Sentient Carcinogens: Town of Salem (A Spoilerific Review)

Developed by Blank Media Games

Available on browser and Steam


TownofSalemBetrayal

Town of Salem, the free-to-play/pay-to-win brainchild of Blank Media Games, is a multiplayer indie strategy text-based game about cooperation, betrayal and fighting the overwhelming odds against you, both on the opposing team and the trolls you get assigned to play alongside. It’s been several months since I last played, having left in frustration and complete disgust with the players, but the game still boasts a large but mixed fanbase; this consists primarily of equal parts players who legitimately play the game for its complex and fun strategy elements, and players who’re there just to ruin the game for everyone else. A free version of the game is available on Blank Media Games’ website, while a paid version that offers very little for its $4.99 price tag is available through Steam (a recent update/DLC add-on that was introduced is priced at $4.99, making the complete game worth $9.98). Its availability to every living creature with internet access is only one of the main reasons why this thoroughly enjoyable game is nearly unplayable now, another being the notoriety the game received after being played by A-List YouTubers such as Markiplier and Cryaotic. For a game I’d clocked more than 620 hours of gameplay in (nearly 530 of those were before the above-mentioned YouTubers popularized it), it’s aggravating how little control the creators have over the toxic environment: players betraying teammates and acting like trolls for fun, foreign players betraying players who can’t or refuse to speak their language, constant rule-breaking, and the use of derogatory slurs and language are constant issues in the game lobbies and during actual games. There is no punishment system put into place for these types of players, and regardless of how willing you are to cooperate with others, all it takes is one bad player to ruin a game. It’s hard enough having to try to play alongside sentient carcinogens, but the game keeps track of your win/lose record, and when the ratio starts to skew heavily on the “lose” side for reasons beyond your control, prepare to fight your inner demons or give in to them and join the dark side as a troll yourself.

There isn’t really much to say about the audio and visuals. The avatars representing the different roles are crudely-drawn and unimpressive. The default costume for the Janitor has a Latino-sounding name, and the majority of the female avatars (that aren’t the free default avatars) are unnecessarily sexy. The ratio of Caucasian-looking to non-Caucasian-looking avatars is roughly 8 to 1, and the nicer-looking avatars require either a large amount of playtime or real-world money to acquire. The music is fine (at first), but I remember playing with it muted, even when I wasn’t playing music. Frustration from battling trolls and the game dropping from unscheduled maintenance accentuated the game’s flaws linked to its limited soundtrack and general lack of prettiness.

Scrolls

For individuals interested in learning the game and creating effective strategies, understanding the abilities and limitations of the myriad of available roles involves a lot of trial and error, and almost as much memorization. Some roles are especially effective against certain roles while possessing glaring weaknesses against others (for instance, the mayor’s triple vote can help execute an evil role, but gaining the ability to make your votes worth more than a normal player’s leaves you vulnerable since a declared mayor can’t be healed anymore). Truthfully, some of the roles seem pointless (such as the vampire that can’t win against the mafia if they’re lacking the manpower; being unable to compensate for a lack of strength with wits makes it a tricky-to-use and underpowered role), while some seem overpowered and cheap (the spy’s ability to hear all whispers and all mafia conversations). Taking the time to feel out your characters and learning who their powers work on and who they don’t is a part of the game, and the short timers for each phase of the game (coupled with the above-mentioned trolls) make the task a little difficult at times; each subsequent update and rework of the roles compounds the difficulty. If the day ever comes that I feel like I can return to Town of Salem, I’m sure I’ll be so confused and lost, I’ll easily be able to pretend I’m new and garner some small sympathy for accidentally (maybe) killing off my entire team.

 

 

Pros:

  • If you can find someone who’s playing for the sake of the game, you can have enjoyable, funny conversations while you play
  • Free-to-play on Blank Media’s website
  • In-game currency is earned through normal play
  • It’s easy to make friends there

Cons:

  • Many of the players are abusive, racist, bigoted and beyond toxic
  • The number of superfluous roles increases with each new update
  • The additional content received for buying the paid version isn’t worth $4.99; it isn’t even worth $0.99
  • The creators seem more interested in creating more content than improving what they already have
  • The creators are consistently ignoring legitimate complaints about abusive players to focus on cosmetic, meaningless content that will make them money
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