Doors of Divergence – Madness: 1917 [Review]

Update 10/3/23: If you enjoy Madness: 1917, we hope you’ll check out our interview with creators Christian Vernon and Zac MacKrell on The Reality Escape Pod.

Madness: 1917 is one of the best escape rooms in New York City. Here are our recommendations for great escape rooms in New York City.

French Roulette

Location:  Brooklyn, NY

Date Played: March 30, 2023

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price:  From $225 per group for a group of 3 to $500 per group for a group of 8

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration:  At least one player needs to be comfortable separating from the group.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Madness: 1917 excelled on a lot of levels.

It excelled as a sequel to Heresy: 1897, where the decisions we made in that game framed our next experience.

It excelled as a theatrical escape game, brilliantly incorporating performers, and providing multiple novel player-performer interactive moments.

We expect it excelled at replayability. We’ll let you know, one way or the other. We certainly want to return.

Finally, it excelled as a follow-on project for some of the creators behind I Survived the Room, one of the earlier companies in New York City. (The Sanatorium and Club Escape reviewed in 2016, The Order reviewed in 2018)

View through a rusting metal asylum cell gate into a decaying hallway.

We increasingly see escape rooms as memory machines. The best ones leave us with moments – shared with friends – that we continue to think about and treasure long after we’ve left the experience. Even a few weeks after playing, there are so many things about this game that we continue to recall… that we are excited about and want to share with people, and hope they get to experience.

Doors of Divergence has burst onto the New York scene and established itself as the premier escape room experience in the 5 Boroughs. To properly enjoy this game, you truly have to play Heresy: 1897 beforehand, and yes, that means you are buying two premium-priced tickets to fully enjoy this experience. From our vantage point, each on its own, and together as a set, these games are entirely worth it.

A long, decaying hallway in a rundown asylum.

New York has slowly been crawling back from an escape room lull. Doors of Divergence makes this city an escape room player’s destination once again. We can’t wait for the third installation in this adventure.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players who want to interact with characters.
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every interaction

Why play?

  • The story continuity between games
  • The freedom that the story and characters give the players to take the story where they want it to go
  • The performative moments


Following the events of Heresy: 1897, we found ourselves committed to an insane asylum 20 years later. The particulars of our commitment were specific to the decisions we’d made in Doors of Divergence’s previous game. (It is in your best interest to play Heresy: 1897 first.)

A soiled bed in a rundown asylum cell. Black letters are scrawled on a white wall reading, "Mommy dines alone at a table of sadness."


We found ourselves locked up in deliberately dingy cells overseen by performative hospital staff with dubious intentions. Doors of Divergence packed a ton of detail throughout the set.

Closeup of decaying plastar walls, revealing the wooden framing behind it.


Doors of Divergence’s Madness: 1917 was an unusual escape room because we made decisions that changed the course of our experience. In this way, it is replayable. We can return and make different choices.

However, it was an escape room with primarily typical gameplay and a moderate level of difficulty, plus quite a bit of actor interaction.

Additionally, this game was largely played as a split team, and required communication.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, communicating, solving puzzles, interacting with the characters, and making decisions.

Imposing metal door reads, "Patient Intake"


➕ I spent a lot of time (far more than intended) in the lobby/ overworld bantering with the characters, and they were incredible. They playfully added to the mystique of their world through conversation. Additionally the lobby itself was a delightfully strange place with the music putting in a lot of work to add to their reality-bending environment.

➕ The set was on point. It appeared dirty (but wasn’t actually dirty). It was sparse, foreboding, and bleak.

➕ The puzzles worked well in the space. They kept us engaged with our surroundings and required communication.

➕ Doors of Divergence crafted a remarkably even split team experience. This mechanic often creates an imbalance, or later puzzle confusion, but in Madness: 1917 it worked smoothly.

➕ The actors were phenomenal. The characters had depth. We sensed their true selves and their motivations.

➖ One side effect of complex characters was that we didn’t quite trust them. Since these characters also provided hints, it would be easy for teams to stall in gameplay because they couldn’t trust the characters. This balance felt off.

➕ There were multiple opportunities for one-on-one and small-group experiences with the actors. Players opt into these. (At least one player will need to opt in.) These were intense, story-progressing scenes.

➕ Through audio technology in one instance, and sleight of hand in another, one character made an impact.

➕ We made decisions based in large part on our experience in Heresy: 1897. While you don’t need to play these games in order, we strongly recommend that you do. Our decisions impacted how our adventure played out. We definitely plan to return to see what other paths we can take. We are also looking forward to the next installment and want to know where this story goes next.

➖ We wanted more from one shocking prop.

➕ Doors of Divergence encouraged exploration. We earned achievements for doing… things. This incentivized risk-taking. They wanted us to push on the boundaries of the world. So we did.

🚧 There will be a mechanism for digging further into player decisions later, after leaving Doors of Divergence, however it is still under construction for Madness: 1917. This will add to the replayability, as we’ll be able to more fully chart where we’ve already been. We have the tools we need to explore it, but we can’t access this feature of the world yet.

💵 Doors of Divergence was expensive. At $70 per person for a group of 4 (which was the perfect group size), it was significantly more expensive than a standard escape room. But it also provided a lot more value. From the overworld, to the characters (pre-game and in-game), to the depth of the story, there’s a lot more experience.

➕ We appreciate the end credits. The cast, crew, and producers deserve it.

Tips For Visiting

  • Doors of Divergence is located within Future Proof HQ .
  • Take the subway to Grand Street or Montrose L line stops.
  • There is limited street parking available

Book your hour with Doors of Divergence’s Madness: 1917, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Doors of Divergence comped our tickets for this game.

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