Undoubtedly, the most interesting thing about Republique is its world.
Both in the narrative it introduces and through the way you experience it, the city of Metamorphosis is a fascinating proposition filled with broad sweeping political ideals and a central core of well-drawn characters.
Combine this with intelligently crafted, stealth-based gameplay and you have yourself an iOS game above and beyond the shallow, throwaway fodder that typically dominates this part of the videogame landscape.
Set against a dystopian, Orwellian backdrop, Republique ponders themes of oppression, authoritarianism, fascism and claustrophobic public surveillance.
Anything but complete and unquestioned adherence to the rules and regulations of Metamorphosis is dealt with through mercilessly efficient and malicious means.
Further, developer Camouflaj seek to highlight the inconsistencies and injustices inherent within a system whereby one entity watches and has control over all others.
On the surface it sounds little different to a wide selection of sci-fi available throughout many different mediums (not least Orwell’s own 1984), but it’s the way Republique’s gameplay cleverly plays on those themes that make it such an interesting proposition.
In a sense you, as the player, are acting upon many of the ideals the narrative attempts to question and this makes both interaction and resulting effect seem more powerful.
Indirectly, you control Hope, a female prisoner detained by the authorities for owning a manifesto deemed revolutionary and overtly threatening to the enforced politics of the world.
Through taps and swipes of the touch screen you guide her through corridors, past guards and into hiding spaces on her way to freedom.
Your view of Hope’s world is predominantly limited to what you see via the security cameras that litter the environment, cunningly setting up a subversion of the surveillance state by using their own technology against them.
The Gameplay Of Republique
Cameras within an area can be hopped between at will, allowing you to hide Hope in a safe space before scouting ahead to plan out your next moves.
On the way there are locked doors to overcome, computer terminals to hack and guards to pacify with pepper spray, as well as a great deal of narrative-buffing text and propaganda imagery to consume.
On the whole, the gameplay systems work as designed. Hope moves through the world in a context sensitive manner, crouching low behind desks and moving into spots where she’s hidden rather than simply stay at the exact point you’ve tapped.
In short, you don’t need to micromanage her.
As you progress there are key items to find and upgrades to unlock that without which you cannot escape your captors.
In the greatest traditions of stealth games these resources are extremely limited and require a degree of work to acquire, adding further tension by having you play within a strict rule set – again, like the camera surveillance, a deft reference to the themes of the narrative.
Without doubt the fact that these items are essential adds a degree of linearity to the gameplay, but in this instance that’s not a bad thing.
As a result of this generally working setup, when things do go wrong they are impossible to ignore and serve to completely extinguish the tense atmosphere that so much work has clearly gone into delivering.
There are times when Hope will inexplicably walk straight up to a guard and get herself caught, while other times she’ll walk straight up to another only for them to ignore her.
Of course, the former instances are more welcome than the latter from a frustration point-of-view, but both serve to disrupt immersion.
It’s a shame because almost everything else shines throughout the four hours-ish running time, not least the quality of the visuals and the voice acting – both of which point towards money well spent following Camouflaj managing to generate over half a million dollars for production through their Kickstarter campaign.
This being the first of five planned episodes, expectation has been set at a high level. If the kinks of the AI system can be worked out, and the quality of the narrative upheld, there’s no reason Republique can’t go on to become a shining example of episodic content done right.
Whatever the case, if you’ve got an iOS device, the low cost of entry makes it difficult to not recommend.