Game Review #339: We. The Revolution (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Shaun Hughes
Category: Adventure, Strategy
Release Date: 06.25.2019
Price (At Time of Review): $19.99
Buy We. The Revolution from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
The French Revolution
Thrusting you into the midst of the French Revolution during the late 1700s, We. The Revolution is a political strategy game that offers a unique opportunity to shape history. Playing the role of judge for the Revolutionary Tribunal, you will be the voice of reason as you preside over case notes, evidence, and key questions to ask the people of the court. With a penchant for moral dilemmas and a focus on warring factions, even the simplest of cases can become incredibly difficult to produce a verdict as you work to ensure your political standpoint is established and the people are happy.
“History is a Rorschach test, people. What you see when you look at it tells you as much about yourself as it does about the past.” – Jennifer Donnelly, Revolution
With Polyslash behind development, and Klabater in control of publishing, the result is an intriguing take on strategy simulation that is steeped in difficult decisions and family drama. Progression is indicated by days, and an average day in the life of Fidel sees you take your seat in court and offer a verdict on a case, before then returning home to deal with political affairs of a more personal nature.
You begin the game standing in the courthouse, with your wife and two sons present. It is here you complete a tutorial of sorts, as the game introduces you to some of the elements of the game. Your youngest son has been embroiled in a fight, and you must determine the best course of action. Naturally, with a conflict of interest and your wife looking on in despair, the decision becomes one about so much more than justice and integrity. This very short and simple case sets the tone for all that is to follow as you skirt the moral line between doing what is right by law and doing what is right for you, your family, the common citizens, or the political parties that have the potential to threaten your life and the country in which you live.
“Peoples do not judge in the same way as courts of law; they do not hand down sentences, they throw thunderbolts.” – Maximilien Robespierre
The bulk of the game is spent in the courthouse, and you begin each case with documentation to read through. This informs you of the crime, the circumstances surrounding it, and any witness testimonies. From here, you can then consort your notebook to find out more information about key figures, read up on other situations plaguing the country and read cute notes left by your son. Once you have exhausted all of the information at your disposal, you then engage in dialogue with the perpetrator to ascertain their guilt.
To be able to successfully question the suspect, you must first overcome one of the challenges before you. Represented as a circle, there are a number of factors to the case which must be appropriately organised in the correct section. For example, elements of the investigation can be placed under Motives, Accusations, Witnesses, Events and the like. Successfully filing each of the items presented to you unlocks questions to ask. Fail to unlock all of the questions, and you limit your ability to make the choice that will best influence all parties and satisfy the jury who sit behind you, scrutinising your every move. I liked this game mechanic most of the time, however there were instances where I felt I had accurately filed it, only to be told it was incorrect.
You are able to make a few mistakes during this process, without it negatively impacting the result of the case. You can also, from time to time, use influence points if you make too many mistakes to allow you to continue the line of inquiry. As you delve further into the game and the cases become more complex, the number of options and items to consider increase. There are also times where the same item can relate to more than one i.e. motive and course of events, increasing the level of challenge.
Once you begin questioning, each question has an impact on the view of the jury. Indicated by icons next to the question itself, it may influence the jury to want the perpetrator acquitted or sentenced to death. Knowing that the game is about much more than individual cases, you can often find yourself asking the questions that will get the result you want, not for the victim and their families but you and yours. Or, to strengthen your political standing with those around you. Alongside the questions, you can also call upon witnesses to question them, before then giving your verdict. This is done by asking the book on your desk, at which point you can select from the options available. Initially, there is only jail time and acquittal available. As you proceed through the game and new developments unfold, other options are added and some taken away. When making your decisions, there are meters on the left-hand side which show how each decision can impact your popularity with different key stakeholders. Many a time I made a last minute change which defied all odds, only to improve my position in France.
“Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; - the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!” – Charles Dickens
After initially keeping things simple, the game soon develops into quite a complex beast. There are many facets to your job, and you begin to reside on laws to be passed, conducting speeches at executions, and commanding others to conduct espionage to understand more about the political climate. The developers have done an excellent job of pacing the game so that it is never overwhelming, and whenever something new is added, something old becomes second nature. I particularly liked the way the game kept developing, and made me feel I had a strong influence on how the country was being run.
When not in the courtroom, you tend to find yourself conversing with important figures at your home or making decisions on how you will spend your evening. With an emphasis on the importance of family, all of these choices you make impact upon your relations with your wife, two sons, and your father. The success of these relations are indicated by a bar, and balancing these is the goal - unless, of course, you wish otherwise.
To make matters even more complex, there is a second game mechanic at play which is similar in design to a board game. By moving members of your party across the virtual country, you can begin to influence neighbouring areas and limit threats to your land. As well as this, there is your city which you can develop and expand over time. Personally, I found this element of the game to be the least enjoyable as it distracted me from my time in court - an element of the game which is exceptionally well-crafted.
There is much to reference, discuss and celebrate…
There is a lot on offer here from the Krakow-based outfit, and with only Phantaruk to their name prior to this, their standing as an indie development team has increased tenfold. The level of craftsmanship of this title is a marvel, from the detail of each case to the impact of your actions on the oppressive world in which it is situated. As well as this, there is a detail to the art style which impressed me each and every time I loaded the game. Focused on providing a visual experience like no other, it is evident that the team had a vision for this story which they have executed with unwavering commitment: the effects are plain to see.
I could go on. There is so much to reference, discuss and celebrate with this title, but it would be to the detriment to those experiencing it for the first time. Whilst complexity and detail is seemingly the order of the day in this review, there is one crucial element which is hindered by the vast gaming experiences here: the courtroom itself. The cases themselves are interesting and varied, and engaging with those in attendance in the courtroom was a joy. Personally though, I wanted more. More information to pour over, more witnesses to call to the stand, more influence over the questioning. If the game had stayed true to just this game mechanic, then I would have gotten what I was after. The development team have chosen to provide a more complete experience of life during the French Revolution, and I applaud them for it - I am just being selfish.
We. The Revolution is a game that stands alone on the Nintendo Switch, for all the right reasons. Replayable, intriguing, and thought-provoking, I am thoroughly impressed by what Polyslash have conjured up. Whilst it will not appeal to everyone, it is a title that can be enjoyed by all and will be heralded by some. I am grateful for the opportunity to have played it and hope this is a sign of things to come.
Buy We. The Revolution from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
*Review Code Provided by Klabater