REVIEW / République Episode 4: God’s Acre (PC)

 

It’s been ten months since Camoflaj delivered the third episode of their Big Brother-esque stealth escape adventure, République. When last we saw Hope, she was on an elevator ride out of the Metamorphosis underground facility, and she stepped out into a completely (well not completely but considerably) different above-ground realm. République Episode 4: God’s Acre takes place in a garden space with a cosy little graveyard and some menacing laboratories. A lot has changed in ten months however, and it’s a little jarring how this episode is so distinct from its predecessors.

 

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Prizrak guards and characters Mireille, Cooper, and Weep are all left below; your only real enemy is the mighty Mammoth. This hulk of a character is possibly one of the most intricately designed we have seen so far in the series. He essentially replaces the entire cohort of guards we’ve previously played against. He is this mysterious garden’s giant groundskeeper with two distinct personalities. Switching between an aggressive colossus of authoritative rage and an innocent, childlike, sometimes apologetic figure. The manipulation of these identities during gameplay makes for an intriguing, if tense, enterprise.

His distinctive features demonstrate an evolution of République that has been slowly building in the previous couple of episodes – a characterization system that relies just as much on the player’s imagination and understanding of the people they encounter as it does on the cues presented within the gameplay itself. It’s a fascinating unraveling of motivations and underlying stories that drives a significant portion of the game.

 

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Surprising, it’s the changes in Hope’s characterization that hurts this episode’s credibility slightly. Through her voice over, her movements, and her commentary on the world around her, it is highly obvious that she has become a lot more childlike in the game’s ten month hiatus. It’s a new and bizarre behavior that jars with the sincerity of the storyline, and even the seriousness of her character in previous episodes. Overall, this random and sudden change in character design disjoints the experience and detracts from its immersion.

Similarly, many aspects of the gameplay have been dropped or altered, and we see new elements that feel significantly more “place-holding” than deliberate. Here I’m talking about bees. Without any clear pattern of movement, swarms of angry bees will envelope Hope when she’s near rose bushes. While this does add a nice little “watch where you tread” dynamic to gameplay, the bees themselves are fairly harmless and are intended more to alert Mammoth to your position. They feel like a half baked stand-in for the guards of the previous episodes and do little to effect real gameplay other than make you cower in a corner for while.

 

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The addition of live action videos to be found within the garden makes for a riveting if slightly sinister feeling extension of the story-telling method. Each one describes for about 30 seconds, the merits of storing data in genetic codes and are used as checkpoints within the game. As is to be expected in this game however, they largely raise more questions than they answer which is forgivable considering this narrative runs on cliffhangers and tantalizing snippets of golden clues.

After upgrading your OMNI Vision over the last few episodes, it’s surprising that it’s nowhere to be found in this episode and in fact the entire interface operates differently. To access memories, the player must position Hope near an object and take a photograph of it on her phone. Overall, however, despite being slightly clunky in its positioning, this feature makes exploration and adventure a much more intricate facet of the game and players can enjoy a more dynamic method of information-gathering.

 

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While the gameplay has come in slightly underwhelming, it’s understandable that a game this late in the series would want to focus on the information being delivered to the player. God’s Acre does this well. With only Mammoth to contend with, Hope can start to focus on the collectibles that litter this garden and that start to provide some juicy details to fill in the storyline. We learn more about the purpose of the research and the very existence of the Metamorphosis facility, and combined with the dialogue provided from Mammoth we can begin to piece together the destinies of Hope and other Pre-Cals (chillingly called “Mirrors” above the surface).

République Episode 4: God’s Acre continues the high quality visual and sound design of its predecessors with commendable voice acting (despite the childishness of Hope) and sharp sound effects. And in terms of story, it provides us with just the right amount of detail while still leaving us characteristically hooked with the ending. Just wait until you get there.

 

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Overall, the standard of design and plot in the penultimate installment of République are on average equal to that of the first three episodes, minus some bizarre character changes and plus some meaty new plot developments. However, the gameplay interface is far removed from that of the previous games; at times it becomes bulky, unnecessary, and lacklustre. It is somewhat redeemed through some new dynamic elements, and the expansive garden paths are much more wieldy than the cramped corridors of the underground.

 

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