I’ve been getting into mobile gaming a bit more lately, mostly out of laziness. So naturally, I had to play République, oft listed as one of the highest quality games on iOS and Android. And it is...despite some glaring story problems.
I think I’ve figured out most of the big stuff, and have some thoughts about the game in general, so I’m here to dig up this old blog because I have to get these thoughts out somehow or they’ll eat me alive. I’m sure that’s exactly what the developers of this game wanted.
Beware: spoilers abound. And note: it’s entirely possible I got some of this wrong—I’m piecing it all together same as everyone else (and there are almost certainly a few collectibles I missed through the game that clarified certain details). Feel free to correct me in the comments if you think I missed something, and if we can back it up with info from the game, I’ll be sure to change it.
Ready? Let’s do this.
Oh hey, a disembodied voice in subheading form asking questions. Are you the same one that does this on Kotaku?
Oh, okay then. Well I’m here to help anyway. Where should we start?
Well, that’s an awfully broad question. The first 3/5ths of the game probably doesn’t need much explaining, but let’s recap: You are a nameless hacker figure, helping a girl named Hope escape a mysterious facility called Metamorphosis, in which she is held captive by a cult-leader-like figure named Headmaster (or Overseer) Treglazov. In the facility are many children and security offers (called “Prizrack”) who have been indoctrinated by Treglazov’s and his “Manifesto”—-a guide to his ideal totalitarian-like society.
Some people inside Metamorphosis have begun to rebel, including Cooper, a Prizrack officer feeding you information to help Hope escape. Another former Prizrack officer named Zager rebelled and was shot by Treglazov, presumed dead at the start of the game. Zager, in a last-ditch effort to pull together a mutiny, sent doctored versions of the Manifesto to some of the children in Metamorphosis, helping them realize there is more to life in the outside world.
By hacking into security cameras and other equipment, you help Hope find her way out—first by finding her friend the Librarian (who was killed by Treglazov), then by sneaking into the off-limits parts of the facility, and finally, framing certain Prizrack for crimes so that they are taken into the brig, leaving an opening for you to escape to the “surface”. The final moments of episode 3 were some of my favorites in any recent game, with Hope’s realization that she unknowingly framed Cooper, her only true ally on the inside, sentencing him to (probably) death in order to save her own skin.
Yeah, episode four is very confusing, and the game doesn’t really give you enough information to really understand what’s going on, or why the heck Hope is all of a sudden acting like a small child instead of a woke teenager.
Think of episode four like an interlude between the chapters of Hope’s story. In fact, Hope isn’t even in episode four at all. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
In episode four, you lead a Hope-like girl through the facility’s garden in an effort to escape. Most of the episode serves to feed you, the player, more background information on the world of République. Primarily, it explains how Metamorphosis’ scientists have discovered a way to store extremely dense amounts of data in the DNA of human beings. (Let’s ignore the non-believability of the science here and just chalk it up to typical sci-fi stretching.)
Once you learn about the DNA-as-hard-drive stuff, you can probably see where things are going. And if not, it’s explained outright at the beginning of episode five: Metamorphosis is using the children as super-dense data storage, calling them “mirrors”.
At the end of episode four, we also discover that Zager is still alive, and has come back to Metamorphosis (thanks to Mireille’s help) to ruin The Arrival.
Works for me.
Episode four begins with a silly, carefree girl who looks exactly like Hope trying to escape The Garden. At first, it’s easy to think this is Hope, and this is where she ended up after taking the service elevator in chapter three—but if you look closely, you’ll see she no longer has the scars over her eyes, nor is she wearing her collar.
Another interesting tidbit: in OMNI-view, the “Find Hope” button now says “Find 390-H”—at least in the most recent version of the iOS game (but not in earlier versions, strangely).
And lastly, whenever this 390 girl runs into Mammoth, the groundskeeper, it’s pretty clear that he kills her, despite her “respawning” moments later. How is that possible?
Hope is a clone, and each time she respawns, you’re controlling a different clone that hasn’t been killed yet.
Part of Treglazov’s world domination plan (?) is massive amounts of data collection. He has lined himself up to be basically the biggest hoarder of data in the entire world, and everything the US government collects goes through him first. He seems to believe this gives him massive amounts of control and power.
As he reveals at the beginning of episode five, the mirrors are basically his backups of Terminus—all the world’s data, stored inside the DNA of these children. And you know what’s more secure than one backup? Many backups. Hence the name, “mirrors”—these children are mirrors of the data in Terminus (and in each other).
As we learn at the end of episode four, the mirrors are all set to be killed, thanks to Directive 95. But Zager sets a bunch of them free before digging himself up in the garden. So these 390s we see in episode four are not our Hope—they are some of Hope’s clones that were set free by Zager just beforehand.
Pre-Cals are mirrors that, for one reason or another, require “recalibration”—or “reformatting” in hard drive terms. Part of this includes memory loss, which is what leads to this innocent, child-like personality we see in the 390s from episode four.
The Hope we know is a specific 390 clone that requires pre-calibration (so, a “Pre-Cal”) because she read one of the poisoned Manifestos left by Zager.
The Arrival is heralded as this big event in République, but it honestly isn’t that interesting. It’s merely Treglazov’s “coming out” party as a world superpower. The day he announces to the world, “I own all this data, so I own your asses. And this is what my new world order looks like.”
