We. The Revolution
by Peter Färberböck
Polish game development has become quite multifaceted, with Kraków one of the major centres of a flourishing scene that will once again be of interest for fans of experimental adventure games with Polyslash’s upcoming We. The Revolution. During the French Revolution, players control a judge who wants to develop his own power base and of course survive the struggles that ensue. That may not quite sound like an adventure game at first, but it sure does feel like a mixture of different kinds of adventure games and sub-genres. At gamecom 2017, we looked into the game and were immediately under its spell.
As a judge, the player works at the revolutionary tribunal and there are many things to decide. Do we judge righteously? Pronounce freedom or the guillotine? Fortunately, in We. The Revolution we have a wider spectrum of verdicts available to us. We might instead choose to send a delinquent to prison (although that was not very merciful back then).
This would seem to be a rather secure life, as long as we don’t upset other factions, but player decisions and verdicts affect both the judge himself and even his family. And as it turns out, we'll seek to build up our own power base and thus our role is not (merely) about justice. We want to satisfy our own interests and those of the individual parties involved as much as possible.
The courtroom elicited a familiar feeling. On the one hand, it reminded us of Ace Attorney, but other parts resembled Papers, Please. During a trial, we can get information from a variety of agents or we might even want to bribe the jury. If money does not work, we may also apply some pressure – physical or mental. The judge also interviews the accused and listens to witness statements. In the journal, players can look up how different verdicts will affect the judge's reputation with the factions. By combining pieces of evidence, we can ask different questions, but be mindful, because you cannot combine evidence however you like. After using a piece of evidence once, it expires and cannot be used again. Therefore, not every possible question can be posed so we will have to choose.
If the judge skilfully controls the evidence, he may announce his desired verdict. Thus, we had some challenges to meet even in this small part of the game – not to mention deciding whether to make an ethical choice. Yet even if we completely abandon morality, we will literally have to fight for the judge’s survival. Factions, juries and the public might even try to influence our rulings. The truth really does not matter because we will either obey the law, promote political interests or even our own interests. A verdict could even be twisted into a political murder.
The court of law is not the only location, however, representing just a segment of the whole game. After each court session, the acquired influence will help us in the second part, in which we may direct spies, diplomats or thugs to get information or expand our influence in certain areas of Paris. In the demo we could only try out this turn-based mode for a very short time because we lacked the needed influence points. This suggests that some kind of strategic management of our gathered resources will help us in the future during trials or in the ultimate goal of gaining power.
Enemies are everywhere, but the protagonist is rather power-hungry and has a vast variety of resources to advance his interests. The judge can even craft letters by putting together certain elements. These might range from ironic sentences to honest details; he might even threaten the recipient. These are only examples of how to write letters to benefit your own political interest. The developers also told us that they will add a few small minigames into this part of the game. Unfortunately, they could not show us any in action just yet.
The last part of the game is quite different. We were able to observe a dialogue between the judge and his wife, where he had to choose how to react to her statements. In the finished game, this part will be presented through a mix of a traditional text-based adventuring and cutscenes implemented in the game’s distinctive low-poly look. Decisions are the cornerstone of this section, and ethics and power are at the centre of each decision.
Polyslash stressed that they are still in a fairly early development phase as they have only been in actual production less than a year. The pre-alpha scenes we saw are a polished placeholder for what’s to come, however, and the stylized visuals will remain the trademark of We. The Revolution. The developers want to create a classical style with a certain modern finish, with Pablo Picasso's oeuvre one inspiration for this striking polygonal look. The interface is also quite decent already, but the team assured us that the whole UI will be getting a large overhaul.
With the French Revolution providing the historical setting, Polyslash is purposely focusing on the atmosphere of that time period because the judge's power games might even alter history in the game. All in all, we can look forward to playing 90 different trials per playthrough, which are randomly picked from more than 100 different trials. But it also matters when certain trials occur, as the judge will not have the same resources at certain times and the story might continue quite differently according to different verdicts. The goal is to achieve great replay value and every playthrough should feel different.
At the earliest, we can expect We. The Revolution to be released in mid-2018 on Windows, Mac and Linux. As the game uses Unity, a console version has not been ruled out but nor has it been confirmed yet. One of Polyslash’s goals is authenticity, so they want to include French voice-overs with localized subtitles. There will be English and German subtitles, along with other languages.
For us, We. The Revolution was the surprise of gamescom 2017. Admittedly, we could only play an early pre-alpha build, but even this quite raw version was extremely exciting and instantly immersed us. And not just the gameplay, as the graphics are extraordinary and utterly captivating. If the same level of quality is maintained throughout the full game, this promises to be the next experimental adventure game smash hit. Everything fits perfectly with each other, and the experience already possesses a kind of natural flow and suspense. Now we can only wait intently for next spring and begin our preparations to gain power in 18th century Paris.
Continued on the next page...
If that's not enough to rouse your revolutionary spirit, read on as Ingmar Böke chats with Lukasz Jozefowicz of Klabater, the game's publisher, to learn even more about this unique take on French history.