We hope you enjoyed The Descent! This was our first foray into experiential gaming and we would love your feedback. Please share your comments below, including any insight or thoughts from your overall journey as well as the things you loved and the ones that we can improve upon.
Now for spoilers: What was The Descent really all about?
Inspired by Dan Brown’s highly-anticipated Inferno, we wanted to take the reader beyond the eBook. Each story holds a puzzle that leads to a secret webpage which, in turn, is part of a larger meta-puzzle, ultimately revealing a final site.
SINS OF TEMPTATION
Story/Puzzle Elements: Symbology, the Occult, the First through Fourth Circles of Hell
Requiring little more than a keen eye, the first puzzle is intentionally straightforward. Signposts reference “CSPB” – a prayer to ward off the devil that is found on the Saint Benedict Medal. Readers also need to note the description of the Seal of Asmodeus – the Demon of Lust.
The image on the final page references the website, “Tobit’s Spirit Guide.” Despite the retro look, the site was built to extend the gaming experience. Holding many elements from the story – including a connection between blogger Tobias Fanshawe and author Christopher Faerwald – it plays a key role in solving eBooks one and two.
Tobit’s blog also features an altered version of the Saint Benedict Medal in which “PAX” – usually found at the top – has been replaced with “COM.” The change implies a URL that leads to the first hidden webpage and a single image: Gustave Doré’s The Lustful. Clicking on it unveils the first piece of the meta-puzzle.
SINS OF VIOLENCE
Story/Puzzle Elements: Greek Mythology, Vigenère Cipher, Astrological and Alchemical symbols, Geo Coordinates, the Seventh Circle of Hell
To solve “Sins of Violence,” readers must spot a series of geo coordinates on both the map of the City of Dis and in the eBook. The map’s symbols – Pluto, the Minotaur, Ohm, and Resistance – are all referenced on “Tobit’s Spirit Guide.” Combining their coordinates and inputting them into a search engine leads to Mt. Vesuvius, which Greek mythology often considers Hell.
The roman numerals on the map correspond to cantos from the beginning of the eBook, revealing the coordinates 48.8699N, 2.3072E. These take readers to the Champs-Élysées, which is French for “Elysian Fields” or “the place of the blessed dead” (i.e. Heaven) in Greek mythology. Within the eBook, savvy readers will find 35.2980N, 25.1632E which, when combined, lead to the Minotaur’s home: Knossos.
Using these three locations to solve the “unbreakable” Vigenère cipher on Tobit’s blog leads to the solution: “THE TRIFECTA OF CLUES ONE HOT ONE OLD ONE NEW WILL COMPLETE YOUR DESCENT.” Putting them together in the order prescribed (Hot = Vesuvius, Old = Knossos, New = Elysees) delivers a URL for the next hidden page.
SINS OF TREACHERY
Story/Puzzle Elements: Astronomy, Magic Square, Acrostic Puzzles, Anagrams, the Ninth Circle of Hell
Leaning on basic puzzles, many of which are found in Dan Brown’s novels, the third mystery goes in a new direction. The only signpost found in the story is the grandfather’s map of the solar system. As for the image provided in the eBook, is it the nine circles of Hell or the nine planets?
The inclusion of The Descent seal as the sun indicates its importance. The original seal on Kobo.com/TheDescent is clickable and eventually leads to a book of puzzles. Though most are red herrings, the answers to nine of the games are names of planets.
With spherical shapes that resemble planets, the last page of the puzzle book is both a magic square and an acrostic. First, solve the magic square then “Add letters sequentially, swiftest to farthest.” The first letter from each of the planets must be entered in order while the number in the magic square indicates where in the URL string the letters go. Entering this correctly unlocks the final hidden page.
But there's more!
Assembling the three separate images from the hidden websites, the reader will see backward text. This is actually the first and last lines of Dante’s Inferno:
Midway through the journey of our life (Canto I)
Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars (Canto XXXIV)
The composite image emphasizes the end portion of the last line, providing the URL for the final page.
ENCOUNTER WITH SATAN
Gustave Doré’s depiction of Satan, along with three form fields, greets readers on the final page. Anyone familiar with Dante’s Inferno understands the importance of groups of three (i.e. Satan’s three heads; the punishment of Cassius, Brutus, and Judas Iscariot; the inverted trinity, etc.).
Like in many of Dan Brown’s stories, the solution has been right in front of readers from the very beginning. Inspecting The Descent Seal will reveal three Italian words. Entering them unlocks the final site, completing The Descent.
AND YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED....
- The animals depicted on the covers of each eBook – a she-wolf, a lion, and a leopard – align with the animals that stalk Dante at the outset of his Inferno
- Though the stories are not in chronological order, characters from all three are linked:
- The detective from “Sins of Temptation” is the grandfather from “Sins of Treachery”
- Simon from “Sins of Treachery” releases the plague and becomes The Minotaur from “Sins of Violence”
- Christopher Faerwald has a fan page on Facebook
- If you email Tobias Fanshawe at the address listed on Tobit’s Spirit Guide, he provides a clue
- The puzzle book title is an anagram for “The path leads here. Look within.”
We hope you enjoyed playing the game as much as we did creating it. Expect more fun from Kobo this summer! In the meantime, send us your feedback. What did you like? What was most challenging? Did you get confused? What was the best part? And if we did this again, would you play?