Smooth striking visuals set to a Victorian-esque world in which eight assassins hunt each other amongst rooms crowded with NPC’s that all look similar. It’s up to the players to pay attention to the characters around them or end up being murdered under the noses of the snooty guards. Murderous Pursuits is an online assassin-athon that is fun until it starts to become weary.
Blazing Griffin’s murder- fest title Murderous Pursuits plays out on board the HMCS Britannic, a flying ship set in an alternative Victorian age. Eight assassins have been invited on board by the mysterious Mr X, well known for his appearance in the developers The Ship titles. The goal for each of these assassins is to assassinate their target —known as a Quarry— before someone else does, or before they themselves get assassinated.
While various game modes are available, the main one is Hunt, where each match is a timed event and kills are totalled up when the match ends. The player with the highest score wins as expected and scores go towards the players rank. There are various levels which add to the visual changes, but as far as gameplay mechanics are concerned it’s all relatively the same thing. Other matches include free-for-all and Elimination which I’ll discuss a bit later on.
Each player can choose from eight readily available assassins and can equip one perk, a Hunter stun, and two skills. Skills can range from revealing nearby Quarry’s/Hunter’s, dancing atop a recent kill for extra points, transforming into another character, and even a flashbang. These skills come with a cooldown timer to avoid players overusing the handy skills.
An exposure feature is the main focus throughout Murderous Pursuits as it indicates how exposed a player is. Become exposed and any Hunter’s or Quarry’s in the match can see the location of the exposed assassin. Players can become exposed by performing vigorous tasks such as running, assaulting the wrong target, getting arrested, and even walking. Depending on the task performed the exposure increases at different paces.
Players can decrease their exposure by standing idly in white dotted areas on the floor which causes the assassin to start acting like an NPC. Personally, you get more protection if you bundle in with a large group of NPC’s, although the crowd makes it harder to target anyone you may be after.
Strewn throughout Murderous Pursuits’ levels are weapons that grant more points depending on their favour table score —a score that is rotated with each kill performed— and can be picked up whenever the player desires.
However, it doesn’t matter if they’re melee or ranged weapons as the Quarry needs to be incredibly close to become targeted. Once the Quarry is dead then another quarry is assigned and the favour table shuffles.
The exciting rush of hunting whilst also being hunted feels nicely balanced, and if —like me obviously— a player is good at observing the people around them, then they’ll be a true master assassin. After a while, it becomes easier to understand the invisible radius in which nearby hunter indicators become active when someone enters a room. Or when a person leaves the room and the “Quarry Nearby” message disperses. While it feels good to master, it also feels like cheating because of how precise it can be.
As for Elimination, this is a fancy new game mode that’s still in beta and lasts for three minutes. Players are tasked to hunt every other player down just like in free-for-all, but this time they play through five rounds and if they die they spectate until the next round. Elimination is a bit more of a fast-paced game mode that urges players to be the last one standing per-round, so yes, it’s almost like Battle Royale.
According to the eccentric names of players in the games I played —such as “Fancy Quaff”— it seemed like I was playing exclusively against bots which worried me about the popularity of Murderous Pursuits. I did see other players join eventually which was great, although they felt very detached and chose not to communicate.
Elimination is…like Battle Royale. Elimination seems to disable the chat box —possibly so players can’t feed information— so sitting around in spectator mode is a bit of drag. It’d be fantastic if a spectator only chat was implemented to pass the time with conversations.
Graphically Murderous Pursuits is incredibly lovely to look at. The environment holds an elegant Victorian tone, with main menus feeling very art-deco. The characters around the world bear a caricature looking persona that shifts the overall tone from a serious kill-em-all to a more comical themed title.
There does seem to be an issue with the UI and HUD being too much as loads of bells and whistles obscure the wonderful view. On top of that, some areas of text on main menus, or loading screens can be hard to read due to the colours clashing in contrast. Darker text would solve this without taking away from the style.
Murderous Pursuits sounds nice too, with jaunty music plinking along to the suspenseful gameplay adding a lighthearted feel to the overall match. Sound effects are punchy, and the ticker as the match draws to a close is oddly satisfying to listen too. The end of match score counter sounds annoying though, I’d like the option to skip the clicking counter that drones on.
The voiceover bloke is the culprit that seems to ruin the experience by being present all the time. He makes himself known to make quips about a failed kill or congratulating a murder. His voice is nice, but the frequency of his comments seems a bit much.
While I particularly enjoy the pace and the hubbub of busy NPC’s wandering around, it does wind up feeling like a title that needs a specific audience. The beauty of the game is how Murderous Pursuits encourages controlled movements and tactical thinking whilst feeling similar to popular stealth titles such as Dishonoured.
The sheer amount of same characters does feel tedious, although it’s understandable as it helps players obviously blend in. That doesn’t stop me feeling weird when surrounded by five different Doxy’s though. Targeting the right Quarry is also a challenge sometimes, but there is a feature that has been introduced for precision, but in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget.
Originally when Murdeours Pursuits launched there wasn’t really anything to work towards except new costume designs. Since then it has introduced various elements to work towards. New characters have been added, new taunts, perks, and skills that are level specific. It’s great to see these introductions finally added and gives the title extra content that was needed from the start.
The sad thing is that while it’s a great game, the popularity seems to have suffered a blow from the lack of content from the start. More game modes introduced such as a capture the flag but with an object that needs to be held until the end of the round wouldn’t be amiss.
It’s a shame because I really like Murderous Pursuits as an online experience as the gameplay feels fluid. It looks great, and you don’t need to worry about working as a team as it’s all down to your individual performance. Team modes could introduce more friends to play together, but otherwise, it’s a solid title that deserves more attention.
This review was completed by a press copy of the title