Episode four ends with the last clone getting caught by Treglazov in her escape. He shoots her dead, and picks up the phone you’ve been using to communicate with Hope and the clones.
Episode five brings us back to the Hope we know—scars, collar and all. After finding the elevator in episode three, she was captured by Treglazov (and presumably lost her phone in the garden). Treglazov now has the phone he found on the clone, and we continue Hope’s story to the conclusion. Zager attacks Metamorphosis, and Hope works with Mireille and Zager to change the minds of a few remaining Treglazov loyalists and mutiny. In the end, she overloads Terminus to erase all its data, and takes a big ol’ elevator up to the Earth’s surface with Mireille, Zager, and Cooper to ruin Treglazov’s Arrival boat party.
A lot of people complain about this omission, but I didn’t really have a problem with it. Mireille told Hope that they may not be able to save Cooper, but in the end, I guess they were able to free all the imprisoned Prizrack. What more do you need to know?
Well...that’s where République kind of sours on me a bit.
If you played the game, you probably already know that a lot of this information is stored in little audio clips around the facility as you explore it. The more you listen to, the more background you have on the story. This is fairly common in games, and it was something I criticized in the comments of Eric’s BioShock: Infinite review—I’m generally a believer that a game shouldn’t hide crucial pieces of information in collectibles you may or may not discover. Though République at least made that more of a central part of the game, so I felt more encouraged to do it.
A lot of the really crucial information, though, is in the audio clips you hear at the end of chapter five, during the weird space scene. There are twelve long audio clips in total here—some are about Treglazov and how he built Terminus, and others follow other past 390 clones as they try to live in the world. One, named 390-A (“Anne”) is in an asylum in Norway. Another, named 390-G, is a mother of a young boy in Washington. All of these women have Hope’s voice, and discuss flashbacks to their days at Metamorphosis. Note that these audio clips are not from the future—if you look at the date on some of them, they take place before Hope escapes (in 2020), so they must be “failed” clones or something of the sort that were sent back into society...for some reason.
Anyway, here’s the problem with these audio clips: you, the player, don’t hear all the available audio clips during that scene. You’ll only hear a few, and which ones you hear depends on certain decisions you make in the space scene and (presumably) other parts of the game. So in order to get the full picture of the game’s story, you have to replay the game—or at least that space scene—multiple times. Or you can watch this YouTube video, which someone thankfully put together with all the audio clips in full:
I agree. This is even worse than Bioshock Infinite’s approach to story information. In theory, if you look really hard, you’ll at least be able to find all the necessary information in BS:I. In République, you’re literally forced to re-play the game, which to me is...annoying storytelling. I didn’t get most of the 390 audio clips, so I was left very confused by the end, not even realizing that Hope was a clone until I heard the clip that made that clearer in the YouTube video.
This was clearly intentional by the developers, since they teased the game as having a lot of replay value, and that there are “branching paths that change the course of [episode five]”. This is what they meant by that. I understand that it gets people thinking more than spoon-feeding them the main plot, but I would have at least liked to have all the necessary information to decode it myself—not feel ripped off because I was missing certain facts I needed to piece it all together. I’m sure some disagree, but that’s my opinion.
A lot of people took the developers’ statement about “branching paths” to mean there would be multiple endings, but as far as anyone can tell, there are no other endings—just one ending, where Hope jumps into the ocean. Some people felt betrayed by this for one reason or another—they felt that they were teased multiple endings and didn’t get them, or they felt like their choices didn’t matter (something I’ve written about before). Although to be fair, your choices did affect certain elements of episode five—they just didn’t affect the very end of the epilogue.
I didn’t have a problem with the lack of choice in République, but that’s probably because I didn’t expect multiple endings, and I don’t feel that Hope committing suicide was an “easy” or “lazy” ending. She doesn’t trust anyone, and she knows that everyone wants the data in her DNA for their own selfish reasons, so she takes the only option she really sees as available to her, rather than living under someone else’s control.
In the end, it makes sense—you don’t really play Hope in this game, so your choices do not necessarily affect her actions. The end of the game really drove that home for me, and I thought it did a decent job.
But those audio files...ugh.
I think another part of it is that this game was released in five episodes over a pretty long period of time—so a lot of people probably played one episode, waited months for the next to come out, then played again. This probably led to an even worse sense of continuity. I played them all close together. In fact, I trucked through episode four and five in one day, so I had a lot of it still fresh in my mind. This is a big problem with episodic games, though...and a big benefit to playing games on delay (heh).
Okay, I think the main plot makes sense now. There are still a lot of lingering questions though...like is Hope Treglazov’s daughter, or what?
That is strongly implied, if not outright stated
There are definitely other small questions, but I don’t think they were necessarily supposed to be answered, nor are they really important to the story. (I’m still a bit confused about which part of the game took place where—is Metamorphosis part of that boat we see at the end? Or is it a standalone underwater facility that they pull you out of to the boat?) But at least you should understand the major plot points and how they relate to Hope’s story.
My pleasure. I really do think République is a good game—the end doesn’t deserve quite the hate it got. But I do have issues with this type of storytelling in games, and I do think it could have been done better. But it’s easily one of the highest-quality games on mobile, and it’s still getting a top spot in my How-To Geek list of the best console-like games on iOS and Android. Even if it isn’t perfect.