clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A game about France’s Reign of Terror is, unsurprisingly, quite grim

We. The Revolution should be catnip for history nerds, the rest of us not so much


In We. The Revolution, players are invited to explore the French Revolution from an unlikely position of power. As a judge on the Revolutionary Tribunal, you will preside over life-and-death cases ripped from the pages of history. Polygon was given access to a small preview version of the game, and while the art style is unique and impressive, the gameplay itself leaves much to be desired.

The core gameplay loop asks players to review page after page of court documents, often summaries in brief of the case before them that day. In the center of the screen stands the accused, with lawyers on both sides and a jury of their peers hectoring them from the back of the room. Key words in the text of each brief must be clicked on, which opens up an event in the timeline or a topic of discussion. Players must then connect the appropriate events in order to unlock a new line of questioning.

For me, matching up the right events on screen was an exercise in frustration, the equivalent of a searching for the right pixel to click in an old-school adventure game. Making matters worse, you can only attempt to create a connection with each event twice before it becomes locked off, as if you tiny pea brain just can’t muster up the energy to think about the same thing a third time in the same day. The result was that I often felt that I was judging cases without all of the relevant information.

There are many different systems at work in the game, including ways in influence public opinion and spy on your adversaries. There’s also a decently complex worker-placement game where players move spies and thugs throughout the city to quell riots and find more corruption to bring before the Tribunal. Due to the length of the game demo, these weren’t as well-fleshed out as they could have been.

Judging the accused is basically one big quick time event. Take too long and your reputation will go down, or worse.

The most interesting part of the game seems to be the family dynamic going on in the background. At home, the player is living with three generations under the same roof, including his wife, two sons and his elderly father. Around the dinner table each night the events of the French Revolution literally come home, and they give the characters at the table room to breathe.

That kind of intimacy, coupled with the shuffling of documents and other courtroom proceedings, gives the game a definite Papers, Please kind of vibe.

The biggest impediment to this game’s success, however, isn’t the lackluster courtroom gameplay. It’s simply the weight of history pressing down on the player. If you’re not up to speed with your French history, then much of the game’s subtle political intrigue is going to go right over your head. And, if you’re not careful, you might just lose your head before the game is over.

We. The Revolution includes a dicing mini-game where you can mingle with the French people in more casual circumstances.

We. The Revolution is expected to be released in 2018. No price point has been set. The version of the game we experienced is an early beta, and watermarks clearly indicate that virtually every system is still in development and subject to change.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon