I remember a conversation I had with a friend about dystopias in video games. Either everything is dirty and dying, or everything is super clean and people go “missing”. Considering that Republique’s protagonist is the young woman 390-H (though she much prefers the humanising “Hope”), you can guess which type of dystopia I dived head first into recently.
Well, head first might not be the right phrase; maybe screen first fits better. When Hope calls you (that’s you, the player) she is in desperate need of help. She’s about to be sent for recalibration and you must take control of the many, many cameras in Republique to guide her to safety and away from the controlling clutches of Metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is full of cameras in a rather unsubtle critique of government surveillance, which is only compounded by the fact that all the Prizrak - the guards wandering the halls - have serious rap sheets.
You can see these rap sheets while searching through cameras in OMNI-view, a tool that also lets you switch between cameras, unlock and relock doors and containers, and gather other useful information to either flesh out the world around you or help Hope’s escape. While disorientating at first in the same way that the Silent Hill and Resident Evil games don’t give you camera control, flicking quickly between cameras soon becomes second nature.
You do need to watch your signal strength and battery life, though. Straying too far from Hope leaves you with a static screen, and you can only perform so many actions before the battery runs out and Hope is forced to find spare batteries lying around, or a ever-useful chargers stationed at checkpoints. You can be all seeing, but not all powerful. You also aren’t exactly all knowing either, though if the game isn’t quite clear enough as to what your next move is (or where it is, and there are definitely a few of those times) you can call up one of your few allies to guide you.
There’s no one to help you with the puzzles however, and you are likely to stumble across one without quite realising it until you figure out that there is literally nowhere else to go and some random objects seem to be glowing orange in OMNI-view. Speaking of OMNI-view, welcome to your most useful and fully upgradeable ability. While in OMNI-view, time freezes, allowing you to take time to carefully craft your next move, or just read up on each individual guard. This is particularly interesting in the first few areas, as most guards are higher tiered Kickstarter backers.
That’s right, Kickstarter. Republique is quite the Kickstarter success story, but that’s not surprising since the team behind it has a variety of AAA titles to their names (various Metal Gear Solid games, F.E.A.R, and Halo 4, to name a few). Not to mention that Jennifer Hale lends her voice to the game; a sure sign of playing in the big leagues. Republique first came out in 2013 as an iOS and Android touch-based stealth game. Since then it’s been introduced to PC, and finally on PS4 now that all five episodes have been released.
Republique is probably one of the few games to claim the title of being a AAA mobile game and really live up to it. It blends together the ideas of invasion of privacy with the modern day comfort of mobile devices in a rather voyeuristic game that looks good enough to be immersive. And that’s a little bit of a problem.
Never before have I played a console game and wanted a second screen experience so badly. At times I felt as if I was missing something simply because I didn’t have a second screen, and instead had to stare into Hope’s face on a TV, while she looked at me on a phone. Even playing on PC would have made it feel like I was doing more of the frankly amazing hacking I, or at least my character, was supposedly doing. Despite this slight disconnect from the roots of the game, the controls are solid and well adapted to the PS4 controller.
The sad fact of the matter is that this game was gearing up for a much higher score until episode five. At this point the writing starts to become a little clear and choppy. I would have hated being one of the people playing episodically, waiting five or so months just to realise that unless I had a really good memory, I needed to go back to fully understand what was happening.
While Republique boasts branching paths and important decisions, everything seems to come back to one final scene with an uncompromising endings that left a bitter taste in my mouth. It’s not a bad ending per se, and it does make some sort of sense in the grand scheme of things, especially considering some of the themes of the game (saying anymore would give away too many spoilers). It’s just not satisfying. I’d have preferred a fade to black.
Still, that doesn’t make the rest of the game any less enjoyable, and using cameras to explore this new world was definitely that. Particularly with the rather impressive cast and beautiful setting.