We. The Revolution is a dense, story-driven game that depicts the harsh realities of the French Revolution. Coming to us from Polish developers Polyslash, the title largely centers around choices that the player makes while experiencing the narrative.
Uniquely, We. The Revolution does not have players assume the role of a common civilian on the edge of the teetering revolution. Instead, the game centers on a Judge enraptured by the revolution’s spiraling political turmoil. As the game asserts early on, the Judge is a flawed protagonist with his own impulsive vices, like gambling and alcoholism. However, the Judge is still in a place of power during the political unrest, leaving it up to players to traverse his baggage and make the right choices in difficult situations.
Playing as a Revolutionary Tribunal is a different kind of experience for a video game. Serving mostly in court-based gameplay, players are required to scour documents and witness testimonies. In other words, the core gameplay centers around choosing the right dialogue option for a witness or categorizing evidence into specific questions to ask the defendant and influence the jury. Disagreeing with the jury leads to negative consequences. Behind the game’s difficult choices and accurately portrayed moral ambiguity, you never truly have a clear approach to a case.
Navigating a murderous revolution
Many times, situations will arise that require careful consideration to various statistics and bars that portray the Judge’s personal relation with the common folk, revolutionaries, and family. Every judgment you make in court will affect these in some way. This serves as the root of the gameplay mechanics in We. The Revolution. The complex balancing act of managing various relationships juxtaposed with navigating a court proceeding to a jury is the most satisfying facet of the game. To influence a jury, one must utilize specific questions and withhold pieces of evidence. This is all to manipulate their overall desire to exonerate, imprison, or execute the defendant via guillotine.
While this might not be a traditionally enjoyable video game, We. The Revolution does create atmospheric tension through narrative and convoluted gameplay. This is helped by a focus on simulating aspects of the Judge’s job and social life. The art-style also contributes to the atmosphere. Character models are constructed of strikingly colorful shards which are then brought to life in voice-acted cinematics akin to a graphic novel. While the story is fairly tangential to the greater narrative, it methodically shows many sides of the French Revolution.
There’s just as much gameplay outside the courthouse as well. Choosing to go on excursions with the family will strengthen their bonds. For example, taking a walk will increase the happiness of the wife, which is supplemented by a greater connection with the son. This choice also results, however, in the father resenting the Judge since the walk made him tired. The Judge’s son, Frederic, is the most important person to satisfy in the game, but failing to maintain relationships with other family members will greatly hurt the Judge’s reputation with the common folk or revolutionaries.
With many of the choices, appeasing one family member over the other directly influences various facets of the narrative. We. The Revolution’s scope may not seem much grander than a visual novel. Yet, the layers of branching narrative — achieved with the obscure decision system that has players either settling down a murderous crowd, paying bribes to guards, or allowing revolutionaries to rough up a political dignitary — provide a healthy variety of entertaining moral dilemmas.
No right decisions
Good historical fiction informs us about the period it’s attempting to portray, but it also sheds light to many problems in our own society. In this way, We. The Revolution succeeds through a strong narrative and a grim gameplay system centered around decision-making. It’s unlike many other games currently releasing on the Nintendo Switch.
Providing this sort of perspective to this violent era of history is something which games haven’t really done prior to now. While We. The Revolution could never be defined as “fun” entertainment, it’s a satisfying addition to the Switch library that pushes the envelope on what video games can be.
The publisher provided a code for this review. Our review policy.