Appropriately, I met the team from Klabater Games for We. The Revolution in a genuine French restaurant in Manhattan when I went to play a little preview of the game. Going into the meeting, I didn’t know much about the game. I knew it took place in Revolutionary France and that my editor had told me to cover it, so I went in with a very fresh slate.
WTR puts you in the shoes of Alexis Fidele, an appointed judge for the newly formed revolutionary tribunal. France is already in the midst of revolution, and it is the end days of Louis XVI and the French monarchy. Not only do you have to balance the deadly political factions at work, but you also need to make choices that affect your family and friends as the story progresses. It’s very apparent from the beginning that Alexis is a flawed character, with a penchant for drinking, gambling and familial neglect, though you do get to make some choices to influence his character path.
In terms of gameplay, WTR throws a lot at you at once. You first take control of Alexis in a court room and then must decide to hear the case, question the defendant, and hand down a sentence. The game explains exactly how all the parts of the screen work and allows you to bring up guides if you’re stuck and can’t remember which button does what, but it can be a little overwhelming at first. The case is laid out for you on paper, with certain aspects highlighted and you then need to combine certain topics and questions to examine the defendant. Figuring out the questions was actually my favorite part and the trickiest. Not every piece of information is useful in forming your questions; some pieces reveal trick questions and some pieces are used more than once. You’re given three strikes in revealing questions by matching evidence, and once your three strikes are up, you’re done finding questions.
Questioning the defendant—and sometimes witnesses—is not a straightforward process. By picking and choosing your questions carefully, you can sway the favor of the crowd for or against the defendant, either purposely riling them up or by letting them think they deserve to go free. You contend with the opinions of the Jury, as well as the two factions of the revolution, and eventually with the lawyer for the defendant. Some cases are cut and dry, others not so much.
At the end of the questioning period, you decide if the defendant goes free, goes to prison, or gets guillotined. I’m very glad I did not live in revolutionary France, as an aside. If you decide to guillotine them, you also act as executioner, pulling the rope to behead them and also making a speech beforehand, which can also be used like the trial questioning in order to lead the crowd and sway public opinion.
At the end of the day, the game switches over to segments where you must now balance familial politics and keep happy your wife, two sons, and father, all with widely different ideologies and opinions on the French Revolution. How you spend your time affects how they view you as well as how you interact with other members of the Revolutionary Tribunal. While I thought going out gambling with a lawyer was a good idea, in order to persuade him to let one or two things slide, my wife vehemently disagreed. Conversely, all family members enjoyed the night out at the theater. This part of the game seemed quite rigged against you, as your wife starts off disliking you, your eldest son is heartily rebellious, and your youngest son does not appear to be your biggest fan.
It certainly took me a few trials to fully get into the gameplay of WTR, to say nothing of the story. If you’re completely unfamiliar with the French Revolution, it could certainly be overwhelming to be thrust into the middle of it. Once I figured out what I was doing with the trials, it was quite fun, though I was still nowhere near clever enough to start dreaming up political schemes. In fact, by the time I figured out what I was doing, it was too late and an angry mob got me. Ah well, at least it’s not the guillotine!
Skipping ahead to further in the game, there’s an interesting strategy section where you control troops in Paris and must defend or re-take quarters of the city from another rebel faction. The gameplay here was actually much less involved than that of the trial but fit together thematically very well.
Though I only got to play We. The Revolution for a short preview, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The beginning is a lot to handle, but once you play through a few trials, it gets much easier. However, as my death-by-angry-mob ending proves, it’s altogether easy to fail if you fall from your precarious political tightrope. Definitely not a game for the faint-hearted, but this is something I would eagerly recommend to history buffs and strategy lovers.