When most people refer to democratic nations, they falsely believe that these free world traditions are taken from the ancient Greeks when in fact, all democracies these days, save the tiniest ones, are representative democracies. Even the United States works on this concept - and so does the largest democracy in India. You and I never go vote and legislate issues, we elect people to do it for us - to represent us. Unfortunately, there lies the root problem of injustice in 'democratic' societies.
In the game Republic: The Revolution, we're looking at Novistrana, a fictitious independent republic that has sprung from the ashes of the Soviet Union. The citizens have elected President Karasov to lead their nation and Karasov is demonstration of the Byron axiom that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Once he seizes power, he has no plans to relinquish it. I guess there wasn't enough support for a recall vote in Novistrana.
You play the role of the protagonist, a young man who has had his family taken away from him during the Karasov regime. Republic begins the game by posing a series of moral questions. Given a certain situation, what would you do? And from these answers, you build the competencies and traits of your character. Are you a demagogue who can ignite the masses around you? Or are you a security strongman, a Stalin in the waiting? These questions will ultimately dictate how you approach toppling Karasov and of course, what kind of government you will forge to replace it.
You begin your revolutionary activities in Ekaterine, which serves as the tutorial mission of the game. It's actually a series of missions strung together to emphasize aspects of the game. Depending on what character you selected, you are affiliated with one of the following categories: Force, Influence and Wealth. Each of your political actions will tap one of these currencies. Wealth would involve running marketing campaigns, like putting up posters. Influence would involve people-related things, like stirring up a rally. In turn, these currencies are fueled by popular support in the various districts spread out across the city. So if you find you and your various revolutionary cohorts all Wealth influenced, you better secure those bourgeois districts so you have the cash to carry out your campaigning.
In practice, you will probably want to assemble a team that is balanced. It really doesn't pay to focus all on Force, for example, because you'll find yourself scrapping for a near 100% support amongst the blue collar union crowd. Since Republic will, from time to time, assign different objectives (get 80% support in five districts for example), you will want to afford some flexibility. That's not to say you can't have a bunch of thugs running the show, but it is the more difficult road to travel.
To assemble any team, you have to pick your lieutenants yourself. This involves finding potential members and wooing them in a game of paper rocks and scissors. In Republic, these will be numbers and you have to arrange it so that on each topic, your number is greater than your opponent's.
Any member on your team is capable of improvement too. Repeatedly canvassing, for example, will increase experience to the point where they can gain access to better actions. Usually, this means more dramatic and violent. When you move from one city to another, you'll be forced to keep a skeleton staff to keep everything going in the previous stage. But this allots the opportunity to recruit and train different people who will provide a variety of offensive/defensive actions.
While you yourself will also improve, you can't do everything alone. Each day in Novistrana is divided into three periods from morning to night. All of your members will require one period for sleep but you can adjust their sleep schedule so as to keep your revolution going at all times. Curiously, the protagonist is able to work all three periods without sleep - I guess that's what they mean by sheer willpower. The scheduling is automatically queued up but you can adjust it by prioritizing them. For example, when heading towards a hostile region of the city, you might want to commit some devious acts to soften up the competition's support, frame them even before running your usual door to door canvas. The results will be that much more effective.
The sad thing about all this is the lack of documentation and an effective training guide to teach you these tricks. Republic does a poor job of instructing anything beyond the basic rudiments. One of the earlier missions tasked the player to literally take over the home base of another faction by sapping their support. There were no neutral or undecided voters there so my repeated canvassing netted no effect. Because I had no Force characters, I basically had no offensive strategy to subvert the opposition party and free up the mind of the voters to become neutral. But Republic doesn't tell you any of this. It just reports to you that there has been no effect. I nearly sacked my top canvasser simply because I thought his lines were getting repetitively stale.
One of the fresh features Republic offers is a 3D engine to model everything from the city buildings right down to the individual citizens. There is a way to poll individual citizens, much like SimCity. Republic's cityscape is less detailed than the Maxis titles but the citizens are capable of a variety of actions. Indeed, the very first time I was allowed to do a debt collection, I put a marker on the task just so I could watch it. That was great but the second time out, it was exactly the same and I stopped watching most of the 3D action. From time to time, you'll be asked by Republic to look at the 3D map to hunt for an item on screen. However, to be really effective, I spent most of my time strategizing on the 2D map. You can do everything from here -- and faster too. The map presents icons of all the agents in play plus statistics for each region; how much support do you have, what suspected agents are housed here, so on and so forth. It kept the political campaigns and activities right at my fingertips. At the same time, it relegated the 3D to the background.
Perhaps a more profound problem with Republic is the disconnect between you and the citizens. If it weren't for the in-game cinematic sequences, I probably wouldn't have cared what the average joe thought about Novistrana. Aside from the obligatory appearances to the public in the cinematic sequences, you could easily use your lieutenants and become an armchair politician. This makes the 3D engine, despite all the effort by the developers, less significant to the overall game.
As a strategy title, Republic is a pretty intriguing concept. I liked the way it mixed up the different characters, actions and the division between Force, Influence and Wealth. I did not, however, find the strategy to be very deep. Basically, as Republic progresses, you'll simply get access to more expensive actions that have a greater effect on the populace. However, the objectives always remain the same and I wish the storyline was more creative. All that the missions involve are disabling some opposing agents, crushing the opposition, jail breaks even but everything just boils down to getting support in the important areas to enable those actions.
Politics, after all, is a dirty business, and Republic gives you ample opportunity to prove that, but it is all very symbolic and figurative. It's definitely not an action game, in spite of the 3D setting. Unlike Rockstar's State of Emergency, the violence here is tame. You'll never get to the point where you'll be able to unleash unfettered urban chaos. Combined with a steep learning curve and a quirky interface, the combination alone will drive many away, but Republic has some good fundamentals and an intriguing concept. Definitely a diamond in the rough.