République VR: Anniversary Edition Review
Along with a select few other titles, République VR nails its dystopian setting and tone. It's a game that tasks you with protecting a girl, Hope, as you help her escape from the clutches of a fascist society. Originally an iOS release, République finally makes its way to PSVR and delivers a different experience than a regular mobile or console port. It is a stealth game you want to fully immersive yourself in, as the world and environments are fascinating to see in virtual reality.
Reflecting And Contrasting
Lifting inspiration from classic novels such as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, République takes place in a totalitarian state. In this world, the government bans books, fakes news stories for propaganda purposes, and treats its citizens like property. Hope, the protagonist, acts as your gateway into this world and her home -- the facility "Metamorphosis." Hope gets in contact with you via her smartphone. And so starts your mission to guide her past "Prizrak," the state's law enforcers, and out of the facility. You'll be contacted by Cooper, a Prizrak who is now aiding your escape in secret, and you'll be visiting the different locales of the république.
The plot is finely constructed, synthesizing cerebral ideas with a well-realized world. It's a story that understands its influences well and embodies them in fascinating ways. For example, the "Overseer" Treglazov is a memorable villain who explains his rationale and philosophies in intriguing detail. You'll get to hear his oppressive critiques on classic literature he's banned, self-made comparisons to past tyrant leaders in history, and his "republic's" ideals. He elegantly paints a picture of mass surveillance and censorship, darkly mirroring present-day issues. Beyond themes, the narrative is executed well through great voice acting from the whole cast.
Sons of Liberty Fans Rejoice
To take advantage of the lack of privacy, you will take control of the many cameras installed to scan the environment for enemies and lead the protagonist to safety. The format is a bit like Moss in how it's top-down and that you'll control Hope with the analog sticks while moving the camera around by looking. There is no PS Move controller support yet, so this is slightly different from the Oculus version. Although it can be annoying when you have to turn your head so many degrees to reach certain cameras, the controller-headset combo works well.
With this being a stealth game, you'll spend most of your time sneaking past guards. Hope can hide behind interactable objects like statues and plant pots. But for better or worse, the guards are not clever. They have almost no sense of peripheral vision and won't react to noise like the opening and closing of lockers, although they will investigate the sound of your footsteps if you sprint. You have access to a map that always shows you the location of your next objective, which is very useful as levels can become extensive. Thankfully, it never feels like a maze, and you always know what to do. There are also a couple of simple puzzles throughout, which spice things up.
A Hacker's Paradise
Controlling cameras isn't the only thing you can do to tip the scales against the Prizrak. "Omni" is software that allows you to pause the game and manipulate the technology around the environment, similar to Watch Dogs. You can hack into a device and make it emit a sound for a distraction, predict the walking pattern of a guard, and more abilities. More possibilities extend to Hope, as she can temporarily equip weapons such as pepper spray or a taser to incapacitate enemies. What's better is that, if you are captured, Hope will automatically attack if she has a weapon equipped. These have limited usage, so you will have to find them in the environment or pickpocket an unsuspecting Prizrak. By combining your arsenal of weapons with Omni skills, you can make the game a real cakewalk.
One of, if not the best thing about République, is collecting items. Besides the text-based emails, all of the collectibles have a complementing commentary. For example, you could find one of the many hidden "Banned Books," each with an accompanying critique by Treglazov as a reason why he removed it from all libraries. These are excellent audio logs that offer dense lore about the world and insight into the minds of complex characters. Not only that, but the items of interest are great to look at in VR -- you can twist and turn them and move in closer if you want to admire the contours of each model. These collectibles are useful too -- you can archive them for cash, which you can use to purchase more Omni abilities. I've rarely had as much incentive to go after collectibles in a while.
How Was This Ever An IOS Exclusive?
While it was originally a mobile release, République feels like a fully-fledged console game. First off, you get all five episodes, each progressing this thriller with skillful pacing and variety in settings. And this is a remaster, looking much better than the iOS/Android version. But does it hold up as a VR game? Well, mostly. Developer Camouflaj has experience in the PSVR scene, with Iron Man VR being their previous project. They have experience in this field, even if this is a game that wasn't originally for VR. What this game lacks in interactivity, it makes up for in the beauty of its surroundings. You can feel the gloom, decadence, and corruption wherever République takes you.
In this paragraph lies the criticism I'll go over. First off, there is an annoying speedrun timer permanently shown during gameplay if you pick a certain costume that makes you go faster -- you'll have four to choose from at the beginning. Secondly, it is irritating that you can search lockers you have already searched -- I found myself accidentally clicking the wrong locker when trying to hide, which occasionally resulted in my capture. And finally, I think that this "Anniversary Edition" is a slight cash-grab because it is no difference from the remastered version besides the inclusion of developer commentary tapes. These are fine and all, but not enough to warrant a separate game release.
We Shall Meet In The Place Where There Is No Darkness
While it is not incredibly interactive, République VR is a great PSVR title because it immerses you in the story. It will make you feel attached and connected to the protagonist as she looks up to you in desperate help, and the environments look grander than ever. It may not have the most challenging or groundbreaking stealth action, but République VR is a deftly crafted and timely dystopian thriller.
You can buy République VR: Anniversary Edition on PSN here. Be sure to check for "VR" in the title because the non-VR Anniversary Edition is sold separately. There is also a bundle.