Developer: Camouflaj, Logan Games
Publisher: GungHo Online Entertainment
Distributor: Atlus (USA) / NIS America (EU)
Demo Box: PS4
Developed over five years by industry veterans who’ve worked on Metal Gear Solid, Halo, F.E.A.R., and fully realised in Unity 5, Republique is a thrilling and topical stealth-action game that explores the perils of government surveillance in the Internet Age.
From the start Republique was going to have to work hard to win me over, since it’s got two elements that usually make me cringe; episodic and iOS Port. However I have to admit that Camouflaj managed to pull off a damn good game that exceeded my expectations.
The episodic element didn’t really come into it for me (much) since i was playing on a PS4, which has all the episodes in one. For which i’m grateful since the game highlights the reason i’m not keen on episodic games! Leaving you hanging at the end of each episode, with months till the next release!!
Each episode, depending on how quick and a completionist you are will run you around 1.5 to 2 hours, giving a 7.5 to 10 hour total run time. Now, admittedly that’s not a long play time, but given it’s price point (£18.99 PC/£27 PS4) that’s not a bad time. My play through took me just under 9 hours which excludes two restarts.
There’s a collectors edition on the PS4 (pictured above), and i have to admit i’m tempted to pick it up, as it includes a copy of the ‘Manifesto’ which is one of the central themes of the game. I’m all up for stuff like that, and it also has the added bonus of including the soundtrack from all 5 episodes. Also worth noting is that the collectors edition (Contraband Edition) isn’t that expensive, only around £40 in the UK. Which is barely the price most games cost normally!
Graphically i have to admit the game is pretty damn gorgeous, and very thematic. The colour schemes worked really well, the set pieces were stunning when they needed to be, and sterile when they needed to be. I was genuinely impressed by the art design and direction in this game, and couldn’t believe it was an iOS game. So much so I went and picked up the first episode on iOS to compare and was blown away by it. Sure, the iOS version isn’t as vibrant as the PS4 version, but it’s no slouch either!
The character designs initially did look a bit odd, but as the story progressed I realised they were done that way deliberately, and ended up liking them a great deal. Especially Cooper, I loved the way they (the dev’s) handled his character and the way he developed over the five episodes.
The voice talent in the game is exceptional as well with a strong cast with the likes of Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect), and Rena Strober (Fire Emblem Fates) to name a few. The acting in this game was amazing to watch and experience. For me, I personally loved seeing Hale as a bad guy, and a damn convincing one at that!
Story wise, I loved it, even if I did find it a bit confusing. No explanation is given as to who/why the person on the phone is helping Hope. While it’s made apparent that you (the gamer) are the one helping her, there’s no explanation as to why. It’s also not explained as to how she got the phone initially, nor as to how she knows the person in the phone (you).
The entire relationship is a little confusing, and for me I found it distracting as I kept expecting some big reveal, that never really came.
I did however love the general story, of Hope trying to escape, and the consequences of
mass surveillance. However I also felt the story has more than a few plot holes that were never really explained. Relationships, how things came about etc etc. Towards the end I still had questions regarding events that had happened earlier on. Now, it’s highly possible (and likely) I just missed some information in game, but that’s due to the mechanics of the game, and they’re over use.
You take over cameras and help guide Hope around, moving from camera to camera. It’s a constant balance between seeing ahead but also keeping an eye on Hope, frankly i loved this mechanic. However it’s not without it’s flaws, and they’re annoying as hell flaws at that!
While the idea and concept of the movement system is amazing, it’s implementation leaves a lot to be desired. The biggest problem i had with it was the game deciding my choice of camera wasn’t right, and suddenly moving to one it felt was better when you moved Hope. This is down to the game scripting, as Hope moves around the game automatically switches cameras so as you can always see where she is. At times this is great, but a lot of the time since it’s over riding user input, it made for some dangerous situations. Since when you set yourself up in a camera you know which way you’re going to move. However when the game resets you to its choice of camera it leads to some disorientation as the movement switches up. For example what was forward on the camera you choose, is now left or back on the camera the game moves you to. This has lead to me being captured once or twice, which was damn frustrating, but more than this it just feels like a clunky mechanic.
