A phone call can change your life. When it rings the person on the other end could be calling to offer you a job, ask you out, break some bad news, or require your help. Answering could introduce you to a whole world you never knew existed before. This is how République, which started life as a mobile game, begins its narrative, transporting players from their lives into the life of 390-H, or Hope, and her attempt to escape from the dystopian society of Metamorphosis.
The approach developer Camoflauj has taken with the game is to ensure the player isn’t a mere spectator, but one of the main characters within République. When you answer the phone, a video call begins in game with Hope talking directly to you and allowing you to take control of the cameras and doors in Metamorphosis. You become her eyes and ears, watching for guards while also learning about the mysterious Metamorphosis.
The main thrust of the game has you jumping from camera to camera using OMNI software, with this tech also containing the ability to scan features in the environment that unlock recordings. You can forego these scans and listening to them, but to do so would lock quite a lot of République’s story and world building away from you. That would make you akin to an extension of Hope, who has had a lot of the information locked away from her, and it would also mean missing out on some of the best tales and voice acting within the game.
You can also take control of Hope when jumping out of camera mode, though much of the gameplay here requires you to move her from one part of the map to another without alerting the guards. Unfortunately this is where République’s biggest flaws lie and it detracts heavily from the rest of the experience. There’s no real kind way to say this; the guards in République have some of the dumbest AI I’ve seen in a game.
If Hope isn’t directly in a guard’s direct line of sight then they won’t react. They won’t notice if you’re crouched a foot away from them or investigate loud doors sliding open near them. There were two major instances which stick out in my memory and that cemented my opinions. In the first situation a guard saw Hope within an office floor filled with cubicles. He walked after her into one of the cubicles, and which point I had made Hope crawl through a hole in the wall into the next cubicle. Now these walls looked to be about three foot high, but since the line of sight had been broken the guard radioed stating he had lost the target, and went straight back to his regular patrol route without searching further.
The second time involved a guard looking for Hope in a corridor. As he rounded a corner Hope was still climbing into a locker and shut the door quite loudly. When the guard came to the end of the dead end corridor with the locker, did he decide to investigate? Nope, he just walked back the way he came.
This removes a lot of the tension and intrique that République’s plot tries to build. Even if you are caught, Hope is taken to a holding cell just a few rooms away from where she was captured. No guard will be placed in the room to watch her and escape is as simple as pressing a button. She’ll lose items in her inventory like the pepper spray and taser, but those are only rarely used to make a last ditch escape.
While the camera control throughout the game is generally good, there are times when moving from one to another can become disorientating and the transitions aren’t particularly smooth in the first place. If cameras are in the same room, it’s usually fine, but jump to one that is on the other side of a wall and the game will stall for a bit before moving again. It isn’t great when you need to move through several rooms in quick succession.
Based of the game’s mobile release, République is divided into five episodes and each is approximately two hours long. Each one of them services the overall plot really well, with events that intrigue and characters that aren’t all that they seem. While the gameplay can use a lot of improvements there is a drive to get to the next cutscene and next bit of the plot. The writing is such that République will have its hooks in you right from the beginning.
Each episode has quite a lot of collectibles as well, but they are more than just for decoration and add to the story in their own way. Be it a banned book or a tape you collect, each one uncovers more of the mystery. The collectibles aren’t an annoying nuisance that litter the map but a lesson in what they should be in every game that features them.
République’s world looks really nice on PS4 too with a lot of variety in its stages, from a grand library to the more sterile looking holding areas. Each area conveys its identity well to you, looking polished in the process. It’s only the guard character design that can break immersion. They’re all different people but look exactly the same. The music fits the world too and blends in such a way that it becomes a natural part of Metamorphosis.
All through my time with République I felt it would make an excellent book, thriller movie, or even a TV show. It makes a good mobile game but not a great console game, where it’s let down by the poor opposition AI, and it’s a shame that the actual gameplay drags it down so much. Fans of dystopian fiction, or good stories in general, would absolutely adore Hope’s journey. The execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Version tested: PS4