Full disclosure – Review Code provided by Polyslasher and Klabater.
History has always been a love of mine. Political intrigue, dictatorial monarchies and gruesomely visceral battles have captivated me from a young age. Unfortunately History as a subject, is often only taught in relation to your own country. Therefore my knowledge of my nations historic nemesis, France, eluded me – until now. We. The Revolution is a game set in the tumultuous French Revolution, one of the most violent and disturbing events in European history.
You play as a disgraced Judge of the Revolutionary Tribunal. As a man, you are maligned by your peers, hated by your wife and more or less forgotten by your family. Drink and gambling keep the darkness at bay, but as events unfold, you find yourself at the forefront of a political, and literal, battle for Paris. It is down to you to determine the guilt of the citizens of Paris and further your career to wherever it may take you. Which for the record, is pretty darn far. No spoilers though.
We. The Revolution is a slow, thought provoking experience that has a massive suite of systems to keep you occupied throughout your playthrough. Court is your home turf though, and this is where you will spend a large portion of your experience. You will be required to sift through evidence, testimonials, ask questions and inevitably determine whether the accused walks free, or is imprisoned. At least, that’s what it’s like initially.
The act of locking someone up isn’t exactly a difficult decision to make. So the game begins to turn up the heat. The power to issue the death penalty is given to you. With it, everything changes. An overwhelming desire to read, and reread every sentence, listen to every answer over, and over again. Making sure what I was doing, was the right thing. What if I kill an innocent? What if a murderer walks free? But then they start prodding you a bit more. You are the one who has to execute the accused. You become Judge and Executioner. Pulling the rope for the first time, watching the guillotine drop, are moments I will not forget. It shook me.
We. The Revolution doesn’t stop there though. They want to twist your mind. Claw at your morality. The outcome of every case will effect your political and social standing within the various Parisian powers. Remember, this is Revolutionary France, if you fall out of favour with a party you’re life may come to a swift end. This constant, gnawing pressure seeps into your decisions. You start to declare guilt and innocence based on your own agenda. You begin manipulating the Jury to ensure they agree with your decisions. You begin to kill more, and more people. You become desensitised the atrocities you are committing. The game makes you a murderer, and you feel nothing. The take away the option to imprison. You glady pull the rope.
The final nail in the coffin is the “List”. As you become more reputable and the Tribunal is given more power, you are allowed to murder, or spare, people without a fair trial. You get a brief summary of the accusations and simply assign people to die. Once this is rolled out, you as a player are completely lost. You don’t even feel remorse. Murdering civilians, nobles and even children is just another move to ensure your survival and the advancement of your career.
What We. The Revolution does in its initial hours is the most shocking, disturbing and ultimately real, experience I have ever had as a gamer . How it is executed is truly masterful. How they manipulate you as a person and turn your into a monster through mechanics alone is genius. A highlight of my gaming career.
But court is not the only aspect of We. The Revolution. When you are not lopping off heads you are balancing your social life to ensure your family stays happy, sending spies, diplomats and hitmen to secure Parisian districts and even conversing and plotting the downfall of your enemies and former allies. It is a game jam packed with systems that all seem to interact with each other. To ensure each mechanic is given time to shine, they are rolled out slowly over the course of the game keeping you invested for the majority of the run time.
I say the majority, because none of these systems are particularly in-depth. Even the Court Room. This would not have been a problem had the game been shorter, but this is a fairly lengthy experience and just about every element overstays its welcome. What was once desensitisation, descends into tedium and impatience. I was content with my experience hours before the credits rolled, so it is a real shame its ambitions caused it to stumble.
What kept me going as the systems began to fade, were the utterly captivating visuals. There are incredibly limited animations, instead opting for an almost comic-like aesthetic. Every frame is a hand drawn work of art that sells the horror of the time period perfectly. The stark red, whites and blues that make up the vast majority of the colour pallet is truly striking. It successfully conveys the emotional turmoil your character, France and ultimately you as player, are going through. I could not get enough of it, and could (and did…) look at the art for hours on end.
This high quality visuals are supported by a rock solid sound design. The music is quite simply perfect, ebbing and flowing with the action, or lack thereof. The voice acting, while a little bit stilted in places, is mostly top notch and the sound effects pack a real punch. I will never get the sound of the guillotine out of my head. That will probably haunt me to the grave.
We. The Revolution is a game that is almost perfect. The developers pulled off something that is truly unique to the medium and shook me to my core once I realised what was going on. Its only crime is it’s length. Had it been slightly shorter, the mechanics wouldn’t have grown quite so stale. If you like story heavy, thought provoking games, this one is for you.
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