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Republic The Revolution PC CD-ROM

Published by Eidos Interactive
Developed by Elixir Studios
Released - Out Now
Price : £29.99

Whilst it is usual for games to be 'highly anticipated' they're usually sequels of classic games and you already have a fair idea of what these games are going to offer. Republic The Revolution, of course, is not a sequel, yet it has been for a long time now a 'highly anticipated' title. The reason for this is the brains behind the project, a certain Demis Hassabis, who was one of the key figures behind the legendary Theme Park game many years ago. Ever since details were leaked on Republic, a few years ago now, almost every gamer has wanted to get there hands on the title despite not knowing what Republic was really all about.

Essentially Republic is a strategy game, with RPG elements, that is soaked in political intrigue. The game is based in the fictitious state of Novistrana. The story goes that you witnessed the arrest of your parents by the secret police. Your parents were never seen again. The man responsible for their arrest and subsequent disappearance was Vasily Karasov. Over the years you have watched Karasov for the opportunity to avenge your parents. As communism collapses Karasov begins a magnificent rise that eventually sees him become the President. Karasov hasn't changed though and even as he builds a palace for himself, the poor of Novistrana become poorer and the gulf between the wealthy and the poor grows ever wider. It soon becomes clear that Karasov doesn't care about the people of Novistrana and he has become a tyrannical dictator. Before long political rivals are outlawed and done away with. It's time for someone to stand up to Karasov and depose him. That someone is you.

The game is very open and non-linear. When you begin the game you'll have to answer 10 questions (the final question let's you choose 1 of 4 difficulty levels) that will not only shape your personality but will also decide your starting ideology. Your character's attributes are status, control, charisma, presence and resolve. As you progress through the game your character will improve and you'll be given the opportunity to increase your attributes as you see fit like in a RPG. After you've answered the questions and picked a party logo you're ready to start. The game, as we've already said, lets you do what you want but to begin with there are some goals to achieve. You'll have to find a right hand man and win enough support for instance. These objectives help to give you some sense of direction to begin with.

The gameplay is in real-time but if feels like it should have been turn-based. Each day is divided into day and night and to put it very basically you simply select the actions you want carried out, by either your own character or your henchmen, and watch the ramifications unfold in the way of cutscenes. The gameplay can feel a little uninvolving at times, particularly in the beginning, as a result of this 'give orders and sit back' method. In all fairness though you can use the Rooftop view to go and question people and witness surrounding events whilst you're waiting. You can also increase the game speed if you're impatient but this isn't recommended until you're finally comfortable with the game. Some actions are more involving though. The conversations use a kind of minigame, that requires you to allocate points in a series of rounds, which is actually one of the more straightforward parts of the game.

You have to consider that fact that you're not the only one who is trying to create a political opposition to Karasov and part of the enjoyment of the game is trying to out do and scupper the plans of your political rivals. As you increase in your abilities your character will have more actions that he can perform. Initially he'll only have basic ones such as headhunt and scout but depending on his personality he'll acquire actions such as assault, flatter, hitman etc. Each action costs resources though so you'll have to keep an eye on the amount you're spending.

If Republic has one glaring fault it's that it doesn't attempt to shoe horn the newbie into the game. The learning curve is steep, very steep, and it needs masses of dedication to proceed with the game. Effectively the game has no tutorial. Occasionally, if you tick the box that asks if it's your first game when setting up a new game, you will get information screens that have arrows pointing to interface buttons etc. and explain what is what. However this is a terrible way to do it and will turn off more gamers than it actually helps. An interactive tutorial is desperately called for to introduce you to this unusual game. The manual doesn't help much either as it explains game concepts in isolation rather than concentrating on helping you put it all together.

If you've looked at any of the screenshots of Republic during the course of its development you'll have been impressed with the look of the game. The state of Novistrana certainly looks impressive but you're going to need a monster of a PC if you don't want the whole thing to lag and suffer slowdowns. Whilst in the Rooftop (3D) view you'll see day and night cycles and the weather will change too. The 3D is impressive but the importance of the 3D view is not as great as you would hope. The satellite view is without a doubt the most important one as it's from here you'll do all your planning. The 2D overhead (satellite view) map doesn't look half so impressive but thankfully (for those of us with lesser PCs anyway) it is almost possible to play the game from just this view. You can also activate a third view (kind of a head height view) that helps you to see the surroundings from a civilians point of view.

Republic is fine for deaf gamers, and all the information is shown in text, but there are some annoyances. In the game there are plenty of cutscenes that show you the results of all the planned actions that you have made. These cutscenes don't contain real speech and instead employ a Russian accented gobbledygook. There aren't any subtitles for this either. Should you choose to question some of the citizens that walk the streets then the feedback you'll receive is shown in text. One of my biggest problems with the game is that whenever you are reading some information, or are about to improve your characters stats, the game does not pause. It gets a little irritating when you are trying to read something and the screen will change to inform you that it's a different day, or time of day.

Republic should have been a classic political strategy game. If you look at all its ingredients it looks like one hell of a game. However the gameplay is hampered by an immense learning curve and provides very little guidance to help you adjust to it. Invest 10 hours or so in the game and you'll begin to appreciate the depth and scope and realise how close this game is to being great. Personally I can't see many gamers being interested in spending so much effort into learning the game though and what should have been an essential game for everyone will in fact become a niche title that appeals only to the hardcore strategists out there.

Overall Game Rating: 7.9/10
Republic is an impressive title from Elixir but it's about as warm and inviting as Siberia. A proper tutorial is desperately needed.

Deaf Gamers comment:
No real problems but the game should have paused when information screens appear.