République (PS4 Review)
Have you ever wondered if there was more about your surroundings other than what we are told and what we know? To question life in an almost existential manner isn’t a new plot device for storytelling. In fact, we are thoroughly familiar with the red and blue pill, the niggling truth, and the light behind the curtain that has always pushed our heroes and heroines forward, questioning everything as they go. Although we are familiar with the idea through film, République asks the player to go a bit further and take part in blowing open the whole truth and breaking free from the expectations of Metamorphosis (the compound in which we meet our protagonist Hope) society in a way that grips us and makes us delve deeper in to what is really going on.
Just like the events that set Hope’s escape from Metamorphosis in motion, République started with an idea to break the mold and challenge our understanding. To go against the curve and break the confines of what we know by defining a game that would prove that mobile devices could offer an experience comparable, if not better, to console games. Ryan Payton and Alexei Tylevich from Camoflaj and Logan Games have more than achieved that with République, providing an enthralling and punctual episodic experience for PS4.
République opens with Hope, aka 390-H, in her dorm room as she is confronted by the the Prizrak – Metamorphosis’ police force – with contraband in her possession. It is here that we first seize control of the technology of Hope’s surroundings through the mobile phone found in Hope’s possession. From there you, as a hacker, start to expose Hope to what really happens in the facility and open Hope’s eyes to the reality of what is truly going on around her. As République progresses you are thrown curve balls and start to question your own morality as Hope slowly learns there are consequences to her actions. In spite of Hope’s real lack of presence there is a brilliant supporting cast, strengthened by voice acting greats David Hayter and Jennifer Hale, who bring the tid bits of Metamorphosis to life. Each episode brings a new perspective and a bigger picture as you learn about those who live in the sanctuary and the great divide between them. And it’s all wrapped up in one digestible package if you choose to avoid pursuing the endless number of collectible items in the game.
Transitioning from tablet devices, to PC, and then to home consoles is no easy task, but République pulls the control scheme off almost flawlessly. Navigating through cameras and scouting ahead is extremely simple, leaping from camera to camera to map out the next set of guard’s patterns while slowly pacing Hope forward is simple and intuitive. The control scheme lends itself well to the slow paced nature of the stealth and while scavenging the environments Hope will gain access to pepper spray, sleep mines, and tasers to deal with different types of enemies that stand between her and the truth. République largely consists of slow paced stealth with little to no real action, but it suits the tone of remaining hidden and out of sight perfectly as you navigate the world unseen and unheard, watching events unfold as the mysterious hacker and Hope.
The slow pace also does wonders for République as it gives us, the player, a the chance to bask in the gorgeous areas you stealthily navigate. No detail is overlooked as you peer out of the shadows you can see banned books hidden in your peripheral vision and the intricate designs of places like the library are perfect in their execution. I would go on, but to discuss some of the environments would sully a large part of the experience and story, but trust me when I say these areas are all ripe with detail and good fun to explore, especially one or two of the hidden areas. And this level of detail doesn’t stop at the surroundings themselves, République has a whole host of collectibles that expand on the story and even give nods to some brilliant Kickstarted and popular games that were around at the time of development with quirky descriptions to match. These collectibles are almost essentially to the branching narrative to the game, so once you have the right equipment République turns in to a metroidvania styled game that greatly rewards backtracking in the narrative.
République is an experience like no other, one that I struggle to retrospectively place on a mobile device because of its excellence in design and story it tells. But in terms of fragmented areas and small, closely placed cameras distorting movement and visuals when navigating the areas in République still feel very much like a port. As a different change in pace from usual games the game shines wonderfully with some truly interesting moments in the short run time, but small niggles and design choices that were probably perfect for the nature of of mobile gaming still remain and hinder the overall experience alongside some questionable load times. In spite of these issues Republique shines an interesting light on privacy and the use of technology during our time while remaining interesting with enough replayability to boot, so if you’re looking for a different experience I would strongly recommend picking it up.