I was an early and vocal supporter/backer of République.
iOS is a promising games platform. Since the 2008 introduction of the App Store, mobile has been home to some truly revolutionary titles, and revolutionary in the sense that unsettles expectations. Games like Angry Birds, Letterpress, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, Flight Control, and many others would be nearly impossible to replicate on other systems. Certainly a developer can try, but the end result would likely be something akin to an RTS on a console (possible but missing the point). What these games get right, is the interaction method for the platform. There are no virtual D-pads or console controller “buttons.” What they don’t do well, however, is provide rich, in-depth and extended gaming experiences along the lines of quality PC and console titles.
In industry terms, AAA has become the categorization that means quality. Though, this is increasingly not the case—many of the year’s best games are not AAA—Camouflaj, République’s developer, aimed to capture the look and feel of AAA on iOS. The game’s opening shows off not just an incredible level of graphical polish, but a strong directorial voice. AAA games on other platforms have this quality implicitly: camera angles that create tension, screen shake and tilt that force perspective, visual effects that enhance the character of the viewing experience and not just technical prowess. All of these and more reveal the difference between mobile up till now and mobile from now on.
After visuals, République’s interactivity is the next signifier of quality. The overall conceit is that the player does not control the game’s main character, Hope. Instead, he or she (and the player could truly be either) guides or directs Hope to the next area, suggesting places to hide and pathways to take. If the player puts Hope into a risky situation, she will adjust her position in an effort to stay hidden, a feature that could be exercised more often, as it enriches the illusion that Hope is a person to be guided and not an avatar to be controlled. Throughout, the game’s One-Touch controls work accurately and intuitively, though reactive play is ineffective both from a control as well as gameplay standpoint. As Hope’s helper, you won’t be instructing acrobatic escapes. Each situation, patrol path, and security checkpoint must be carefully considered before nudging Hope out of safety and into danger.
In the spirit of fair critique, sometimes the camera controls feel too slow. The limited range and velocity of the cameras make perfect sense from a narrative perspective, and for the most part the game gets it right. The resistive servo-driven motors whine along, giving the player a sense that the only window into this world is through the security camera network.
While visuals are clearly a priority for the team at Camouflaj, the voice acting transcends anything I’ve yet heard on iOS. The all-star cast just keeps on kicking, and every line is worth hearing. As a player, do yourself a favor and heed the game’s suggestion to wear headphones. Despite the universally excellent delivery, the voices do have some uneven bits, especially in the pronunciation of “Republique,” but also in some seemingly botched lines. I once heard “preserve” when I’m fairly certain the writer meant “persevere.”
I won’t spoil any of the plot details, but the ending for Episode 1 is a lesson in cliffhanger delivery. From the initial moments, the game weaves an intricate web of intrigue and atmosphere. Standard stealth action tropes dominate the story, but there’s enough of the unusual (if not wholly original) to keep the discerning player asking questions and discovering answers. The cliffhanger itself, of course isn’t unexpected, but the particular way République goes about it reveals the team’s experience and vision.
Another place where the game shines brighter than anything I’ve seen on the platform to date (or in any game I’ve played recently, for that matter) is in its collectibles. Endless nicknacks and doodads litter plenty of games; such items are often useless aside from the achievement of having collected them all. République refuses that tired mechanic and, while still providing plenty of collectibles, gives each of them a purpose in the narrative. The most tenuous connection to the story, the various Atari cartridges that Hope can pickpocket from guards, is actually my favorite. Each cart Hope collects is an iOS game recommendation by the game’s designers. Never have I seen a game so supportive of “competing” titles. It’s something I hope continues through subsequent episodes and finds its way into other games on the platform. Clearly, Camouflaj cares about not only its own iOS game but the platform itself.
Graphically on the iPhone 5S, the game’s a stunner, easily among the top five iOS games. On the third generation iPad, it’s a slightly different story. The CRT effect layer is gone, as are the vignetting and rounded screen corners. Lighting suffers as well, but the trade offs are worth it. The framerate stays smooth, though everything feels plastic and flat. Even on the older hardware, though, the game looks great, and the fluid motion helps to keep the player immersed in the onscreen action. It’s a great strategy, executed to the right degree, and with attention to the right details.
Having been a backer of the project, already shelling out more than the purchase price plus the season pass, I find the game to be inline with my best hopes upon seeing the Kickstarter trailer. In the amount of time I spent playing the game (about four and a half hours for a fairly completionist play through), I would’ve had to purchase two movie tickets, or at least rent two movies from Redbox. It has always been my opinion that people who enjoy great software—not just games but all software—need to be the ones diving in wallet first. The more we support developers like Camouflaj, the more games like République we’ll see on the App Store.
You can purchase the first episode, République: Exordium on the App Store for $4.99.