In the UK, in 2019, we have a minefield of political backstabbing, intrigue and a bitterly divided nation which needs to heal itself. But should you go back in time to 18th Century France, you will find a period of time that is not too dissimilar… just we don’t currently have people being beheaded by the guillotine of course. We. The Revolution not only has the best use of a full stop in a title ever, but it takes the gamer into the world of the post-French revolution and puts you in the shoes of a judge. Can you make justice work? Can you appease both the people and the establishment? Only time will tell…
We. The Revolution is set in a time after the French revolution where King Louis XVI has been overthrown and the monarchy has all but collapsed. You play as a head judge of the revolutionary tribunal who holds court every day, examining questions and giving a verdict of the accused. You also have to balance your family life, your friends, your political ambitions and control of the city, as well as stopping yourself being murdered with every step. It’s very tiring, but someone has to do it.
The story takes place across a daily basis for your character and the writing, characterisation, and subplots are not just brilliantly researched, but also well devised. In fact, these are the heart, the soul and the strongest parts of the game. Big credit must go out to the developers for attempting something different, and having the skills to make a game that works in this way, along with not being afraid to go so deep into the subject matter.
You start each day in the courtroom with a different case on offer. One day it might be a shopkeeper claimed of poisoning someone with his goods. Another day may well see the ex-king himself on trial for his crimes against the revolution. What you have at your disposal at first are a number of case documents to look at. You have to read these very carefully and then read them again so you can have a good handle of the case. In front of you is the accused, to the left are the jury and to the right, the prosecution, The common folk sit at the back. All of them shout opinions throughout the trial and you can choose whether to ignore these cries or not, as you question the accused via a little mini-game in which you have to match facts about the case into appropriate sections like ‘motive and chain of events’. You’ll want to be aware though, for there are traps.
When you have all the information at hand then you can come to a verdict. Do you release them into the streets as a free citizen, put them into prison, or execute them with the famous chopper machine in which you will be pulling the rope yourself? The tricky bit in coming to your decision is that you can take the advice of the jury, but you might upset the will of the good people or the fury of the revolutionists or the monarchy. Bring one of these factions down to nothing in popularity and a grisly end will come to you by the hands of a mob down some backstreet alley. And it is that which signals the end of game. However, it’s hugely addictive and even though I have died a lot, each and every time I couldn’t wait to get back on the judging horse once more.
There are other gameplay elements outside the courtroom doors, and these take you onto the streets of Paris. You might need to action a speech to calm or encourage a huge crowd. You might have to command a battle on the streets or manage the building of a statue of yourself. Hell, you might just have to try and get some control of the political wranglings of 18th century Paris life. It’s a very in-depth unique experience that is brilliantly designed, although I feel some will be put off with the mechanics, the general difficulty and level of detail that you need to take in. If you’re not a fan of reading then look away… well I guess you won’t be reading this if that’s the case, so ignore the warning.
We. The Revolution is presented with a delightfully drawn art form, with some beautifully designed cutscenes. The characters are created with great detail and come to life on the page, while the menus and the set design are visually top notch. They really make this game unique. The sound and overall audio design is once again superb, with amazing atmospheric effects and an imposing soundtrack. There are moments when the guillotine goes down, cutting to silence and we see the faces of the crowd watching. That get me emotional every time.
We. The Revolution on Xbox One does a remarkable job at invoking the atmosphere and political climate of 18th Century France. It reminds me of the likes of ‘Papers Please” in regards to the observation and reading skills needed to progress, and the impossible task of balancing your work and life duties. The writing is very strong and the trial system is unique and rewarding, and whilst interest starts to wane after a while I have found myself becoming a little bit addicted to giving people the death penalty just in order to win over the crowd.
If you’re after something very different, very in-depth and very unique then We. The Revolution is well worth taking in.