Although it’s classed as a stealth action game, it’s not, not really. Stealth action, to me, means games like Splinter Cell, where as this game i’d say is more pure stealth. Combat in this game is nothing more than pressing square when prompted to either pepper spray the guy, or taser him. That’s the extent of the ‘action’ element in this game. Which doesn’t make it a bad game, because with leaving the camera issues aside, this was a fun stealth game. Though to be fair, even the stealth in this game wasn’t to hard. Several times i felt a sneak would be impossible, but turned out it was fine. The view cone on the Prizack (the guards) was at times extremely narrow, meaning you could walk by them and they wouldn’t notice. And of course there’s the reverse as well, you’ve got the guards who are psychic and sense you from the other side of the room, behind a closed door, and still chase you down!
Through out the game you’ve also got a collect-a-thon going on. With various collectables such as game disks from kick-starter games, posters, audio cassettes, banned books (in the game world) and other general info about the game world. And this is why i feel i may have missed some of the information i’m missing. There’s literally so much information hidden in the game world, that isn’t always visible unless you’re in the right camera.
Initially i’d be doing this every camera, looking for the hidden nodes, as well as the people.
Looking at their passports was funny, at first. However by the time the mid point of the second episode came around i was doing it less and less. In the end i was just looking for the relevant sections to move the story forward. I think in this case it would have been a case of ‘less is more’.
Yet, despite all of that the game managed to keep me playing. The story was so good that it kept me hooked through the issues as i wanted to know the ending. Which while being an ‘ending’ it left me a little disappointed.
Throughout the game there’s only been two times where you make a choice, both in episode 5. The first is a two and a half way choice, i say two and a half because of the way its done. You get to choose between a violent path, a pacifist path, or hand over the choice to Hope, who still has to chose one of the two.
The next choice comes at the end of the game where you have to decide between three options. However that choice is an illusion, as in the end no matter what you decide she decides to make the decision herself; which i’s great. But this lead to an odd ending that, for me, while making sense, to me, was a tad disappointing. This was because it felt like everything that Hope went through, in the end, was for naught. At the same time however it was a great ending because it made genuine sense. Hope had been manipulated all her life and in the end decides to make a decision on her own. I say it’s disappointing but that’s due to the build up, it wasn’t done very well and actually felt a little rushed. The writing for it wasn’t as polished as the rest of the game.
Essentially the entire game only really has a single choice in the game, which leads to what for some, will be the biggest pitfall of the game, it’s limited replayability. In truth it’s replayability is pretty much non-existent. You have to play through the game again to get to the violent/pacifist choice and that’s it. So at most you’d play it through twice, though as i said earlier due to it’s price point that’s not to bad, IMO.
Finally i want to briefly touch on bugs and optimization, since there are a couple of niggles here, bear in mind though this was on the PS4 version.
So, firstly lets talk loading times. These ranged from instant to insane, with no real reason. sometimes moving from camera to camera it would be instant and fluid. Other times it would take anywhere from 15-30 seconds be a janky move. Not a huge issue, but annoying, especially since there was, at times, no reason for the slow down.
The daemon store, this was the reason i had two restarts. As mentioned above as you go through the game you pick up collectibles. the ‘data’ ones can all be sold at the daemon store to upgrade you with new tricks. However the problem occurs when you need fingerprint or voice print data later on in the game. I got to a point where i couldn’t proceed because i’d sold the data to the daemon. I figured since the ‘data’ was game essential, (as you literally can not progress any further without it), it would be stored separately. Especially since you can’t selectively choose what data you sell, it’s literally an all or nothing deal.
However it wasn’t and the data was sold bringing the game to a crashing halt. Very frustrating because it meant that once you had that bit of data you could no longer unlock new abilities until you’d used it in the required area.
All told though, i have to admit I’ve enjoyed the game a lot, proven by the fact i actually completed it. The story was interesting, and i’m more than likely going to play again to try and figure out the bits of information i’m missing.
I think it’s well worth the asking price, so long as you realise that what your buying is essentially an interactive movie. I find it to be one of the episodic games I’ve played to date, and that includes everything from Telltale Games. Even with the issues I’ve mentioned the game was worth playing through to the end, and i’m looking forward to seeing more from Camouflaj and Logan Games in the future!