[su_highlight background=”#3b88ff” color=”#ffffff”]Platforms:PC, Mac | Developer: Camouflaj | Publisher: Logan | [/su_highlight]
What if you could topple regimes and incite anarchy with the swipe of a finger? The only evidence is your fingerprint-riddled touch screen, which is sitting comfortably in your pocket. Republique: Remastered, a poignant episodic-adventure game, delivers that power with effortless immersion and chilling narrative.
Developer Camouflaj originally released Republique for iOS and Android in late 2013 after a successful Kickstarter campaign. It was considered a “real game” for tablets, and was met with plenty of positive feedback. The remastered edition was released in February of 2015 with impressively upgraded graphics and a very clean port for keyboard and mice gameplay. Though, much of the game is still the same.
The story of Republique is meant to be told over five episodes, each lasting about two to three hours each. Camouflaj recently released the third episode in the series. Each episode has you following a prisoner named Hope through a facility called Metamorphosis. You’re trying to help her escape without getting caught by any of the guards, called Prizrak. Much of the player’s interaction with Hope is through her phone’s screen, or through security cameras in metamorphosis. Using the OMNI View software installed on your phone, you manipulate the technology in the facility to aid Hope in slipping by unnoticed. With the help of a disguised prizrak named Cooper, you need to master your technology and outsmart the main antagonists in Metamorphosis.
Camouflaj paid an impressive amount to detail in order to keep the player immersed. When you receive a phone call, faux static sounds occur until you answer. Cooper, who you find out is an enormous gamer, has a collection of games that you can find like Easter eggs to learn more about him (and the industry). Hope directly addresses you with each call, tugging at your heartstrings throughout her struggle. The uncomfortably close camera angles, the frantic dialogue, and the use of your screen as a game mechanic keep you emotionally attached and on the edge of your seat. By having your UI exist as your phone, or your computer in the remastered edition, everything you learn ends up feeling innate. There’s very little psychological distance while playing this game, especially during cut scenes.
Narratively, the game never stops pulling you in. From empathizing for Hope, trapped by her government and unable to escape, to relating to Cooper, you’ll be worried about every confrontation the characters have with each other. Each villain is more evil than the last. Prideaux, Hope’s “caretaker,” is cold and manipulative. She feigns compassion, but often drops the façade in anger. Derringer, a cruel Prizrak, treats his subordinates almost as poorly as the Prisoners in Metamorphosis. His rage and abuse are the player’s biggest fear. On the other hand, you have Zager, a revolutionary with ideals similar to hope. Although he’s deceased, you meet him through hidden recordings found throughout the facility.
In comparison to the phone version, the graphics are miles apart. The detail in Hope’s face when she talks to the player through her phone closes the psychological distance even further. Her eyes are reflective and move with an honest sense of anxiety. Her expressions are subtle, but clear. She’s the player’s main source of motivation and emotion. Each section of Metamorphosis, from the cells to the dining room, have wonderful shading and detail. There are rich mahogany pillars in the officers’ quarters, and soulless grey color schemes in the containment areas. Light reflection seems to be real-time, moving with the particles they’re reflecting. However, while the settings are diverse and appealing, the character models aren’t the most unique. Derringer, the main villain, has the same exact sculpt as each generic Prizrak, who show no visible differences. Although the graphics aren’t exactly next gen, the upgrades are impressive and can hold their own against other PC games.
There’s a likeness to Watchdogs while using the OMNI View to control cameras and electronics that should seem very familiar to Ubisoft fans. Everything is placed right in front of you, so there isn’t much of a learning curve. You discover the mechanics as you play, skipping the tedious tutorial segments other games have. Though, some item descriptions interrupt game play and remove you from the immersion, if only for a few seconds. One issue with the game are the mechanics and obstacles in the first level that are never explained or even made available. For example, if your OMNI view isn’t upgraded to 5.0, you can’t open a door rated 5, yet the beginning of the game has tons of these doors. It can be distracting, especially while trying to learn the new controls.
Avoiding the Prizraks can be infuriating sometimes. Waiting for them to reveal their pathing is a time consuming process, especially when you want to find out more about Hope and the other characters. If you can’t resist the urge to book it across a room and get caught, Hope is escorted to a room where she’s locked inside a cell. Conveniently, as soon as the guard leaves the room, you can click a single button hidden in the room and Hope is ready to roam. The irony behind this is how much longer it takes for the Prizrak to walk you all the way to the cell; you lose more time than you would have saved.
Although this is a stealth game, you can take it upon yourself to play like an action hero. Throughout metamorphosis, for the convenience of nobody but the prisoners, there are tasers and pepper spray lying around. If you stock up enough of these items, you can simply run through hallways tazing and spraying every single Prizrak on the way. Sometimes you just can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Immersion and narrative aside, Republique’s themes and subtext make it a game that will very likely stand the test of time. Taking on the government’s abuse of power, the potential and misuse of technology, and the façade of authority are only a few factors which create an incredibly compelling game. It’s worth a playthrough, but whether that playthrough is worth $24.99 is up to you.
Reviewed on PC. Review copy provided by Camouflaj.