by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
LORD, HAVE MERCY
Because I will not. Readers who have seen my different reviews over the years know how much I value horror in video-games. Whether it's a psychological thriller, or a heart-attack inducing jump scare, I want to feel sweat on my brow and the hair raising on the back of my neck. Over my many years of gaming I've played works of art in the form of terror, mediocrities akin to a low budget haunted house, and a few times where I just wanted it all to end — not any fear I felt, but the game, so I could escape the boredom or frustration I felt with it. So enters, The Works Of Mercy.
A PROMISING PREMISE
The Works Of Mercy starts out by dropping you right into the thick of it, with no background information whatsoever. You awaken in your apartment, and receive a phone-call telling you that your wife and daughter are being held hostage by a man with sinister intent. If the player ever wants to see them again, he must murder people at the discretion of his family's captor.
It sounds like a plot that will be gritty, intense, horrifying, and pulling at the strings of morality as the player is forced to conduct these deeds. But it isn't. The premise sounds like something that will build up to a gripping story and it's just anything but that. I do have to give a shout out to the voice actor who plays the man on the phone, your performance was convincing enough that I held out hope until the end that the game was going to pick up.
A SHORT RIDE WITH FRUSTRATING SNAGS
The majority of the game takes place in the confines of a small apartment, and to its credit the apartment looks beautiful — the developers did a great job with this particular interior and since this is where you spend most of your time I did appreciate it. This is also where most of the murders take place and there's not much to talk about there.
I know what you're thinking "A game about being forced to commit murder, and there's not much to talk about?" YES. My first big frustration is that in the way they are currently presented the murders you commit are essentially fluff to stretch the game out. The first kill is a perfect example of the types of moments you can expect going forward — the voice on the phone instructs you to lure a prostitute and murder them.
The player chat options hardly put up any protest with the caller, or with the prostitute once she arrives. You don't feel like there are any struggles of morality being made at all, you're just directing her to her fate and then when the trap is set, the murder happens off screen. The next murder happens, off screen. The two murders that you actually see play out look more like people passing out or having a minor health event than anything dire.
If the chat options don't give off a moral struggle, if the murders don't make the player feel some form of guilt, the story loses its impact. It makes what could've been an intense experience, just an uneventful slog forward with only the dialogue of the man on the phone to break up the monotony at all.
As if that wasn't enough, the short length of the game means it doesn't have a save system — so imagine my shock when I fell through the map, and had to start the game over when I was nearing the end of the game and had to experience it all over again!
I just don't get it, how can such a promising idea fall so flat? The Works of Mercy had the potential to be something truly special. But good ideas alone amount to little, when the end result is beautiful, boring, and buggy.
Beautiful environment, convincing antagonist voice actor
Game-breaking bug resulted in the game needing to be restarted, no save systems just-in-case, uninspired dialogue options and lackluster murders result in boredom