Originally released on mobile devices as an episodic game, République has found its way onto home formats, including Windows and PS4, the latter of which is the version we’re looking at here. This isn’t the first time a mobile game has made the leap to more powerful platforms, lest we all forget the train wreck that was Deus Ex: The Fall, but hopefully, République will fare a little better.
I’m happy to report that this is, indeed, the case, and République has made the platform switch successfully, wrapping up the whole game into one package, with the expected refinements the more powerful hardware allows. With this it brings the game’s unique twist on the stealth genre, which is one of the most interesting I’ve seen in quite some time.
Set in a strange totalitarian future, the protagonist of the piece, Hope, is a ‘Pre-Cal’ raised in the Metamorphosis facility. It’s a very Orwellian future, with a high degree of surveillance, and at first you’ll be wondering what the holy hell is going on. As you progress, however, you’ll uncover the mystery, and learn more about the world, the situation, and Hope.
Playing very much like a Metal Gear Solid title, République doesn’t focus on combat at all. Instead the onus is very much on staying out of sight and using your environment to get the upper hand. This tactic is aided by the help of an enemy guard who’s taken it on themselves to fight the system. Thanks to his help, you, the player, can take control of the security system using the OMNI view to hack into and control such things as cameras, doors, and computers. At the same time, you have control over Hope, and have to stay out of enemy sight. This two-fold control makes for a very intriguing experience, as you’re not only watching Hope through the facilities security system, but also controlling her movements. To do this well you need to master flipping through cameras to get the right viewpoints to see danger, and although there’s a degree of automated switching, you’ll always be better at scouting ahead for danger, which you do by changing cameras using line of sight hacking, moving from camera to camera.
The main barrier to your all-seeing abilities is the battery charge of Hope’s mobile phone, which holds the OMNI view software you use, and the OS version, with higher versions needed to interface with higher level doors, and systems. This means Hope will need to locate upgrades, and also find charging station for her phone. Certain tasks require a bar of battery charge, such as unlocking a security door, whilst the core features, such as using cameras or hacking into computers to read emails doesn’t require energy. This essentially forms the key and lock system of the game, and you’ll need to use power sparingly until you find a battery charge station. There’s also quite a bit of Metroid-style backtracking, and you’ll need to remember where that high level door you couldn’t get into was when you finally upgrade enough to open it. You have a map to help, though, and although it can be pretty confusing, it’s an important aid.
There are quite a few charging stations spread around, including security rooms where you’ll find handy black market systems in which you can purchase new hacks and abilities for your OMNI View, such as the ability to distract guards from their patrol routes, predict enemy movements, and other useful extras. This costs information, which you can scan and digest throughout the environment using cameras to locate and scan items of interest. You can also be daring and more than a little cheeky by sneaking up behind guards to pickpocket them. This can yield usable items and defensive tools, as well as bonus collectables like the nifty mentions of other, real world indie titles like Shovel Knight. Nice.
This all leads to a very different stealth title that reminded me of both Metal Gear and that highly experimental PS2 game, Lifeline. Unlike Lifeline, however, here you don’t need to use your voice to control the main character, but do so directly. This works well, and the mixture of stealthily finding your way around whilst monitoring the areas with cameras and avoiding guards makes for a game than manages to do something new with existing formulas, which is very rare these days.
Sadly, as interesting as the game’s core mechanic is, and as well implemented the two different control methods are, the actual gameplay isn’t really all that interesting in the long run. By nature of the design, the game is often fairly quiet, with little going on as you carefully sneak around mostly empty corridors and rooms staying out of sight of very predictable guards. If there is, then you’ve probably messed up, and Hope isn’t exactly a super hero, so don’t expect Metal Gear action. Sure, you can pick up disposable defensive items like sleeping gas and tasers, with these actually functioning as part of the game’s stealth puzzles from time to time, but ideally you want to remain undetected. This means the game is very slow-paced, so action fans need not apply.
I have no problem at all with this approach. Some of my favourite games include the Thief series (no, not the new one, that was grabage), Deus Ex, Metal Gear, and a myriad other stealth titles that eschew action in favour of careful progression, but in these games there’s a lot more to do, and more to the stealth element to keep things interesting. Here, the repeated mechanic of scouting ahead, bypassing a door and scanning info soon wears away the unique feel, turning it into a rather stale mechanic, and there’s little else to accompany it. It’s also not very difficult, as guards are overly predictable with limited AI, and some upgrades you get make their threat even less worrisome.
Thankfully, the story is handled well, and thanks to the initial episodic nature, which works for story-heavy titles like this, there’s always something building up in each chapter, and you’re engaged enough to push onward to find out what’s going to occur.