Experience Dresden – Huntington – Escape Room Dresden
Dresden / 2 – 5 Players / Rate: 35 – 40 Euro per Person / Rating: 9.1
Location: Cottaer Str. 15, 01159 Dresden
Date of Play: 06.03.2022
Group of: 2
After having Experience Dresden on our must-play list for some time, the time had come to pay them a visit. And you can take your time with Experience Dresden, because the game is designed for 90 minutes and follows a somewhat different approach. How we liked this approach, can your read here.
We arrived by car and found a parking space in one of the side streets without any problems. Experience Dresden is the only Escape Room in the west of Dresden.
Experience Dresden opened shortly before the first big lockdown and developed an unusual approach in the Escape Room scene for its Huntington room. That’s why the operators put a lot of emphasis on it being an Experience: The main focus is on the story, where every decision made by the players directly affects the development of the story. And so the room offers not just one, but five different possibilities for how the story ends. But more on that later.
The host’s welcome was very friendly and the reception space seems tidy and inviting. Drinks, snacks and lockers for locking away private belongings are available.
Our host, who was also the operator, then put a lot of importance on the briefing, where the main focus was to get us into the right mindset for the space. We were to take our time to focus on story and atmosphere and not try to quickly discover all the puzzles and bring the room to a close. That’s not what this room is about. After this very thorough briefing, our adventure in Japan could begin.
You, as tourists in Japan, follow a recommendation to visit a traditional restaurant in Osaka. A short cut through the forest should get you there faster. You confidently follow the described path. But after walking for a while, you realize that you have lost your way. It’s getting later and later and you don’t know how long the kerosene in your lamp will provide light. Fortunately, you see a light in the distance. Full of hope that this is the way out of the forest, you follow it. But does this path really lead you out or much deeper into the forest? What are you willing to do to escape the forest again?
Experience Dresden actually ventures into an outdoor setting – an immersion break per se in a space. And yet they have managed to create a really impressive setting. The Japanese setting looks very faithful to the original and handcrafted to a high standard. The atmosphere is enhanced by the nocturnal lighting mood and a fitting natural backdrop, so that the immersion succeeds convincingly. The simplicity of the setting and the manageable number of decorative elements can be a reason for criticism in other rooms, but in this setting they contribute to the deceleration and the focus on the story.
As the game progresses, the atmosphere and soundscape become even denser. Only towards the finale alone would we have wished for a more creative conclusion that did justice to the room.
At this point we would also like to mention the room’s special feature, namely the different storylines. Without wanting to spoil too much, it can be revealed that there can be various interactions with different characters. In the process, we were prompted to take actions and were sometimes faced with the dilemma of who to trust and who not to trust. And besides the beautiful set design, that’s the actual experience: players experience uncertainty about the outcome and implications of their decisions. Everyone strives to have the best possible story outcome, but how do you get that and what is the best story outcome for that particular play group in the first place? This is highly individual, as is the depth of interaction with the gamemaster.
Although Huntington’s focus is on the story rather than the puzzles, the puzzles are not uncharitable or uncreative. Rather, they support the story with their intuitive nature à la “put the battery you found in the flashlight.” The puzzles are logical, tactile, and cognitive. The exploration portion is present, but naturally manageable due to the described setting. Despite the rather Zen-like atmosphere, there are still positive moments of stress thanks to some puzzles and interactions of having to accomplish something in a certain amount of time.
This room needs the interaction with the gamemaster – it is essential. The gamemaster acts as an important character in the story and thus brings necessary context into the story on the one hand and helps the players on the other hand when they get stuck.
The depth of interaction depends on the group, so it is also suitable for players who are not on the improv stage of a theater every Friday. Since we were very talkative, there was a lot of dialogue with the gamemaster. The pace of the story is largely determined by the actions of the gamemaster, and this can create an unusual feeling of alienation for frequent players. The performance of the gamemaster should be emphasized here, because the exact timing of the technology and his talent for improvisation in the dialog with the players contribute significantly to the experience.
I had great fun playing this room, as several of my favorites came together here: A beautiful setting in Japan, interactions, and emotions. If there are rooms that don’t give any thought to the story at all, here there is a very complex and well thought out story. The story can be too complex for some, but that doesn’t detract from the entertainment value. Interacting with the gamemaster and exploring space and items overlapped at times, so I sometimes didn’t know where to direct my attention first. However, this can be remedied by trusting that the goal is not to solve everything as quickly as possible, but to calmly focus on the gamemaster and enjoy the story.
Experience Dresden dares something special with their way of telling Escape adventures, which may not convince every gamer at first glance, but is definitely worth a visit. In fact, Huntington differs from the Experiences that Malte, among others, has played so far. There are no horror elements here, so you’re not pumped full of adrenaline. The story of Huntington is told much more calmly, maybe sometimes a bit too much of a good thing. Here you have to consciously engage with the experience, just as you have to engage with the choices in Huntington. Horror rooms usually take the decision away from you, Huntington does not. The puzzles feel quite natural and are rarely recognizable as such, except for the final two tasks. As much effort as they’ve put into the worldbuilding here, the more disappointed I was with the grand finale. Because this mainly takes place in the head and is unfortunately not transported too strongly in the room itself. But this is complaining on a high level, because I appreciate much more what the two operators of Experience Dresden have dared to do than to really criticize it. Huntington is a dare for Escape Room fans, but on the other hand I take my hat off to the courage to implement it in this way.