After a long wait Elixir Studio’s much hyped Republic: The Revolution has finally been released. Republic is one game that’s been fairly hyped by the press and Eidos but is this just another case of ‘don’t believe the hype?’ Demis Hassabis, who played a big part in Bullfrog’s Theme Park, has a lot to live up to with this game but has he managed to weave some more gaming magic here?Republic is without a doubt an ambitious project, aiming to make you a leading revolutionary in the fictional country of Novistrana and it’s your job to gather support and oust the evil dictatorship of the current President by various means. The question is, what is this game really? Is it a sim or a turn-based strategy? Is it a bit of both? These are questions that have been mulling over during the past few days of playing the game and hopefully I can come to some sort of conclusion here.Decent Tutorial Perhaps?There’s a brief intro to the game and then you’re thrown in at the deep end, quite literally. Now, most games you can tinker with and figure out within 10 minutes or so but not here, you will more than likely have to read the manual. One glaring omission is any form of in-game tutorial. There are help screens but they are really pretty pathetic, some sort of mini walkthrough of the basics would have been a good idea. In fact the first game you play you’ll probably ditch after an hour or so until you figure out the interface and the gameplay fundamentals.The game is split into missions so instead of letting the game free flow and evolve Elixir have set goals the player needs to achieve. While this may sound limiting it’s just as well, this game would be totally lost without prompts and objectives to keep things moving along. Players do have decisions to make such as what area of town they want to focus their recruiting attempts or which other revolutionary faction needs taking down a peg or two so there is an element of strategic freedom to Republic in some respects.You’ll DoYour faction consists of recruits which you headhunt. Once on-board you can then control these characters and give them specific actions to carry out. You may send them out canvassing for support, spreading rumours about other factions around the districts, send them out to boost funds via bribes and so on Elixir have added a good variety of character actions and each character can perform certain tasks which means players need to recruit followers carefully depending on their needs. As the game progresses you can recruit more people to join your party but is is slow going at the start.Really? A 3D Engine You Say?The game is split into two segments, the 3D game engine which you have probably seen a ton of shots of since the game was announced, and the top down strategic map view. The reason you have probably seen more shots of the game’s 3D engine is because it better portrays an air of excitement, a real living world in which you are the leader of a revolutionary group. Let’s face it, top-down map views don’t evoke lively gameplay. The point here is that although there is that 3D engine lurking in the background which shows people going about their daily chores in Novistrana, the majority of the game is really played on the map view. Sure you can zoom down to check out what the game’s characters are doing and peruse the city streets but after about 10 clicks you start to think ‘what’s the point? Let’s get onto the next mission’.So what does that leave? The 3D portion of the game is really a gimmick and after a while even the event cutscenes start to become an annoyance as you can’t skip out of the first 10 seconds or so. The game is fundamentally played through the top-down strategy view and while this may appeal to fans of RISK, gamers looking for a high level of world interaction are going to be sorely disappointed.Clock WatchingAlthough the game is not touted as turn-based, (and it isn’t really), it feels like a turned-based game due to the day and night cycles. Actions are carried out by your followers either during the morning, afternoon or night. Certain actions are best carried out at certain times of day. For example, go spread some graffiti at night when there’s less people around. Actions take some time to carry out and it usually takes a day cycle to complete an action which means there can be a lot of waiting time in the early stages of the game. You can speed up time which helps but the game speed functions are temperamental at best forcing you to switch out of one view into another and then back again to get it to kick in.The interface is certainly not the most intuitive and again it takes some time to get used to. If the game time is sped up response to clicks is slow and c*bersome making the interface frustrating to use at times. Practice makes perfect and after a decent amount of play time things become easier, but you can’t help feeling there must have been a better way to control actions and the overall gameplay without stacks of slide out windows and tiny action icons.Follow MeCharacters also have their own attributes which are split into Status Control, Charisma, Presence and Resolve, all of which can be boosted when the characters level up. The same applies to character abilities. These attributes allow the player to shape their characters and use them to gain power and influence throughout the game’s regions. Keeping your followers busy is easy enough, after all that’s the main gameplay element of this Republic, give a follower order after order and watch your influence grow on the city streets depending on their actions. After game days have passed you can see the fruits of you labour appear with Influence, Wealth and Force either increasing or decreasing which is of course dependent on what actions you a*igned to your main band of followers. It’s important you do well with the people of Novistrana as each action costs a certain amount of Influence, and Force to carry out. If you drop to zero then there’s no more ordering your followers for you.Enough of This Talking CrapThere’s one element of the game that could have been left out and that is the bizarre conversation mini-games. When you liaise with another character in the game you select the Liaise action and then you are taken to the 3D view to watch the conversation. You can skip out of this and let the computer take control and deicide the outcome, or you can engage in a game of ‘my conversation’s better than yours’ with the NPC. To put it simply, you a*ign points into a conversation type such as ‘joke’ or ‘ego boost’ and then the NPC responds with a conversation type which has a point value. If he beats you on points over 8 rounds of chat you lose and don’t gain the valuable information. After trying this out I soon realised it was an utter waste of time and complete crap. Just let the computer do it, more often than not you reached a successful outcome by just letting the AI get on with it and there was no messing around having to watch the conversation.The Visuals of NovistranaRepublic isn’t a bad looking game, but that’s not hard considering you play most of it in the strategic view which I have to say does the job. The 3D view on the other hand is adequate but not as cutting edge graphically as we expected. There were some weird glitches here which didn’t help. All the cutscenes are shown in the 3D view giving Elixir an excuse to make use of the 3D game engine throughout the game but considering the style of gameplay the graphics do the job. The character animations are adequate and you can click any of the characters in the game to see what they are up to. If you have sent a guy out to spray logos you’ll see him on the spray painting, send a guy out canvassing and you can watch him knocking on doors which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, all you do is watch.The star of Republic is definitely the sound. The game’s music is well orchestrated with it’s Eastern European theme and the Russian accents in conversation are well executed. There is ambient world sound in the 3D view but with the game world not being a completely bustling metropolis as you might have expected it can seem a quiet place at times with the odd pedestrian roaming the street or a few cars negotiating junctions.Where’s The Fun?Republic is a weird game, on some levels it’s appealing to play and on others it can seem a bit of a drag. After 3 days of playing solid I’ll admit I did get annoyed and flicked the game off, but it drew me back in the hope that I missed something obvious. Alas each time I returned it was back to going through the same repetitive motions and clock watching. Republic will no doubt capture the imagination of a select few but it’s certainly not quite as polished as I was hoping and lacks that all important fun factor gameplay element. To sum up, Republic: The Revolution was an ambitious project but ultimately disappointing.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.