There are a lot of games that push you to check your moral compass every few hours or so during the storyline, because of dire and mixed emotional paradigms. But The Executioner takes the protagonist’s morality check to a whole new level.
This is a game that you cannot process in one go and you will have to step back and properly process “What the hell is going on?”.
This text-based morality roller coaster is a dire depiction of the dark imaginations made rampant by the concept “New Weird”. Don’t believe us? Well for starters, the story opens up with the player killing their father and the morality titanic just sinks deeper and deeper after that.
Before long, you will be searching for the enemies of the crown and blind them through physical torture, cut off their hands and asking your assistant to assist you in some light waterboarding.
We know that this game sounds like you are going everywhere and torturing everyone, but it’s a living choice and to each his own. I guess?
From the start to the very last moments you would play this game, it is a continuous stream of grim to grimmer missions and instances which we certainly don’t count as fun because it’s far too grisly and dire for that.
But some players may find that opinion wrong because The Executioner offers something very intriguing and compelling which will be properly recognized by gamers for the gem it is.
JUDGE, JURY, AND EXECUTIONER
The story of this game starts with the protagonist’s father admitting to treason for which he has to be put to death. Our character has many different options to act on throughout the game and this is the first one which he has to make that will change everything for the future to come.
Initially, the player has the option to fight the guards that are keeping their father in shackles, but they don’t have enough power yet to overcome those guards.
You will barely manage to retrieve the father’s diary which contains all of the instructions for when you are forced to take his role as the kingdom’s new executioner.
The player is soon given an option but it’s a very unhappy one. Either to execute your father yourself or let his weak assistant do the deed while you are allowed to stay by the king during the execution. Your hands will be clean and a little bit of conscience if you let the assistant do it. But there’s a catch.
The assistant is too old and if you choose him to execute your father, he will Take three blows to chop the head off.
Either way, after the execution, you are thrust into the role of the executioner the next day.
The storyline goes into a “comfortable” phase from there on because you can’t stop from killing your own father by killing a bunch of prisoners no matter how guilty they are.
The Executioner goes to retrieve the information he needs and tortures the prisoners in the process to get to know the truth and get the confessions signed.
The torturing and getting the confessions out in the open by weeding out the liars is an easy process for the Executioner because he can tell when the prisoners are lying due to a supernatural ability in his arsenal among many other.
He also uses a wide array of weapons and clever tactics that allow him to inflict more pain on the prisoners to get them talking and ultimately make them confess about all of the things that they have done wrong.
Most of the gaming sequences are presented in text throughout the whole gameplay but still, there is some visual art involved in enunciating the really pivotal points in the story.
Torture sequences throughout the game are illustrated. The game is relentless in showing you the damage you are causing each time through a grisly interface with the time it takes the player to get the desired information confessed from the prisoner.
Combat in this game is a slightly different story. While you are protected in the dungeon or the torture room where you take the prisoners to, the streets are a different arena altogether.
While traversing through the city on extracurricular investigation journeys, you will often have to engage in fisticuffs because out of the dungeon you will be much more vulnerable.
When you are not on the job, you are allowed to explore and traverse the city without a preset intention in your mind. During these visits, you can meet with both the members of the council and crown while also meeting the members of the brewing rebellion that is on the verge of breaking out.
You have room to make different choices about what to do with the bodies of the prisoners when you are done executing them.
You can either dispose of them off to the highest seller for maximum profit that’ll earn you wealth or you can even donate them to scientists that can research the human body with those samples. You can also sell them to the occult that will use those bodies to do some less ethical things with them.
It’s really up to you and your moral compass to decide what you want to do to those prisoners.
The main point is that you are the sole owner of those bodies when you are done interrogating and executing them, so you can be picky about where those bodies should end up.
MAIMING AND MORALITY
The Executioner is a dire depiction of a very bloody era that was full of violence and torture, and the game doesn’t shy away in displaying that harsh reality at any point during the whole story sequence.
Right now, you must think that the game is just a hatred-filled killing bonanza but it’s much straight forward than that. It’s a game that properly threads your moral compass at every single turn.
