Republique (Episodes 1-4) (PC) Review

By Thomas Wrobel 22.02.2016

Review for Republique (Episodes 1-4) on PC

Republique is played exclusively through the eyes of CCTV cameras. By jumping from camera to camera as well manipulating doors and other devices, the goal is to help guide a prisoner - Hope - to her freedom. Avoiding guards, acquiring upgrades, and solving puzzles all play a role in this escape, but all of them are a distant second to just learning what's going on. What is the complex where Hope was not just held, but raised on propaganda? What are the plans of this mysterious society and its leader? Republique is a storytelling exercise first, and a game second. Is it good at either?

Republique is a game of twists and turns, mysteries and reveals. It relishes in its episodic nature, giving cliff-hangers at the end of each episode, begging the player to continue. In terms of story delivery, Camouflaj does an excellent job, with its direction, pacing and voice acting being spot on. In terms of the story being delivered, however, most might want to be prepared for some cases of eye-rolling - the girl being given the name "Hope" being an obvious example. It's not that the writing of the game is bad, it's just that it seems unable to resist some narrative tropes which make some aspects of the plot a little too predictable. On the other hand, when not slapping you in the face with neon signposts, it can be quite subtle and instead make the audience work for its answers. When it handles this right, it shows what this adventure's greatest strength probably is.

The storyline is delivered mostly through vast amounts of examinable items in the environment, and it's through these that the audience can slowly piece together what's happening. Books, paintings, and other random objects will all trigger audio narration - a snippet of the lore being "overheard" by that item. Sometimes this will be critical information, while at other times it will be more about given an insight into a character's mind-set. In fact, more time will be spend on listening to the narrative delivered via these examinable items than actually actively guiding Hope around.
For that reason, it feels as if, in many ways, this shares plenty of DNA with games such as Home is where one starts or Gone Home.

Screenshot for Republique (Episodes 1-4) on PC

Unlike the so-called "walking simulators," however, Republique delivers solid gameplay in between its narration. It's not just about exploring a story - it's about helping someone escape; someone who is almost always in clear and present danger. Guiding Hope might often take a backseat to learning the story, yet it's no less an integrated and competently well-handled part of the experience.

While direct control is given over the cameras and various electronic devices, Hope is guided indirectly by clicking where she is needed to go. This hybrid concept works well, giving granular control for gameplay reasons, while also ensuring Hope has some of her own agency. In fact, when hiding behind a table she even moves slightly on her own to avoid detection. In short, it never feels like you're playing Hope, you're merely playing the mysterious camera operator, keeping the games both narrative and gameplay gimmick tightly integrated.

Primarily, this is all about hiding the heroine and avoiding guards, much like many tactical stealth games. However, for those in need of something more daring, it's possible to sneaking right behind guards and pick-pocket them, with the rewards being floppy disks which act as a kind of collectable. These little disks are a really nice touch, as each one is a reference to another indie game, and there is a vast number of them to collect.

Screenshot for Republique (Episodes 1-4) on PC

On a more practical level, it's also possible to acquire single-use tasers and pepper sprays, providing friendly in-pocket support for when the subtle approach fails. These tools are the games only means of combat, which means that this quest is predominantly non-violent. Despite that, however, there are some rather unsavoury things that need to be done by proxy at one point in order to progress. While this was almost certainly a deliberate point from a narrative perspective, it doesn't quite work given that previously similar obstacles were overcome by the application of sufficient quantities of pepper spray.

There are other minor criticisms, too. Being a crowd-funded project, some of the guards have names and images taken from backer submissions. This is a nice idea, although perhaps a little discretion should have been used for the mug shots; seeing a cartoon drawing on a passport sort of takes away from the realism and detail the rest of the game is providing. Though it's worth pointing out the game is full of nice little details. For example, when getting a mobile phone call in-game, the "clicking on speaker" sound can be heard just before it. These touches really help immerse the player, so anything out of place (like cartoon mug shots) tends to stick out.

Screenshot for Republique (Episodes 1-4) on PC

One particular note in this regard is episode 4, which takes a bizarre turn, and is quite different from the others. While those paying attention might understand the protagonist's sudden change in behaviour, it feels unlikely the "random CRT TVs in a garden" will be explained. It feels oddly out of place. Unlike everything else, these are clearly there only for the player, rather than having an in-universe reason for them. Their only function is to playback some clips of exposition using live acted footage. Given there was no obvious reason why the standard narrative delivery methods available couldn't have be used instead, their presence is a bit baffling; like they are out of a different title altogether.

Arguably, though, these immersion breaking points are only worth mentioning because Republique does such a good job at world building everywhere else, with neither of them really spoiling the story or gameplay. A much bigger concern is how well the plot will wrap up, which makes it very tricky to place a definitive score on something relying so heavily on it. There are four episodes released thus far, with a large amount of mysteries left to be explained. There is somewhat of a good sign that a minor early mystery, concerning a chair of all things, was eventually explained in episode 4 - but whether this was just a cute exception, or a sign they have well planned answers to everything is as yet unknown.

Screenshot for Republique (Episodes 1-4) on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Republique is an engaging experience all around, providing intelligent and thoughtful storytelling, despite the occasional cliché here and there. For those who have enjoyed the journey so far (regardless of the ending), it's a solid recommendation to dive into right now. For those that like their tales wrapped up neatly, however, it might be best to wait a bit till the complete experience is out on 22nd March.

Developer

Camouflaj

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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