Manor of Lies is an audio role-playing game created by Morpheus, based in the UK.
Style of Play:
- Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
- Audio game
- Interactive NPCs
- Immersive theater
Required Equipment: computer with an internet connection, blindfold, and headphones (preferred)
Recommended Team Size: 3-6
Play Time: about 2 hours
Price: £39 per person
Booking: book online for a specific time slot
Manor of Lies is a fully audio game. Players are asked to wear a blindfold and headphones for full immersion as they play a dice-free role-playing game. This game focuses more on investigation and interrogation of NPCs.
Hivemind Review Scale
Cara Mandel’s Reaction
Manor of Lies was an excellent audio-only experience. I wouldn’t really classify it as an escape room; it was more akin to a murder mystery experience, but with a rich soundscape and talented voice actors. We were asked to blindfold ourselves and wear headphones, presumably in an effort to fully immerse ourselves in the audio-scape and not be tempted by any visual distractions. The story was engaging and the actors were willing to improvise in whichever directions our group headed (and with our group that could be wildly unpredictable). This would be a good offering for those who enjoy immersive theater, Dungeons and Dragons, or other RPGs in general. I rather enjoyed the lack of inventory system and note taking that is often required with these types of games. It was nice to just close my eyes and get lost in an adventure!
Andrew Reynolds’ Reaction
Once again (following Sensperience) we were asked to don our best blindfolds and transport ourselves into the theater of the mind. Manor of Lies had us imagine ourselves as members of high society off to dinner at a friend’s manor house after receiving a mysterious summons. After some light role-playing to help us get into character, we were tasked with solving the murder that inevitably happens in these sorts of situations.
The gamemaster and voice actors helped this game come alive and made the setting feel vibrant. There were multiple characters to interact with, each with their own voices, personalities, and stories. The conversations felt natural and justified, and not being able to explore all branches of the conversation tree – sometimes people are done with a conversation even if you aren’t – was a nice touch of realism.
I only ever found myself wishing for a better in-game sense of time. There were reminders that the guards were on their way, but I never felt too rushed by these announcements. And when they finally did show up, our team had just put the final pieces of the story together. Did we time it perfectly? Was our game extended at all as we got close to the end? What does a fail state in this game look like? These are the only questions I have after an otherwise enjoyable and immersive session.
Brett Kuehner’s Reaction
I’m diverging from my normal review style for this one because it was a very different kind of experience. While we did do some investigation and solve some puzzle-ish challenges, the vast majority of the game was straight-up audio role-playing. Our group interacted with a surprisingly large cast of characters, all with stellar voice performances by our two hosts, Ben and Sue. They were also great improvisers, allowing our group a lot of freedom to do various silly or misguided things, and always reacting perfectly in character. When necessary, the narrator would nudge us back towards the main story path, ensuring we had a chance to complete the entire narrative.
The game takes place solely through audio interactions (including well-mixed music and sound effects). Players are told they must wear a blindfold, while leaving their cameras on. I assume this is because watching players can provide useful feedback to the performers, but it felt a bit awkward at the start, and some people might not be comfortable being blindfolded. If this is a concern for you, I would ask in advance, and I would hope that they would have some flexibility.
A few times when the hosts noticed that a player was participating less, they asked them a question to try to make sure they got a chance to engage. This is good for quieter players who are looking to play but aren’t outgoing, but might be uncomfortable for someone who is more interested in following along passively.
Being a purely audio game, the narrative descriptions of the world are key, and thankfully the game did an excellent job in that regard. I could easily visualize the spaces, objects, and characters. The story gave us plenty to do to fill the time, but was not overwhelming at any point.
It is a fairly expensive experience, but the 2-hour length and quality of the performers made it well worth it for me. However, this might not be to your taste if you are looking for a “traditional” virtual escape (a funny thought for a form that has only existed for a year or two). But if the idea of audio roleplaying with polished performers appeals to you, I highly recommend giving it a try.
Matthew Stein’s Reaction
Manor of Lies is a beautifully executed take on collaborative storytelling. This is not really a puzzle game, though certain actions and interactions do resemble an audio escape room. In contrast to puzzle-oriented games, where solving things typically gates new chunks of story, this experience presents an open(ish)-world story which happens to include elements of solving – but the focus was on meeting and observing a complicated web of characters.
Manor of Lies joins my personal list of top audio experiences largely due to its simple but elegant approach to distributed immersion: prompting all players to wear a blindfold. While this seemed like it’d just be a gimmick, I found it to be a surprisingly effective way to get us each to focus solely on the audio-based world we were collaboratively building, without getting distracted by our physical surroundings or the internet. Moreover, we kept our cameras on, allowing the actors to react to our facial expressions throughout the experience, a level of nuance which is missing from truly audio-only games.
If you’re only used to escape room pricing, this experience may seem quite expensive, but viewed as an immersive theater performance facilitated by two stellar actors, I’d argue that it’s worth the price. I’m not always the biggest fan of murder mysteries, but Manor of Lies presents a fresh, artistic, and engaging take on the genre.