You awake on the morning that your father is to be killed – and you are to be the executioner.
This is only the first dilemma that you’ll experience when you play The Executioner from Lesser Evil Games. Stepping into the shoes of someone with such a conflicting, difficult job isn’t exactly like picking up someone’s ice cream scoop or signing someone up for a bank account. There are so many morally grey areas, and there’s often no way of knowing what the right thing to do is.
The Executioner will have you questioning, torturing, and fighting people in a game as relentlessly brutal as anything I’ve played before.
It plays a lot like a choose-your-own-adventure game. For much of the game, you’ll be reading through the story, which will lead to having to make really tough decisions. These choices will have you controlling your character and telling him what to do. Do you argue with a prisoner? Do you engage in a fight with someone? Do you read your dead father’s diary? Every decision feels impactful, and by the end of the game you’ll likely find yourself biting your nails down to stubs as you agonise over what choices to make.
When you aren’t reading through the plot or making dialogue/action choices, The Executioner plays a bit like a torture simulator crossed with a RPG. During the game’s fight sequences, you’ll need to decide how you want to approach the situation. For instance, you might try to intimidate your opponent before striking, or perhaps you want to dive in with your stronger attack before your enemy can even register what’s happening. The torture sections are, unsurprisingly, the most brutal parts of the game. The goal is to get a written confession out of the prisoners in your charge, and you’ll have a range of methods to drag out the information you need.
Perhaps you’ll merely threaten them. You could torture them slowly by starving them of food and water. Or you could go straight to violence; shoving needles into their finger nails or even slice off a limb or two. Anything to get the information you need right?
All the while, you’ll have to pay attention to your character’s state of mind as well as his wellbeing. It isn’t easy being one of the most hated people in the city, after all. The Executioner folds in some simulation elements in the ways you need to take care of your character and manage his needs. By taking breaks from torturing, sleeping on a regular basis, delegating jobs to your assistant and more, you’re able to keep yourself from going completely crazy – or simply passing out from exhaustion.
Not only do you need to focus on those things in order to succeed at the game, but you also have to be sure that you’re still earning money. You’ll have to decide what to do with the corpses of those you’ve tortured and killed and, believe it or not, there’s a competitive market out there for them.
The Executioner‘s subject matter is both the best and worst part of the game. Executioners were, of course, a large part of our history. And while examining historical tales of grizzly executions is insightful and entertaining, it’s rare that the feelings and wellbeing of the person actually carrying out the execution would be considered. As such, The Executioner provides us with an altogether intriguing (and excruciating) exploration of what it must have been like to fill that role.
While its uncomfortable nature is, of course, the point of the game, I found myself completely exhausted by the end. Going from a torture session back to my home, only to then read my father’s disturbing journals or arrange to sell the bodies of the people I’d just tortured; it takes quite a toll. The Executioner is constantly morbid, dark, depressing, and hard to swallow. Those with a strong constitution and a penchance for the macabre will find a lot of enjoyment here – after all, it’s incredibly realistic, the voice acting of the main character is top-notch, and the atmosphere is perhaps too good at taking you back in time – but the gloomy atmosphere just about did me in.
The Executioner is available on PC.