Game name: Murderous Pursuits
Release date: April 26, 2018
Price: US$ 19.99
Available on: Steam
Developer: Blazing Griffin
Publisher: Blazing Griffin
Most multiplayer titles take the form of shooters, racing/sport simulations or fighting games. However, from time to time, an enterprising indie studio decides to challenge the norm, focusing their talent on a different kind of experience, usually something that players would normally associate with single-player releases.
Murderous Pursuits is one of these experiences, a social stealth title reminiscent of the Hitman series, but where every NPC running around the place might actually be a disguised killer out for someone else’s blood. If this setup feels familiar, it’s probably because you’ve either played The Ship, Bloody Good Time, or the PvP component found in older Assassin’s Creed games. Murderous Pursuits is the brainchild of Blazing Griffin, a small indie team that has been working for a number of years on the formula first presented by the now defunct Outerlight in the original The Ship (and then refined in Bloody Good Time, a game published by Ubisoft, who would go on to include a similar multiplayer mode in their popular Assassin’s Creed series).
The main idea behind the game is simple, all the players are passengers on a massive Victorian airship that also doubles as a time machine, and a sinister character only known as Mr. X has assigned everyone a target who must be eliminated. As the match progresses and we kill our quarry (or get killed by other players who were told to murder us), we’ll get new targets and points will be scored based on a number of factors. Whoever has more points at the end of the match wins, and will presumably earn Mr. X’s favor.
Examining the game mechanics on more detail, we’ll find out that in order to accrue more points than the competition we’ll have to act carefully, posing as NPCs whenever possible, and tracking our targets so we are completely certain when it’s time to strike (killing the wrong player is a bad idea). Guards roam the airship’s decks, stunning anyone who engages in violent activities under their vigilant eyes, but they can be distracted, giving us enough time to perform our deadly duties should we need to act quickly. There are a few weapons available that can be used to eliminate our quarry, and each one of them carries a point value, which goes down as we fulfill contracts, forcing us to hunt down better murder tools before proceeding with our mission unless we don’t care about maximum efficiency.
Other things that will earn us points are staying in cover as much as possible (there are specific places known as vignettes that let us blend in with the crowd of NPCs that populate the airship) and stunning our would be hunters. An Exposure meter governs our cover, increasing as we perform warlike activities or carelessly run around the place, and decreasing through the use of vignettes. Observing potential targets/hunters as they move becomes critical to our success, since AI controlled characters are far more subdued than humans (even more so during late game moments, where everyone is attempting to snatch victory with a few fast kills).
Players who do not wish to rely on their observation skills can take advantage of the quarry tracker, a sort of radar that sits at the top of the screen, providing information on the location of our target, and letting us know if we have a hunter on our tail. In certain instances, this tool can be abused (for instance, I’ve seen people who spent most of the time waiting atop a set of stairs, since the tracker would tell them if their target changed floors, a dead giveaway should they be nearby).
Before each match we can customize our appearance, choosing a skin and two skills from a pool of five. Depending on the skills we’ve picked, our character may be able to counter attacks from hunters or momentarily uncover the identity of our quarry, for instance. Skills are unlocked from the get go, encouraging players to experiment and leveling the playing field so everyone has access to the same tools. Character skins can be acquired through the game’s progression system, though in its current form it only awards experience points if we are playing online, so bot matches don’t count.
Aside from playing Quick Play matches against humans or Practice bouts versus the AI, there isn’t a lot to do, since the progression system is quite stale and there aren’t many skins to be unlocked. The amount of content on offer, at least at launch, seems thin at best, and I fear that most players will end up abandoning the game after a while since the basic premise ends up being quite repetitive (at its core, Murderous Pursuits is a very elaborate game of tag, due to its lack of gunplay/melee mechanics). Without human players this title isn’t nearly as entertaining as it is under normal circumstances (though the bots are fairly capable, they can’t emulate a human and we’ll quickly learn how to beat them) so I hope that Blazing Griffin will be able to rework the progression system or add more content in order to keep their game fresh.
Overall, Murderous Pursuits is a welcome change of pace from the hordes of shooters that crowd the multiplayer market, but its lack of content and unrewarding progression system bring down the experience quite a bit.