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République [2013/2016 (2015/16 on PC) -- Camouflaj]

Started by Starfox, May 18, 2023, 07:34 PM

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Originally published on January 23, 2017

Or how to take a reasonably good idea and turn it into weirdness...

The primary gameplay idea behind République (yeah, with the accent like the French word; don't ask because like so many things in this game I don't have a clue why that is) is not novel in itself. The whole concept is that the player is on the other end of a smartphone held by Hope (the central character of the adventure) and uses cameras to guide her through the levels. This concept was originally introduced by the game from Lexis Numérique eXperience 112 -- known as The Experiment in North America, Australia and New Zealand -- in which the player was also behind a screen using cameras and the environment to guide the main character, Lea Nichols, through the levels and instruct her to accomplish diverse tasks to resolve the story.

The difference is that République is a stealth game. The story takes place in a closed environment called Terminus -- aside the name you have no idea of what it is until the last episode of the series. However this environment is patrolled by guards called the Prizaks. The goal of the player is of course to guide Hope and avoid her being caught (while getting caught does not end up in a "game over" it slightly complicates the situation as the player has to break Hope from a cell although this particular challenge is not what I'd call difficult. Getting caught delays your progression nevertheless). To help in the task, the player has two camera modes as well as several upgrades that can be bought throughout the games. The two camera modes (you switch between them very frequently) are normal mode in which you see the standard image and can guide Hope and Omni-view mode in which the game is frozen, giving the player some kind of enhanced view and allowing them to select cameras and interact with various objects.

Most of the gameplay is spend finding the best course, monitoring the guards patrol routes... etc. At the same time you have to discover pieces of intel that not only allow you to better understand the game story and background but also to acquire upgrades to your hacker tools via some sort of black market.

In itself the gameplay is OK and the story interesting enough to get you going on. They even managed to grab Jennifer Hale (female Commander Shepard) as the voice for one of the main characters (and listening to her trying to speak with a French accent is quite a trip). However partway through the game the whole thing kind of derail. To know why I guess we have to go back to the roots of the game. République is an episodic game with the first of the five episodes produced in 2013 for smartphones and the last one only in 2016. PC gamers are somewhat luckier as the game took only a little more than a year to be completely released on this platform. During this development, there was a somewhat long hiatus between the third and fourth episodes and that can be clearly seen when playing the game.

While the first three episodes are pretty consistent in term of gameplay and story, the fourth one is an almost complete departure and the fifth one, while going back to the roots a little, has some of the worse nonsensical ending I've seen in a game (Mass Effect 3 excepted). At first you'd think that the ending depends on the choices you make so I went back and played with different choices and ended up with... the same ending. Clearly there was a whole missed opportunity there and players are left with the question why? I particularly feel for people who played this on smartphone and had to wait 3 years to get such an ending.

The PC port is OK by the way. It's not the image quality one expect from a current PC titles but it's enough to do the job.

République is far to be a bad game but it's like the developers ran out of ideas after the third episode (which should never happen; even in an episodic game the developing road-map should be well established, from the beginning to the end) and struggled their way through the fourth and fifth episode with some questionable choices.

Technically the PC version doesn't revolutionize gaming and provide a mitigated experience, good for a little more than a half and less after that.  On smartphone it was certainly on its first release a complex game and a ballsy move in an universe that was mostly composed of pixel games and side-scrollers. But then in the few years it took to finish it it became less original even in that regard (after all there's even a version of Knights Of The Old Republic for tablets and smartphones now -- I had the occasion to play KOTOR on a tablet and well, while I still prefer the PC version, the tablet one is as good a port as it can be but that's a whole other story).

In the end I'd say that République is worth playing as a gaming curiosity. If you can go with an unsavory ending that you'll have a hard time to explain or understand, you might even enjoy it more than I did.

Guess what it means!