Hello fellow murderers and murderesses, and welcome to the first Red Light Greenlight of the New Year! Yes, I’m back from my brief hiatus (during which, I was abducted by Peruvians and forced to play Mike Piazza’s Strike Zone for the N64 every day for fifteen hours) and ready to once again to tackle the best (and worst) that the Steam Greenlight curation system has to offer.
This week, we’re going to take a look at The Deed , a gothic murder/mystery game by developers Pilgrim Adventures. In The Deed, you take control of Arran Bruce, the prodigal son and former heir to the Bruce fortune, as he plots murder most foul against the current heir, his cruel – and probably bonkers – sister Jennifer.
As Arran, you wander around your family home, picking up weapons and planting evidence as you learn more about the dark past of the Bruce family. The game is short, with my initial playthrough taking less than an hour, and subsequent runs being completed in as little as 10 minutes, but the game offers decent replayability value, as you make different choices and receive different outcomes. All told, I would expect around a couple of hours playtime for 100% completion, which seems pretty reasonable for a game that only costs $0.60.
Despite The Deed being made in RPG Maker (a tidbit that nearly sent me into PTSD-related convulsions), it’s actually a very well-put-together game. Pilgrim Adventures did away with the sprites and default tilesets and managed to create a pretty engaging world for their story. Hints of past traumas and abuse haunt Arran as he plots his crime, giving glimpses into a larger, living (hehe) world. The washed-out colour palette and antiquated tone does a great job setting the scene, and the soundtrack adds an element of atmospheric tension that adds to the mood without being distracting. The Deed does still suffer somewhat by the limitations imposed by RPG Maker (small resolution and lack of graphics options being chief among these), but not in any critical way.
The game is divided into three phases: Dinner, the Deed, and the Investigation. During Dinner, you search the mansion, talking to your family and servants, and you choose two items from a pool of weapons (like a knife, billiard cue, or rat poison) and evidence (ranging from silky embroidered undies to diary pages). As you do this, Arran is often confronted with flashbacks from his traumatic childhood in the home, and is forced to deal with the often hateful and cruel members of the Bruce household. Arran himself seems to sit somewhere in between whiny, arrogant sociopath and abuse victim consumed by hatred for his tormentors.
After dinner comes the Deed (ooh, titular), where Arran must plant his evidence in a room where it’ll be the most incriminating and then proceed to use his chosen weapon to get himself a new ex-sister. Depending on the weapon used, you have a short amount of time to get away before the body is discovered, and the Investigation begins. During the Investigation, you are interrogated by a detective, giving you a final opportunity to either frame someone else, or admit your guilt. The questions are often pretty specific and, depending on how quickly you played the game, you may have to really reach back to remember the correct answers to the detective’s questions. After the Investigation is complete you’re treated to a little outro cutscene about the fate of Arran and everyone else, and the game ends.
It’s a succinct and simple format, which does the game service. It tells the story that it wants to tell, and then gets out. I was honestly surprised how “into” The Deed I was while I was playing; I really wanted to learn more about Arran and the other Bruces. For a short, simple, RPG Maker game, it vastly exceeded my expectations. If they had decided to charge much more than they are, I may have had more issues with the length and sparsity of content, but at such a low price point, it’s hard to fault The Deed. Considering how long I played it for, the cost worked out to less than 1 cent per minute. And really, that’s a price… to die for!
Eric Roy is a Senior Editor for AYBOnline, and has never once murdered his sister. He promises. Really. You can follow his inane stream-of-consciousness ramblings on Twitter, he’ll probably follow you back (he’s pathetic like that).