly and polite. The additional benefits of free parking while being located right next to a highway and a Costco made it easy to find. A couple areas we felt could’ve been touched up on included: The addition of lobby seats, improved lighting in the lobby (a strong glare from the sun reflected off all surfaces in the lobby making it hard to see properly), and last but not least the opening presentation of the escape room. As mentioned before we liked the staff at EXIT Richmond but the introduction of Empire Of Atlantis was given in the old-style form of an employee holding a clipboard, trying to remember the pre-story. Most escape room companies across North America have moved away from this style of pre-room introduction in favour of either a video or a dramatic presentation. Not the end of the world, but we did feel bad as our game master struggled a few times with trying to remember the written-down script he needed to recite. The final detail that we wished wasn’t a part of our pre-room experience was being told how many rooms we would be encountering in our adventure. This was a huge spoiler and particularly for Empire Of Atlantis it really took away from one of the best features of the room which we won’t spoil for you. At the end of the day, we all agreed the many positives of the pre-room experience outweighed the few negatives however and deserved to be recognized.
The room quality within Empire Of Atlantis definitely created some debate within our team. Let’s start with the positives we agreed on first. We all thought the saturation of theme was well done. This adventure has wall-to-wall themed rooms with 100% of the physical space being used. We also agreed there were a few props that were well-made and used materials that felt authentic. Beyond those points each of us seemed to have a small list of things we didn’t enjoy or were lacking… but we didn’t necessarily agree with each other’s lists so once again there’s some preferences that came through in our debriefing. Some of the team felt one of the rooms wasn’t properly ‘in-theme’ for the game, and that a couple non-functioning room elements may have been an indicator of this. We brainstormed out loud and thought perhaps this particular room was used in a previous escape room experience, and was maybe repurposed for Empire Of Atlantis. Others on the team felt the room theming did fit the story fairly well while agreeing it was odd a couple props and functions of the room weren’t used. The use of hard-foam props also divided our team’s perspective. Some of the team felt the use of hard-foam set design wasn’t a good indication of build quality whereas others felt they were well-made substitutes given the real wood and stone alternatives would’ve been very difficult to produce. A couple areas of small critique we agreed upon was a technical glitch that took place at the end of the game when we solved the final puzzle but it didn’t ‘trigger’ the end of game. It did eventually work after a couple more tries, but we had to rethink whether our original solution was correct given it didn’t seem to work. And lastly the placement of puzzles felt a little ‘bare’ at some points in the game, but again, this is a minor critique at best. Reflecting back at all that was positive and those areas that could be improved upon, the team agreed it was a decently average room as it relates to build quality.
As we turn our attention to the more subjective aspects of our experience, let’s look at how immersive we felt Empire Of Atlantis was… Going back to our point earlier of why the pre-story matters so much in an escape room experience, we wished there was a stronger start and follow-through with story presentation. From the struggling set-up, to the story inside the game itself, there wasn’t much of an attached ‘adventure’ for us to get immersed in via the story. As we also mentioned before, the theming was great as was the atmosphere and lighting. We’ve mentioned this several times in other reviews, but immersion is a tricky niche to fill. On the one hand you need solid set designs, solid theming (which Empire Of Atlantis has), and you need to set the atmosphere as best you can… and as hard (and expensive) as this can be, it still only fills half of what’s needed because a room also needs a well-written and interactive story component. Detractors often say ‘’I don’t care about story or immersion, I just care about creative and challenging puzzles!’’ Really? Then why go to an escape room instead of just pulling out your local Sunday newspaper (or going online) which is filled with various puzzles. The reasons are many and obvious, but at the forefront is that escape rooms are ideally designed AS AN EXPERIENCE. We go there to be swept up into a whole new reality, a new identity, a new adventure, and we want to live out that escape from reality for an hour. In that regard Empire Of Atlantis does a decent job of setting the mood and atmosphere, but we wished there was more story engagement and development. By the end of the game our team felt we were just going from puzzle to puzzle without much of a purpose or sense of urgency attached to it. This isn’t an uncommon critique of most escape rooms, but it does separate the rooms that stand out within the North American industry from one another. In the end although we had quite the range of opinion within our team, but it was agreed upon that ‘ok’ was the best word we could use for how immersed we felt.
And then the puzzles… if there were an Achilles Heel to our experience it was found in the puzzles. To put things in proper context it’s not that we didn’t enjoy most of the puzzles, rather it’s that there were a few things about each of the puzzles we felt needed to be improved upon. It’s also good to keep in mind Empire Of Atlantis wasn’t designed for puzzle enthusiasts like us, rather it was meant to be played by those who are relatively new to escape rooms. This meant the low level of difficulty and small number of puzzles shouldn’t have been unexpected. Where we did have some genuine concern was how one of the puzzle props could’ve been used further into the experience without needing to ‘unlock’ the proper item. Another concern was the visualization puzzle found near the end of the game requiring lateral thinking and loose association. Some of our team felt the hint system could’ve also been improved upon, but this was slightly debated amongst us and may be an issue of preference as the iPad with pre-loaded hints might be to some people’s liking more than others. Again the puzzles weren’t so much ‘bad’ as they were sparse, easy, and could’ve been a bit improved upon in implementation. For these reasons we felt a little bit of redesign work and perhaps some clarification with the final puzzle is all that’s needed to improve upon the puzzle features of this room.
When all was said and done the ultimate questions remained how much did we have with Empire Of Atlantis and did it match the mega-presence of the EXIT franchise as a whole? Once again personal preference divided the team’s perspective on this. Some of the team were satisfied with the wall-to-wall theming, the impressive atmosphere, and the relative ease of play. Others on the team felt the experience needed more puzzles, more of a present and engaging story, less of a loose association with the last puzzle, and a tech issue fixed. Given this divide it’s safe to say this room is better suited for those who prefer atmosphere over puzzles. A family with teens, or a group of 3-5 relatively new escape room enthusiasts is the perfect target group to enjoy this room. We look forward to learning more about EXIT as the months and years roll along, but in the meantime, we want to hear your thoughts on Empire Of Atlantis! 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!