The story has no impending mayhem for the players to experience and no sly winks to the camera to make the character more likable.
This is a simple game where the player knows and understands the position they are troubled with. And they know that they have a shitty job, but someone has to do it and that person is them right now. Simple.
But all of this pretty much sucks and our protagonist is pretty clear on that rhetoric even if he is not from a society like we are today that doesn’t celebrate killing. (Well let’s just say that we don’t really have public executions anymore).
The main question that deeply haunts the player is that “Will he/she be able to kill someone or torture someone in the game who has been accused of witchcraft or murdering innocents, but they are actually not the real criminals?”
Well, the game allows the protagonist to have a certain moral compass where if he doesn’t think that the accused is the real culprit, he can make a stand and refuse to torture that person.
But if he does that then what will society do to the Executioner that refused to do his job. What will happen to the society where The Executioner just proved himself to be weak and not capable to do his straightforward job?
Well, credits where it’s due, the developers of this bizarre masterpiece have managed to display this society in a clear and articulate manner. The moment you start playing this game, you will feel a lot of expectations on your shoulders which will make you settle into the character very quickly.
Some bad news on the OCD front. You will really be triggered a number of times because the native language in which this game was developed is Russian. That means that this game has its fair share of typos in the text throughout the storyline which will really hinder your immersion into the game.
There are also instances where the text is completely replaced by bits of code that give the game a very unpolished and unrefined feel which the rest of the game didn’t deserve.
ROLLING AS AN RPG
As an RPG itself, The Executioner has a lot of depth associated with every element of this amazing storyline. On top of the many resources the protagonist has in his arsenal such as time, sanity, money, stamina, etc. there are also some other ways that can really help you progress through the story.
These skills and talents improve the Executioner’s chances to pass combat checks, boost up his stats or even pick new and more “exciting” skills like cannibalism (well he chops up people all day, are you really that surprised?)
The biggest issue related to this game is from a sane point of view (if there is such a thing in this game) is that you will find all of these grotesque things to be performed on the prisoners, but you will never feel like this game is endorsing violence.
The Executioner is just doing his job and the main challenge is to get the information from the prisoner extracted quickly and in time before the timer runs out and you have to do it again.
To wear the prisoners down physically or mentally is far too easy in this game if you figure out what buttons to push (and not on the keyboard). But keeping them in a state of constant fear and despair really gets them going to blabber everything they had done wrong.
But the game even in an interrogation lets you choose how you want to deal with your culprit. You can intimidate them to the point where they soil themselves, but you can also give them room to breathe if you want.
Most of the interrogations can be performed by your assistant as well but he is far too terrible to give them a break and you can take charge if you want to give them a moment of peace.
Of course, when the stakes are this high and your every action is being watched. We are talking about moral awareness and the crowd mood control. Yes, if you screw up the confession or the investigation then you will have to cover that with a very entertaining hanging.
It’s all about risks and rewards in this game where you will have to properly learn what risks to take and what body parts to stamp your feet on to because it’s very frustrating to waste your time on a prolonged interrogation only to fail and do it all over again. Such are the struggles of an era-appropriate executioner shown in this game.
Well, it’s kind of hard to recommend such a game in this era where we are dealing with violence on a grander scale than ever before in human history. Sure, we don’t listen to the wet squelching noises of severed heads rolling down the Executioner’s stairs every now and then, but the main killing aspect of that era are still present to this day on different levels.
But this game is not a killing frenzy where you just blindly kill prisoners and sell or eat their bodies. This game is trying to depict a bloody era that this world went through. It’s also not a grimdark flick for the sake of cheap thrills.
This game is trying to tell something and it’s the gamer’s job to find that gem hidden inside such a dire and deadly exterior of the game.
This game is not easy and will test all of the mental and moral limits a person in this era has set in their minds from a very young age. It’s just a matter of whether the players have the guts to dig deep into the questions and central idea what the Executioner is trying to push, and what they might find hidden deep into their subconscious about their existence in society even today.