Aboard a fancy Victorian ship you socialise, drink, entertain, mingle with the crowd, and secretly murder your target without exposing yourself. It’s Murderous Pursuits, a kill or be killed experience where only 1 player can be the ultimate secret assassin.
Joining the ranks of games such as Spy Party, Hidden in Plain Sight, and the Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood multiplayer – Murderous Pursuits is the latest in the “blend in with the NPCs” genre of game. It’s a genre that desperately needs more titles stuffed under its stealthy hood.
Murderous Pursuits is developed by indie team Blazing Griffin, who have previously worked on The Ship: Remastered. The Ship is incredibly similar to Murderous Pursuits, although there has been a lot of polishing done to Murderous Pursuits that has helped smooth out the often rough edges of The Ship.
The premise is simple. You are amongst a group of very dapper and highly stylised individuals. There are a whole bunch of people at this party, but only 8 of them are controlled by real players. The players blend in with their surroundings and each attempt to hunt down their secret target known as a “Quarry”. Whilst they hunt, they themselves are also being hunted. Let the games begin!
The idea of the game is super fun. It’s a perfectly lighthearted and playful experience that could easily entertain you and a group of your friends. Blending in with your surroundings, attempting to figure out your target, making the perfect subtle approach, all to be killed at the last minute by some character you would have never suspected. The game is certainly a lot of fun at a surface level view. Those who want to take things a little more seriously are also able to do so, with the game offering a range of tactics that would take some time to master.
The game gives you a radar which helps you to locate your target. Once you’re in close proximity to your target it will light up and you can start to taste their delicious fear. The problem is there is often more than 1 person around you. This is why blending in as an NPC (non-player character) is so important. You need to figure out who your target is before you strike, because getting it wrong is just going to set you back further. Paying close attention to not only the characters around you and their behaviours, but also your radar will help you to uncover your target. Meanwhile you yourself are being hunted, sometimes by more than one player. A “Hunter” icon will light up if your Hunter approaches you, so always be aware.
The way the game presents its UI is interesting. The radar and icon to denote your Quarry and Hunter are simple ways for the game to help you learn key pieces of information. Although I can’t help but feel it may be too simple. In fact, the simplicity of the game’s mechanics are basically my biggest concern with the title. Compare Murderous Pursuits with some other games with similar ideas and suddenly the radar begins to feel very shallow. You’re not closely observing your surroundings, looking for small tells, slowly removing NPCS from the pool of potential targets, or using social manipulation and subterfuge tactics. Instead you’re kind of just walking around and pretty quickly figuring it out regardless of your competitors chameleon abilities.
“…there is certainly a lack of cohesion between the idea of stealthy assassination and the often crazy and conspicuous rush for kills that comes with Murderous pursuits.”
The same can be said for how you kill a Target, which is by looking at them and clicking. It’s all just a bit simple for what could be a more grandiose or technical achievement.
That’s not to say the experience wasn’t enjoyable. In fact an argument could even be made that the simplicity of Murderous Pursuits’ mechanics means that nothing is slowing down gameplay. Everything within this game is so much more frenetic compared to the more slow and methodical games with a similar idea. It’s awesome that it manages to stand out and offer something different to the consumer. Although there is certainly a lack of cohesion between the idea of stealthy assassination and the often crazy and conspicuous rush for kills that comes with Murderous pursuits.
To win a game you need to end a round with the most amount of points. Killing a target will net you points, as will “stunning” your Hunter. To stun your hunter you simply attack them before they can attack you, which will then reassign that Hunter’s target to somebody else. The big problem with Hunter stuns is that I found myself getting into “clicking wars” far too often. Essentially these are situations where a Hunter knows who the Quarry is and the Quarry knows who the Hunter is. They both then approach each other and try desperately to click on the opposition before they themselves get clicked on. This is not a fun way to handle things, and reiterates the problem with having super simple mechanics. The winner unfortunately often comes down to whoever has the fastest connection to the server.
The game also has areas where you can send your character and they will simply idle there, engage in conversation, and otherwise look like an NPC. These areas are specifically marked and you need to visit them semi-frequently or else your character will become exposed. When you expose yourself you create an icon above your head and immediately reveal yourself to your Quarry and to your Hunter. This mechanic works well because it stops players from sprinting through and being very unsubtle. There are also levels of exposure and the less exposed you are, the more points you get for a kill. Weapons that are scattered around the area will also give you varying amounts of points for a kill.
Guards can be found around the play area and when they aren’t sleeping or distracted, they catch would-be killers and stop them from completing their deeds. The guards, for me, ended up being quite an annoyance. It was often hard to keep track of whether a guard would catch you or not and I’d much prefer to be keeping an eye on my target than on the guards. Although this was something I eventually learned to play around.
The final mechanic the game introduces is player abilities. You can select 2 special abilities from a small selection and take them into a game. These abilities range from a disguise which resets any exposure to a dance you can do to humiliate your murder victim, netting you additional points at the cost of exposure. The abilities were often fun and sometimes ludicrous and added an extra level of depth to the experience.
What makes Murderous Pursuits so interesting to me is that it is offering a different type of competitive multiplayer experience. There really isn’t many games that offer this type of experience and it managed to scratch an itch I didn’t even know I had. With polish that goes beyond anything The Ship ever managed, Murderous Pursuits starts to look like a very good option for a party game environment or even just a solo night of competitive gaming.
The Bottom Line...
If you can look past Murderous Pursuits’ simplified mechanics then it is definitely something I could wholeheartedly recommend. Although, as with any online multiplayer game, Murderous Pursuits lives or dies by its player-base. It’s a hard world out there for multiplayer games, especially when it is released by a small studio. If you are going to get your murder on then I would recommend you don’t hesitate, jump in whilst there are still players skulking around that blood-stained party.