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Republique's second chapter eased my doubts about stealth gaming on iOS.
Republique's first episode, Exordium, introduced a unique brand of touch-based stealth action when it launched last year. Metamorphosis improves subtly on the stealth mechanics, making for a smoother experience that better allows Republique's narrative and fascinating world to shine.
Metamorphosis starts moments after episode one's dramatic cliffhanger. Once again, I directed main character Hope through Republique's dark world, helping her avoid guards along the way. I controlled cameras with the suite of hacking tools at my disposal, but I never controlled Hope directly. Instead, I tapped on the screen to guide her toward places to hide, doors to open, and other objects to interact with.
Metamorphosis improves subtly on the stealth mechanics
This indirect approach was an annoyance at times in the first chapter, as Hope often ran right into guards that I was guiding her away from — but this never happened in my playthrough of Metamorphosis, which features a better-designed world for Republique's touch-based commands. The new environments are populated by fewer guards, and their movements are better telegraphed. It's a subtle change, but an important one.
These tweaks don't make the experience overly easy. New guard types wear taser-proof vests and move in more unpredictable patterns. I couldn't camp out in a safe spot all day and wait to make my move. Republique forced me to keep moving, which kept things exciting for Metamorphosis' four-hour runtime.
The puzzles in Metamorphosis are also improved, and fit the world expertly. One had me lighting up statues of historic figures while playing cat and mouse with a single roving guard. Another had me searching a museum dedicated to Republique's overseer for clues about his life, so I could guess his password security questions and hack his account. That instance was particularly clever, since it tied into the narrative with details about this key character's backstory.
Much of Metamorphosis' gameplay serves the narrative and and world-building in this fashion. And that story is the best part of Republique.
This world is a fascinating place to be, a dramatic dystopia that comments directly on the "surveillance state" created by large western governments. That narrative was particularly effective when it was told via environmental cues. Posters on the walls — intended for police officers — spoke to a cold, control-obsessed society. Banned books such as 1984, Brave New World and We are littered around the environment, hitting notes that aren't subtle, but they draw strong dystopian associations. I found myself scanning every imaginable object, trying to uncover as many details of Republique's world as I could.
Cutscenes are well-staged — and feature the voice talents of David Hayter, Jennifer Hale and other top-shelf performers — but they sometimes left me wanting more. Republique has hinted at a larger story many times throughout its first two episodes. Metamorphosis elaborated more on that larger story, but I still couldn't manage to invest myself in the characters completely.
The one character who seems like he's most shrouded in mystery is actually the most human and relatable. Cooper is a sympathetic official who helps you hack your way through Republique's world, and he communicates via text and text-to-speech. He serves as both a friend and a guide, and provides all of the levity in the game. As in the first episode, you can pickpocket guards to collect real-life games (a link to each title's app store page is included), which Cooper gives his nerdy opinion on. He's my favorite character in all of Republique, and represents a strong direction for Republique's writing. If future episodes reveal more unique voices like Cooper's, my emotional investment in the characters would be greatly increased.
Metamorphosis refines and improves Republique's approach to stealth and storytelling
Republique's strength lies in its commitment to a central theme. It's a game about surveillance that puts you behind the cameras, and it's clever about the ways it marries its gameplay with its narrative. If the first episode was a proof of concept and preamble, the second highlights the team at Camoflaj's approach and the power of the dystopic world they've built.
Republique: Metamorphosis was reviewed using final retail code provided by Camoflaj. You can read more about Polygon's ethics policy here.About Polygon's Reviews