The Koschei Society is an organization of scholars and historical enthusiasts. In the course of their research, the Koschei Society stumbled across a handful of artifacts that just might set an enterprising researcher on the path towards a legendary alchemist’s hiding spot, and the recipe for a transformative alchemical elixir. Are you wise enough, resourceful enough, and brave enough to be that enterprising researcher?
PostCurious’ newest narrative puzzle adventure The Emerald Flame begins with an invitation to assist the Koschei Society in poring over a series of letters and artifacts to unearth the ancient alchemist’s secret. Structured across three separate “chapters” of puzzle-driven narrative, players piece together the information necessary to advance the story, verifying answers through an online chat portal. The game’s Kickstarter campaign funded within 4 hours of its launch, and offers the full experience for as little as $69. The campaign will run through June 26th, and has already secured over a thousand backers eager to take on the Koschei Society’s challenge.
Burning Bright: A Seamless Blend of Art and Puzzle
Every chapter’s structure follows a similar framework: aspiring Koschei Society researchers are tasked with extracting information relevant to the investigation. Like many at-home puzzle experiences, these puzzles can be completed in any order, providing structure to the small group solving experience. However, The Emerald Flame‘s greatest strength is its ability to take things one step further, weaving the game’s art and its puzzles into an elegant tapestry.
The puzzles at the heart of The Emerald Flame aren’t always self-contained. So while some puzzles communicate everything that’s needed on a single sheet of paper, others are interspersed across the experience. Pulling on a puzzling thread on one line of inquiry might lead to a revelation about a detail expertly hidden within the art of another page, or teach you the rules of engagement for one of the game’s items. But the reverse is also true, with the game’s artistic stylings serving as signposts for players, hinting at what puzzle pieces are likely to fit together, if seen under the proper light. This interplay between art and puzzle leads to many of the most surprising moments of The Emerald Flame.
But even the adventure’s more self-contained puzzles benefit from the exquisite artwork that drives the experience. And in my experience, this works best with the handful of logic puzzles scattered across the three chapters. While all of the logic puzzles are mechanically distinct, they share an economy of information that visually conveys just enough information to solve the puzzle so that the art can speak for itself without ever coming across as utilitarian.
Just as impressive is The Emerald Flame‘s commitment to theme: the puzzles commit wholeheartedly to the alchemical theme, and often draw inspiration from actual historical artifacts and relics. The game’s in-game social media accounts for the Koschei Society highlight many of the real-world inspirations for the game’s puzzles, and skimming through the feed after experiencing the puzzles firsthand brings an entirely new appreciation to what the game delivers.
An Important Reminder: Accessibility Doesn’t Mean Easy
The Emerald Flame is a fair puzzling experience, but it is not an easy one. During my solo playthrough, it took a couple of hours to make it through each chapter. The narrative flavor text and visual cues are strong enough that the entire experience flows naturally, without the need for hinting. But for players that do need assistance, the hinting structure is robust enough to guide players along without replacing the solving process altogether.
Because puzzles will sometimes sprawl across multiple artifacts, the first hint for every puzzle is a list of items and information needed to move ahead with a solve. It’s not unusual for a single puzzle in The Emerald Flame to have over a dozen hints: not because the puzzle had over a dozen steps, but because the game goes to great lengths to make sure that players can take pride in solving the puzzle for themselves.
And The Emerald Flame‘s commitment to improved accessibility doesn’t stop with its hinting system. PostCurious’ Rita Orlov explains in a blog post how she adapted some of the game’s highly visual puzzles to be approachable for colorblind solvers.
When compared to its competitors, The Emerald Flame also comes at a surprisingly affordable price point. While escape rooms in a box like Unlock, Exit the Game might occupy the cheaper end of the puzzling spectrum for single hour experiences, The Emerald Flame‘s $69 price point for the base set puts it at under $10 / hour for all but the speediest puzzlers. And with the Kickstarter edition of the game including two refill kits for some of the more consumable game components (an upgrade from the single refill kit the retail edition will have), it’s now possible to guide a second group of friends through the experience without worrying about irrevocable mistakes.
Play Before You Pay: Puzzling Through the Kickstarter
Because every good puzzling Kickstarter needs a secret puzzle trail, PostCurious built the prequel to The Emerald Flame directly into the campaign page itself. Over the course of the campaign, five puzzles will be released to the campaign’s Updates section, with a new puzzle dropping every Thursday. Those who are particularly observant might note that the Campaign page itself hides instructions to access a secret forum for Koschei initiates.
Because backers who solve this prequel puzzle trail are entered to win exclusive artwork for the game, the prequel puzzle trail does not come with a convenient hint system: it’s up to fellow Koschei initiates to lend a helping hand.
Go to The Emerald Flame‘s Kickstarter page before Friday, June 26th to support the campaign. And if you’re interested in PostCurious’ previous (out of stock) narrative puzzle box The Tale of Ord, The Cardboard Herald has a podcast interview with Rita Orlov that peels back the curtain on the experience.
Note: ARGNet received a review copy of The Emerald Flame. All images courtesy of PostCurious.