Republic: The Revolution

Grand Theft Autocracy plus SimChe.

Republic: The Revolution isn’t easy to categorize. It’s part strategy game, part adventure game, part role-playing game, part wide-open elaborate 3D cityscape, part daytimer management sim. It’s a bit like Syndicate, Chaos Overlords, Red Storm’s unsung Politika, and even the board game Junta. In short, it’s a very strange gaming mix.

10_1Early on, it can be promising. You might, for instance, send a military officer to beat up a priest because the church is contesting your control of the city. You can even watch it in full 3D. The officer is wearing a Gestapo-style uniform. They exchange heated words in Sim-ish language, but with a Slavic touch since this is taking place in the fictional former Soviet republic of Novistrana. A few toughs in bright running suits take up positions around the priest. There’s a shove. Then a punch is thrown. It’s over soon and the priest is laid out flat. This is probably the high point of Republic.

But this little canned interaction of polygonal character models in a lavishly textured polygonal city with polygonal cars driving around is also the low point of Republic. The developers at Elixir Studios have come up with a serviceable 2D strategy/role-playing game in which you manage a team of political activists struggling with other factions to take control of a series of cities. But then they undermine their own design by digging it up and building beneath it an extravagant 3D engine. At best, the engine is an opportunity to watch scenes of priests being beaten up. It’s superfluous, sure, but briefly entertaining until it lapses into repetitive pointlessness.

At worst, the 3D engine is a horrible nuisance, not only for jacking the system requirements sky high (a polygon-intensive labor strike will bring even the most robust system to its knees), but also for being shoehorned into the gameplay to justify its existence. Most of the game is spent managing your characters in real time, watching icons on a 2D map, planning your moves for the next real-time slice. But occasionally, a character’s daytimer will flash to indicate that you’re supposed to click on it. Then you’re then sucked into the 3D engine in front of a dynamically generated cutscene.

Sometimes you have to a play a conversation minigame that’s just poorly disguised math, but most of the time you just have to choose a position on a slider bar. There is rarely any indication of why you should choose one position over any other, and there’s no good reason why you couldn’t have chosen this position when you planned the action in the first place. In the documentation, these are called “Action Tweaks.†In reality, these should have been called “Hey, Look At Our 3D Engine!†Tweaks. Even more gratuitous are elements of the gameplay that involve scouring the 3D world for icons that don’t show up in the 2D interface; this is called, appropriately enough, “Digging Deeper.â€

9_1Republic is further hobbled by a linear storyline that discourages replay. There are scripted events that always happen, including the game’s equivalent of that mission in all first-person shooters when you get captured and all your weapons are taken away. As your characters gain levels, they learn new actions, but nothing happens to change the gameplay. In the first city, you’re struggling with enemy factions to gain control of neighborhoods through canvassing, bribery, and rallies. In the last city, you’re still doing the same thing, but with death squads.

So what starts out as a promising premise for a strategy/role-playing game becomes a dull exercise in queuing up actions for your men and waiting for them to finish. Kudos to the developer for trying to deliver something unique and quite original – they definitely have had some success here – but the game overall fails in its overall direction and execution.

System Requirements: Pentium III 500 MHz, 256 MB RAM, 32 MB Video, Win2000

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