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Republic: The Revolution Review
publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: Elixir Studios
PIII 800, 512MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 1GB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Aug 27, 03 (released)
|» All About Republic: The Revolution on ActionTrip|
What do ambitious people want from life? Nah, scratch that. What do unscrupulous, ambitious bottom-feeding schemers want from life? I'd wager they want either power, influence or wealth ... or some combination of all three. The nifty thing about video games is that they let us indulge our fantasies and reach elaborate goals without the nuisance of having to give the blood, sweat and tears that are required to make the grade in real life. That being said, if you've ever wanted to be the leader of a nation without so much as having to leave the comfort of your living room, Republic: The Revolution might be a safe bet for you.
Republic: The Revolution is a simulation/strategy game which gives you a glimpse into the ruthless and morally ambiguous world of hardball politics. If there's one thing this game teaches is that no one is ever innocent in this world. If you desire power you are usually more than willing to... massage a few rules to gain it. For a more detailed overview of the game's main story and other details relating to the Totality 3D engine and soundtrack, please make sure to read my hands-on preview of the game. Here, I'll simply stick to the meat of the matter - just how fun this game is once you've gotten beyond the basics.
Granted, I should mention that, as far as management simulations go, this is one that you'll hardly be able to play (well) without a manual. I've read on Elixir's site that "the interface is supposed to render the manual useless." If that was their goal, then, they've failed at it quite miserably. I'm usually too lazy to read manuals since many games try to emulate certain familiar interface solutions and gameplay patterns to ease the players into the experience. This is most certainly not the case with Republic. The interface, though fairly intuitive once you've gotten the hang of things, will be very hard to understand at first. There are no detailed explanations (alt text) of which button performs which command where, or what the best way is of carrying out slightly more advanced actions in the game. The in-game tutorial might leave you hanging in those regards. I've spent some time wondering why I can't make any progress before I finally broke down and RTFM (read the f-in manual). Even though it might not seem apparent at first, the gameplay in Republic follows a certain set of rules that revolve around three principal game resources (factors): force, influence and wealth.
Your party's ideology, as well as the ideology of your party activists (right-hand people), will be defined by these three basic factors. A right-wing radical party will have a high ratio of force, and a fairly low ratio of wealth and influence. The same is with people. Each of your party members; including yourself; will be defined by the relation between the three aforementioned game resources. If you happen to make one of your party members more skilled in persuasion and vandalism, he will most certainly feel more comfortable in a party that's mostly force-oriented. Each of your party activists can level up and learn new actions as they go. The more force actions they learn, the more they'll feel that the only way to rule is by force. Incidentally, town districts are also defined by force, influence and wealth. There are wealth, force and influence districts. Party activists that have a similar ideology and set of actions to that of a particular district will have a positive modifier when acting in that district. In other words, everything in Republic is ideology-based, and once you've figured that out you'll know that actions that give you positive or neutral modifiers are usually the best ones. Negative modifiers will more often than not mean that a certain action by a particular individual won't have much effect in a district with dissimilar ideology. Then again, sometimes, you'll be forced to perform that particular action regardless of the modifier....
You should also note that certain ideologies are complementary if we look at them from left to right. Those of you who are wondering what the hell I'm talking about right now should not be alarmed. This advice is for people who already own their copy of Republic. Naturally, the basic set of rules in Republic is further expanded and enhanced with additional features like important structures, attack actions that reduce the popularity of your opposition and support actions that rally support for your cause, as well as many others. One other very important detail that is a relatively important part of the gameplay are the action tweaks. Tweaks give you an opportunity to fine-tune your actions; make sure they are successful. Sadly, these tweaks aren't really all that involving, or as important as they could've been. About the only truly useful tweaks are those that let you persuade a particular character to see things your way for one reason or another. This particular tweak is represented as an unlikely combination of a logical game and Blackjack (though it's mostly logical).
The designers have obviously put a lot of effort into creating the game's basic concept and set of rules. In a way, Republic reminds me of a rather simplified version of chess. Your prime concern is gaining support in the cities. It doesn't matter how you do it just as long as the level of support for your party is high. The higher the level of support for your cause, the more force, influence and wealth you'll be receiving every three days when your party's ranking is revised. The more resources you have, the more actions you'll be able to perform thus gaining an edge over the opposition. The goal of this game is to grind your enemies to the ground, and in the process, take control of all the major cities (there are three of them altogether) in the ex-Soviet republic of Novistrana. For those of you not familiar with the plot, your rise to power is motivated by the fact that, as a young boy, you've witnessed your entire family being taken away to a Gulag and consequently murdered by the country's ruthless dictator who you now want to see crawling on all fours like a whipped dog. (Reminds me of what I did last weekend.... - Six) Of course, getting to become an all-powerful ruler yourself in the process is just an added bonus.
Make no mistake about it, the rather clunky and standoffish interface, combined with the fact that gamers will be required to actually learn things before they are comfortable with the game might put off a fair amount of people who were initially excited about the game. Republic's AI is very good, so the game will become increasingly challenging as you reach the capital of Novistrana. You'll actually be required to think ahead and plan your moves; and the moves of the opposition; before allocating action points. In addition, the gameplay itself might seem a bit too dry and too intellectual at times. Kind of like chess... A bit more character, a bit more flavor could've done wonders for the game's fun factor. Republic dearly needs some outrageous scandals being graphically depicted using the game's 3D engine. Though the story is kind of integrated into the gameplay, it lacks real drama, more elaborate cut-scenes to show the motivations of our main character and actually help the player relate to his cause. In the end you have to ask yourself if the life of a dyed in the wool politician appeals to you at all.
After you've secured your position in the starting city of Ekatarine, you'll proceed to the city of Pugachev where the entire process of gaining power will start all over again, when you move on to the next city, rinse and repeat. Mind you, that's not to say that this reviewer didn't enjoy the game. It can get addictive after you've gotten to grips with all its intricacies, but I doubt that, on the whole, many people will be patient enough to give Republic the time it deserves. In short, a smart gameplay concept, coupled with some nice 3D visuals and awesome music is severely disadvantaged by the rather steep learning curve and lack of more personality.
Again, I would like to refer you to my hands-on preview for the recapitulation of the Totality 3D engine and the game's musical soundtrack. Both are topnotch but are not exactly crucial, as you'll spend most of the time in this game on the satellite view screen, calculating your next move and making sure that all the factors work and won't degrade your party's rating.
I have this weird feeling that halfway through the development the team at Elixir got so involved in making sure all the rules and basic concepts are working that they forgot they aren't making this game for themselves, but for the people out there who aren't all that anxious to devote as much time or attention to their product as they would surely like them to.
Innovative concept, addictive gameplay (once you've gotten the hang of things), excellent musical score, very scalable and effective 3D engine (that sadly doesn't serve much purpose);
May be too complicated for new players, RTFM required, not enough drama/personal interaction when so much potential existed. Tweaks should've been made a bigger part of the game.
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