Room 54 – Swamp of Sorrows [Review]

D&D&Escape

Location:  Athens, Greece

Date Played: February 29, 2020

Team size: 1-5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 2.5 hours for insanity mode (reviewed here), 1.5 hours for horror mode, 1.5 hours for mystery mode

Price: from €54 per team of 1 to €140 per team of 5 for insanity mode (reviewed here)

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating:  We’re unsure what fire escape measures there were, if any. More Info.

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Few things excite me as much as seeing an escape room company put a completely new spin on the format. Room 54 did just that with Swamp of Sorrows by mixing escape rooms with fantasy role-playing.

Now, I’ve played games that have role-play components and character cards. None of them committed the way Room 54 did. It was novel to explore an escape room loaded with actor interactions, a rich story, and a battle system that sounded silly at first… but we got really into it.

Post game photo - the team looking into a candle in a dungeon.

Whenever we find a company pushing boundaries, some things inevitably don’t quite work. Room 54 combined a lot of game mechanics in Swamp of Sorrows and they didn’t all mesh together as cleanly as intended. There was too much lore and mechanics at the outset of the experience, the set felt cobbled together, and the puzzles frequently seemed tacked on.

When this game was at its best, however, the story, setting, and gameplay merged to create magic… and that was what we were there for.

Swamp of Sorrow had its flaws, but it was fabulously interesting. Personally, I’d rather play a bold game with flaws than an unremarkable one that doesn’t make any mistakes. If you’re looking for a novel experience and you’re willing to lean into the role-playing elements, Room 54’s imaginative playground is waiting for you.

Who is this for?

  • Dungeons & Dragons fans (or fans of other RPG systems)
  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Novel role-playing & combat mechanics
  • Some strong and unusual interactions
  • An interesting approach to escape room storytelling

Story

After selecting a character (warrior, bard, mage, thief, priest), and learning our individual backstories, we adventured into the ominous Swamp of Sorrows. Our mission was to free the imprisoned embodiment of nature… and fulfill our own individual quests.

In-game: A water well.

Setting

Swamp of Sorrows had a decidedly homemade feel. The lighting was low and we played carrying lanterns. The space didn’t have a lot of polish, but it was brimming with atmosphere.

There were numerous set-driven interactions that were surprising and unusual.

Additionally, there were at least 3 actors playing parts in our experience and they added a lot.

In-game: A decomposing body in a coffin.

Gameplay

Room 54’s Swamp of Sorrows was an unusual escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

It combined RPG (role-playing game) with escape room puzzle-solving and horror elements. We each played a character as we adventured through the gamespace by interacting with characters, combating dark ones, and solving puzzles.

We played on “Insanity Mode” which combined the scare actors (Dark Ones) of “Horror Mode” with the harder puzzles of “Mystery Mode.”

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, puzzling, interacting with actors, and making decisions.

In-game: A candle glowing in a dark forest.

Analysis

➕ The RPG was engaging. We assumed our own characters as we entered the gamespace, where we met other characters with motives and back stories. We embraced being a band of adventurers on a mission.

➖ Because of the backstory and the RPG, Swamp of Sorrows had a lengthy introduction where we read detailed character sheets. It was hard to digest all the background quickly enough to be ready to assume our roles in the game. We missed details.

➖ Room 54 wrote a complex story for Swamp of Sorrows. There were lots of characters, names, and relationships. At times, we struggled to keep track of all the information.

➕ The actors were experienced RPG players. They tailored Swamp of Sorrows to our team’s engagement with the format. They hinted, nudged, provided forgotten story details, and moved the game forward entirely in character. This made up for much of our early information overload.

➖ Some of the puzzles felt tacked on rather than a part of the game world. These pulled us out of the story.

➕ Room 54 designed the space creatively to make it feel much larger than it actually was. This enhanced our sense of exploration and adventure.

➖ Swamp of Sorrows looked messy, even in the dim lighting. It was not a polished build.

➖ The darkness was frustrating. We needed more light from our lanterns.

➕ Room 54 built some fantastic and unusual scene transitions.

➕ Room 54 incorporated audio well throughout the experience.

➕/➖ We liked the battle mechanics. New enemies were intimidating, but enemy repetition diminished intensity over the course of the game.

Swamp of Sorrows culminated in a final boss battle. It felt appropriately epic and absolutely belonged in the adventure.

Tips For Visiting

  • Swamp of Sorrows includes some segments with crawling and light climbing.
  • You can play Swamp of Sorrows in 3 modes and with or without a traitor mechanic: (1) In Horror Mode the scare actors are more aggressive and the puzzles are easier. (2) In Mystery Mode there are no scare actors and the puzzles are more difficult. (3) In Insanity Mode, the scare actors are more aggressive and the puzzles are more difficult. This is a review for Insanity Mode. You can also play any of the modes with a traitor among your team.
  • This game is available in Greek or English.
  • Review our tips for playing escape rooms with actors.

Book your session with Room 54’s Swamp of Sorrows, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Room 54 provided media discounted tickets for this game.

2 thoughts on “Room 54 – Swamp of Sorrows [Review]

  1. If you are going to play this room, I would invest a little bit of time beforehand to read through the character cards (they are on the website). This will give you a better understanding of the characters, and you won’t feel rushed to make a decision when you start the game (like we did).

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