Content of the article: "Why Throne of Lies is my favorite game"
I don’t usually post about video games or much of any other topic. It’s come to my attention, however, that this particular game is one of those obscure gems with a small player base, a game most gamers likely aren’t aware of. I wasn’t aware of it for a long time myself even after getting into social deduction games a couple years back. Now, I’d like to describe what brought me to like this game more than any other game on the market currently.
To be honest, I would rather play certain kinds of games that don’t exist yet, but for the time being, I happen to like this game over the usual alternatives in the gaming world. I don’t like single-player games generally and I don’t like most shooters anymore. Probably the only shooter I’d enjoy at this point is BioShock 2 multiplayer, but that’s apparently a dead game on PC and I don’t have a console. Other than that, shooters mostly reduce to point-and-shoot, with very little element of deduction, deception, manipulation, or neutrality involved. In shooters, everyone’s running around blasting each other and gearing and re-gearing and it tends to be virtually the same experience over and over again. It’s basically pure violence without character. That’s fine if you’re into that, but I find I enjoy a conversational game of deception more than what could be considered the mainstream shooter scene.
Having said that, I’ll get into what Throne of Lies is about and why it’s become my favorite game. A lot of you are probably aware of a game called Town of Salem. This is one of the most popular social deduction games in existence, and it was my first introduction to hidden role games. For a while, about two years, I liked ToS, mainly its chaos modes rather than ranked. I liked the chaotic and randomized nature of towns and roles and the existence of evil and neutral roles. I even liked it more than WoW in some ways, which is a game I’d played since I was an adolescent. Then the Unity update was released, and I, like many other players, didn’t like the drastic UI changes. I also began to find the game is too simple, having almost no day abilities and only one night ability max per role. That, as well as the repetitive ambiance and the lack of separate night rooms made me start to view the game as a little dry.
I got into this little FTP game called MINDNIGHT for a while, which some of you may also be aware of. I like that game’s retrofuturistic style and ambiance, but eventually I also found it overly simplified, as it’s only ever agents vs hackers with no neutral roles. As I no longer play shooters or WoW and as ToS and MINDNIGHT began to feel too basic to me, I decided to get back into Throne of Lies a bit, which I hadn’t played since last Halloween.
For gamers who aren’t into or familiar with social deduction games, a game like Throne of Lies can seem kind of absurd and slow. You’re not sprinting around shooting random people left and right. You’re a member of a faction in a castle court with multiple factions and neutrals present, some of whom want each other dead. This kind of game offers, to me, a richer and more nuanced gaming experience than most games today do, even if ToL has its flaws like any other game. What I like the most about it is the prominence of deduction, deception, manipulation, and neutrality, as I mentioned. As basically any role, you can deceive and manipulate others into making mistakes and doing your bidding. You can work with neutrals, and as a neutral, you can mostly choose any side you want. It’s a game that requires, in my opinion, a relatively advanced skill level to master well. I don’t think I myself have mastered it well enough yet, as there are so many classes, class lists, and possible strategies that it can take some time to reach a point where you intuit the GTO quickly and act on it. There tends to be so much information, trickery, and chaos present it can be difficult to determine who’s good, who’s neutral, who’s evil, and what the best course of action during the day and the night is. All of these factors and others lead me to consider this game one of the most complicated social deduction games on the market.
That’s a basic explanation of why I like the game more than most others. If you’re interested in a more detailed description, and especially if you’re new to this game or this genre, feel free to continue reading and I’ll delve a bit into specifics of this game that distinguish it from others, and in particular, other social deduction games.
There are four main factions present in the court. Blue Dragon is considered the good faction and is always present. The main evil factions are the Unseen and the Cult, and only one of those factions is ever present. Unseen/Cult can convert Blue Dragon members, so even if someone is confirmed BD, they may be turned. Aside from the Blue Dragon and the Unseen/Cult, multiple neutrals are always in the court, including 2-3 non-killer neutrals and a neutral killer. As in ToS, a trifecta conflict exists between the good faction, the evil faction, and the neutral killer, who are all mutual enemies but who can also mutually benefit each other in certain circumstances. It’s not as simple as one faction versus another faction. There are three main factions, and the existence of neutrals further complicates the faction disputes and allows for people to take sides.
To make matters more complex, the king is not always good. The king can be evil and aligned to either the Unseen or the Cult, but will often pretend to be Blue Dragon in order to avoid being accused and executed by the court. If the original king dies, a new king can also be elected, who may be good, evil, or neutral.
Some of the facets of ToL I like more than a game like ToS are:
· There is no medium. The dead cannot communicate to the living.
· There is no retributionist. The dead cannot be revived, so death is hardcore.
· Neutrals have more nuanced objectives and take more skill to win as.
· NK requires more calculation and features a broader skill set than simple murder.
· NK can, to some degree, take control of the court solo in late game. Possessor and reaper in particular have abilities that allow them to prevent others from voting against them. If neutrals side with the NK, this makes NK especially dangerous in late game.
· It is not immediately clear whether the Unseen or the Cult are present.
· It is not immediately clear what the neutral killer is. This requires the court to determine what the NK is and how to proceed based on the information.
· It is not clearly stated how people die, unlike in games like ToS, where the town is told exactly what killed a player.
· There are multiple abilities that allow evils in particular to manipulate the court and cause chaos.
· The night rooms and their unique scores provide a cozy little aesthetic that differs markedly from the empty town and repetitive music of ToS.
· Blue Dragon is, in my analysis, a relatively more even faction vs evil as compared to Town vs evil in ToS. Conversions make it difficult for BD to determine fellow BD, even when a BD becomes confirmed.
· The king is not always good and there is an interesting dynamic around discerning whether the king is evil and how to proceed based on that.
As a criticism of the game, I don’t like most of the character models, I think the chat text could use some improvement, and the game can be a bit janky sometimes, as well as the queues being somewhat slow at times. I also think the game could use a ranked mode and a chaos mode. These are all to be expected from an obscure game on sale for $2. The devs need better resources and they should improve the game more over time. The main reason I write this post is not only to describe my own tastes, but to ask gamers to consider playing this game and trying something new. It has a small community currently and we could use more players. Once you get a feel for the classes and faction dynamics, it becomes interesting to challenge yourself to win games and experiment using different strategies. Myself, one of the most enjoyable aspects of a game like this is that, as evil/neutral, you can often stay quiet and keep a low profile as people accuse each other and gloss over you. This can allow you to bide your time and rid the court of enemies as you grow closer to parity/majority and try to work with neutrals or others to take control. It’s not a game for everyone, but for people who like social deduction, and especially for people who like chaos, deceit, and randomization, ToL, like many other games, allows for infinite novelty, even if it’s also a bit underdeveloped and wonky.
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