République is a refreshing and curious mixture of Metal Gear Solid’s stealth and espionage, Resident Evil’s dark and chilling visual design, and Orwell’s and Bradbury’s cautionary tales of destruction and controlling of knowledge by an overextended state. Ultimately, République is a cautionary tale exposing the evils of totalitarian government, state surveillance of individuals, and mass appropriation of personal information. Whilst République’s literary criticism of state surveillance is unoriginal, it is refreshing to see it in the form of well developed and cleverly designed game. Overall this game is incredible and addictive right to the end. While the gameplay is sometimes lacking, the masterful narration, characterisation and emotive themes carry the game and lead the player through an intense experience and acts as an exemplar against tyranny that provokes thought and carries the player’s intrigue throughout the game.

République started as a crowdfunding campaign in 2012 and episode one was released originally on iOS. It has since spread to Android, PC, OSX and Playstation 4. The game is a stealth action adventure split into five episodes, and developed by Camoflaj and Logan games. It all starts with a frame of Hope’s face showing horror and bewilderment. She is confused and without an identity, and is designated the name 390-H. She is accompanied by the player which is a faceless, unidentified omnipotent and omniscient hacker who sees everything through cameras and computers. The game is set in a dystopian alternate history where the United States government has allowed a megalomaniac to create an all seeing digital surveillance system which appears to record every person from every digital device on the earth. This was all motivated by a very topical anti-terrorist sentiment.

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Hope is trapped by the megalomaniac tyrant Tregalazov, who is an all powerful figure who is completely obsessed with power through complete control of information. As a part of the Metamorphosis complex, he keeps a group of people working towards his ends through coercion, violence and imprisonment. The player assists the auspiciously named protagonist, Hope, to freedom. While helping Hope, you are confronted by the Orwellian world Tregalazov has created. You are forced to solve simple yet engaging puzzles and slowly investigate and traverse the Metamorphosis complex on your way to freedom. Hope’s character is developed throughout the game with a convincing voice acting performance from Rena Strober.

The characterisation throughout the game is strong and convincing. Creating a much more believable and immersive experience. This is helped by strong voice acting from David Hayter, James Holloway and Jennifer Hale. Their performances are solid and represent their respective characters well, and their characters are also well written. David Hayter especially provides an eclectic and interesting performance as the charismatic revolutionary, Zager (similar to Goldstein of 1984). The strong and vivid characters provide an extra depth to the game and further the thematic nature of the game.

 

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Awkwardly, you see the world through a voyeuristic set of cameras

This cleverly designed game also establishes very clear themes which are created by the aptly written script for the game, atmosphere of the game, and the attention to detail from the developers. The themes and overall message of the game are highlighted aspects of the game as you are playing through. The glaring obviousness that the situation Hope is trapped in and that you are helping her out of is a message to the player to not take privacy and liberty for granted. The message is constantly showed to the player because we are forced to see the world through hacked cameras and other devices. This is an inherently voyeuristic and perverse way of seeing the world and playing the game. It feels creepy and wrong from the very beginning. Yet, it is the only way to ensure Hope is set free from Metamorphosis. It is an original and interesting way of playing a game. It is a curious reinforcement of the central theme of invasion of privacy, and state surveillance being an infringement on what is right or appropriate.

As you play through the game and work your way through Metamorphosis, certain small details can be picked up which add to the deep and complex theme and carry narrative important for the story of the game. As you work through the game helping Hope, you find material that is meant to be suppressed, namely floppy disks, recorded cassettes and censored books. The censored books are found scattered throughout Metamorphosis and when accessed in your inventory, come with a recording of Tregalazov explaining why the book is censored. This gives a deep insight into the world Hope lives in. Tregalazov especially focuses on the suppression and control of information. In this sense République is very much inspired by the likes of Farenheit 451. The recorded cassettes show the propaganda spread by Zager, the leader of a plot against Tragalazov, and eventual the champion that brings Metamorphosis down. The voice acting from David Hayter made these not only insightful for the story but also for the character of Zager. The floppy disks are a throwback to retro games and the crowdfunding origins of République. While these take away from the immersion of the game, acknowledging and emphasising the crowdfunding of the game is quite a clever reinforcement of the ideals of the game. Crowdfunding is a much more democratic way to produce a video game. As this game warns against tyranny and reinforces just how precious democracy is, it also makes a comment on the video game industry by praising crowdfunded initiatives. These small details emphasise the thematic depth of République, however, they can also exacerbate the feeling of tedium.

 

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Not all the game play is tedium but a lot of it is simply sneaking around

The gameplay of République can be very stop and start and therefore tedious and boring. The gameplay style certainly will not suit everyone. It is simple and intuitive with very basic mechanics for any sort of combat and stealth. This means that there is no steep learning curve, but also that there is no mechanical complexity to add to the interest of the game. Basic mechanics only exacerbate the problem that the gameplay itself can be very tedious going back and forth to voyeuristically investigate things of interest to Hope and the player. This tedium really can interrupt the pace of the game and get in the way of the enticing story

Final Impressions

République presents a very convincing and deep experience and  throws the player into an uncomfortable and terrifying world. The thematic depth of the game is the central appeal and is explored in many different ways, most notably through the way you see the world, via cameras. The themes carry an Orwellian warning against surveillance and tyranny in the internet age. Strong characterisation and a cleverly designed atmosphere add to the strong messages the game carries. Small details added to the game add an extra dimension and reinforce the democratic agenda of the game. This game would almost be perfect if it were not for the tedious and repetitive gameplay. Ultimately, République is a game with a commendably deep and rich story but with mediocre gameplay.

 

8.5

Pros

  • Topical and intriguing themes
  • Thoroughly engaging and complex plot
  • Deeply immersive to such an extent it can be uncomfortable

Cons

  • Tedious gameplay

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