Republic: The Revolution
20th Jul 2003 | 13:32
The revolution is here! Or the beta version anyway... Keith Pullin sharpens his propaganda
Over the last four years we've written a lot of stuff about Republic: The Revolution. It seems to be one of those games that's always on the verge of being released, yet somehow, inexplicably, at the very last moment it's delayed by another year or so.
Well, this time the news is good - in fact, the news is fantastic. For starters, get this - we've actually played the game, feature-complete, working and almost bug-free. And after being given some beta code to take away and pore over, we've been assured by Eidos and Elixir Studios that Republic is now going through final testing and will be released in July. So, you can put down your John Le Carré, Robert Ludlum and Graham Greene novels, stop watching old John Frankenheimer spy films, and instead prepare yourself for some Eastern bloc cold war paranoia, PC style.
Republic is without question a unique game. As soon as you spend any time with it, you begin to feel itchy, dirty, nervous and really quite scared. There's a definite grim edge to it that makes you suspicious of everyone. Every person walking down the street is a spy. That car slowly driving along on the opposite side of the road is full of rival faction members. The waiter in the café is about to shoot you. The finger points in all directions and never do you completely trust anyone, including your own faction members - all of which makes for a truly nerve-wracking gaming experience.
Traditionally, games are supposed to entertain you. But Republic looks to do something else too - it teases you, messes with your mind, and ultimately leads you to question your own ideology and political standpoint. From what we've seen, it's not enough to say that Republic is merely entertainment. The atmosphere it produces is sometimes akin to watching a news story about the Moscow theatre siege or Mayday rioting on Oxford Street, such is the hard-hitting impact of the plot and gameplay.
The Eyes Have It
The graphics help enormously when it comes to creating this dark atmosphere, yet you can play through the entire game (and that's three cities as opposed to the originally mooted six) without seeing a single 3D brick of any of the towns. All key decisions are made on an overhead 2D view of the city divided into territories (very much like Risk) and it's from here that your quest to oust the Presidency of Novistrana is planned. Sure, any actions or event you organise can be viewed via the game's immaculate 3D engine, but ultimately it's this 2D map that's the real hub of the whole thing.
Each day is split into morning, afternoon and night, and you can choose from around 100 different actions for you and your cronies to occupy yourselves with during this time. Different characters have different skills, and deciding when and where to use these abilities is crucial. If you want a rival to be roughed up for distributing defamatory leaflets about your organisation then order your 'hood' to beat them up at night, in a dark alleyway. Trying something like that during the day will more than likely lead to someone spotting your strong-arm tactics, leading to headlines in the local paper that won't do you any favours.
Alternatively, you might want one of your more eloquent members to drum up support. Sending them off to the local park, soap-box underfoot, at the height of the rush-hour to evangelise the merits of your righteous cause should just about do the trick.
After playing the preview code to death we now feel we've got a pretty good idea of what Republic is all about. We also feel pretty confident that we can dispel one myth about the game right now: it is NOT too complex - in fact, in what is probably one of the biggest shocks in gaming history, we can report that Republic is actually very, very simple and easy to get into.
After a mere half an hour of play we were merrily organising rallies, discrediting opponents, bribing officials and generally having the most corrupt time of our lives. The interface is a doddle to get to grips with and the fact of the matter is any RTS or turn-based strategy fan will have absolutely nothing to worry about.
The beauty of it, though, is that there is much, much more going on below the surface. It's another one of these chess situations insofar as you have to keep thinking ahead. What seems like a good move in the short term is actually suicide in the long run. And the open-ended nature of the game (there are various different paths to take to the presidency) means there's scope for the player to try a multitude of different tactics.
Republic is a remarkable game and will no doubt stimulate enormous debate among the gaming community. In its current pre-release guise it's already both fascinating to play and deeply atmospheric - whether this can be matched by equal measures of actual fun we're not yet sure. Look out for our definitive verdict next month.