Who’s in control here?
Full disclosure: I backed the Kickstarter for République at the game-plus-soundtrack level.
It’s funny, but if you had told me it’s been almost four years since Camouflaj successfully funded République on Kickstarter, I wouldn’t have believed you. Part of that has to do with its curious development cycle. The title, originally intended for iOS, managed to earn enough pledges to come out for PC. I wanted that version specifically (and I don’t have any Apple products), and the long wait felt torturous especially since the first episode released only about a year and a half after the campaign ended. I’ve only been playing the game since February of last year, so I suppose once I had it in my hands, time flew.
And here I am, having played the final episode, still mulling over the meaning behind the ending and trying to conjure up the totality of my experience into some simple prose. What stuns me is that it’s really done, and I can let go now. It feels more significant than Broken Age in that respect, though I imagine I’ll have much stronger feelings when the final chapter of Dreamfall Chapters releases, especially given that it’s a sequel series to two incredibly popular adventure games. Maybe it seems like I digressed before I even began, but it’s important to know how this feeling of resolution colored my experience since backing the game in mid-2012.
At the end of Episode 4, Hope suffered what looked like a major (read: terminal) setback. I was really dumbfounded as to how the story would continue from there. Well, Episode 5 begins with the acknowledgement that something happened, though it’s questionable to me if it completely lines up with the plot it’s continuing. Forgiving that—forgiving any sign on Hope of what happened—we, the avid voyeuristic helper in this whole mess, are tasked with leading Hope on the final leg of her journey. After an absurdly close call that could’ve seen the credits scrolling a few minutes in, Hope escapes again.
Then, Hope has to make a choice. Actually, the player is asked to make Hope make a choice, though you are given the option to have her do so. All previous episodes were completely linear in their approach that I was taken aback, not only to have a choice, but also that two key players in the uprising in Terminus would put such decision-making in the hands of someone who’s mostly been lucky.
Hope is certainly important in terms of the story, being the one who got away—several times even!—but this was undeniably because of the effort of a handful of benevolent folks manning their unique helms, one of whom she betrayed unintentionally. The idea that she should be given agency at this point is honestly a little baffling, but it turns out to make a ton of sense by the end of the episode and the game.
Not that it’s easy to get nostalgic about a game that’s only a few years old, but based on your/Hope’s choice, you’ll retread areas of the game from earlier episodes. Specifically, my choice had Hope exploring near where she began her journey. As easy as it would be to criticize reusing assets, this felt purposeful rather than lazy. It provides an opportunity for Hope to consider what was left behind in the environment during all that time trying to escape each room. And yes, I felt rather happy to see these places again. With a fully upgraded phone, loaded with beneficial abilities, I felt grown.
Although the familiar sneaking around is still present, Episode 5 throws in a few new gameplay elements to toss things up for the end. That actually includes another choice too! In terms of challenge, Terminus now features “hostile cameras.” These have signature red cones of vision, and if Hope lingers in front of them, Prizrak will be alerted to her location. Furthermore, the player is only given a few seconds to look through them before being kicked out to another neutral camera. This means finding efficient ways to take advantage of their points of view. However, depending on which path you choose, you may find opportunities to reduce the challenge these new camera types present. Still, particularly for the stealth genre, these do not add a noteworthy layer to the difficulty, and you’ll probably think little of them.
Near the end of the episode, there’s a really peculiar section that doesn’t control like any previous section in the whole game. It certainly took a moment to figure out what I needed to do, and that was mostly a result of experimenting with the established controls until I could see something happening. It’s that obscure in its approach. However, in terms of establishing the final dregs of the backstory to the narrative, this section is really fascinating, and it reveals enough that I’d dare expect a sequel to République at some point in the future. Yet, the method of revealing all this information, via finding and listening to a bunch of long recordings, slows down the pace of the game significantly and is largely inorganic.
Immediately afterwards, though, is the end! The finale here is uplifting, confusing, and emotional.
The player is also given another choice, and without spoiling anything, it suddenly provides a context for that earlier choice. I suspect many will be prone to disagree with me, but its implementation was smart and manages to make some meta-commentary on player agency over game characters. Upsetting as it was, I thought the close was well done.
République is a great five-episode game. I enjoyed all of it, despite some low moments, and I’m floored that it’s all available on mobile. The twist on the stealth genre, effectively providing an excuse for the originally envisioned touch controls, adds a fold to what is typically a lonely adventure for the protagonist in this genre. And as stated, I think the risks Camouflaj took at the end ultimately make for an interesting conversation regarding player and character agency. Still, the story, even with all the additional exposition players can find, is never overwrought and straightforward. It’s a nice adventure to play through, and the choices added to the final episode add replay value I wasn’t expecting. I’m tempted to dive in again.