When Joseph-Ignace Guillotin proposed in 1879 that the capital punishment was executed by painless beheading it was considered an act of mercy because until then the poor were hung from their necks sometimes choking for minutes, if they were not lucky enough for their necks to break on the drop while the nobility was beheaded by axe or sword that were not always sharp, or the executioners arms were not accurate or strong enough to make sure it was done in one clean cut, forcing them to to multiple ones until they could raise the head of the convict to the roaring crowd gathered in front of the gallows with a mixture of fury and ecstasy. That is why the first choice we take in The Executioner is so important. Do we swing the axe to kill our predecessor, our father, or leave it to his old weak assistant? Should he die by his son’s hand and have the most humane execution possible?
Inspired by The Executioner some weeks ago I wrote about the impunity some videogame characters have when doing certain actions mainly because in this game we aren’t forced to do things that are considered wrong. This is an important factor, we are not forced to choose a path, everything is a choice and sometimes we just have to choose the lesser evil. Or the largest one depending on our objective and lack of scrupulous. In The Executioner we are the torturer and executioner of a small fiefdom, but all we do is related to us and us alone regardless of what happens around. We can choose any option as long as we are willing to live with the consequences. Paraphrasing a moment I love from “The Devil’s Advocate” when Keanu Reeves character blames Al Pacino’s for everything bad that happened he answers something like: No, I didn’t make the choices for you. You could have backed off, could have taken another choice, it was through your free will that you chose this path.
The Executioner is a game of free will, we can be as cruel or merciful as we want, following that path to the end.
In this sort of PC Choose your Own Adventure similar to the Fighting Fantasy classic books we control the actions of a character. Unlike the books I don’t believe there is only one proper ending although I have reached some endings I don’t think I have done them all. I have never followed the same paths noticing only a few fixed points in time, like Doctor Who would say, that cannot be avoided, but always branching into several options to take. In one of my runs I got close to the daughter of one of my victims and helped her investigate who framed her father and she accompanied me along my actions and my work. On another run I pushed her away, working alone. On another I tortured a child that was accused of murdering her parents with the help of demons. These are just a few of the options we are faced with, where I could have tried to save some of them but I just let the demon inside of me get out, taking my sanity along the way.
We can be a demon here, it is allowed, but at night we are always visited by our actions in nightmares that take away our sanity, stamina and health once again showing the consequences of our decisions, similar to the way we slowly work our victims to the breaking point on the interrogation room. There is always someone that suffers from our decisions, mostly it is ourselves. A lot of times, after the tortures and especially when I couldn’t achieve the desired result I stopped looking at the screen thinking if it was all worth it. This is a text based game, it has a lot of text and it raises a lot of questions for us, the player to answer, much like we do to the victims. It doesn’t stick metal under our fingernails, tries to drown or beats us for these answers but it makes us think about human nature and our capacity to inflict pain and suffering in others as well as the weight it has on the shoulders of those who do it. “I was just following orders!” isn’t a justification for evil actions, if only to give more strength to the saying that for evil to exist all it takes is for good men to do nothing.
The Executioner, is not perfect but it is very good in what it proposes to do by giving us an adventure on a very different perspective.
As a curious side note, the guillotine as we know it was created by Antoine Louis who built the structure and Tobias Schmidt who applied the oblique blade to it. The last person to be executed by gillotine was Hamida Djandoubi on the 10th of September 1977 in France, a few years before the death penalty was abolished, being the last convict to be executed in the old continent.
(It is unusual for us to write a review in English, however after talking to one of the makers of the game that we will interview in the near future we decided to open an exception).