Hope is still alive — and if you didn’t want any spoilers, you should go play the first episode of République before reading the rest of this review. The second installment is titled Metamorphosis, a word that has multiple meanings within Camouflaj’s story-driven stealth and puzzle-solving epic. Happily, it doesn’t mean the game is changing into something lesser, just building on a great first chapter by adding on a few new layers to both story and gameplay.
Metamorphosis picks up right where Exordium left off, and in some ways, right where it started as well. Hope is trapped somewhere she’d rather not be, and to keep her safe, it’s going to take a mastery of hacking into the network of surveillance cameras and computer systems in her environment. A default profile can be used to skip right to this chapter if so desired, but playing through its predecessor helps in understanding the core mechanics and is virtually mandatory for making sense of the plot.
Unraveling the story piece by piece is once again a big part of the game’s appeal, but suffice it to say that books are a big theme. The mysterious Headmaster (also known as the Overseer or by his real name, Treglazov) is desperate to keep the ideas they contain out of the minds of the younger members of his society, and Hope is searching for a seemingly benign figure called the Librarian. There’s even a bit of philosophical discussion about the importance of books as physical artifacts, a timely topic given that books are disappearing even from college libraries.
The stealth aspects are much the same, but the Prizrak guards have received some additional training. Many patrol in more unpredictable patterns, mixing things up to cause Hope greater panic. A few even have taser-proof suits, depriving Hope of her one truly dependable weapon. As before, Hope usually goes where you direct her to go, though the few times the controls or camera angles betray you are almost guaranteed to be inconvenient ones.
Your capabilities can be enhanced to even the odds by seeing through walls or predicting where the Prizrak will head next, but only if you can find enough recordings, emails and other data to trade for them. The lesson, as always: scan everything, and leave no stone unturned. The graphics appear to have been buffed up a bit, and the UI looks a little cleaner.
Camouflaj balanced some tricky new puzzles by introducing a 3D map — which is a godsend as long as you can mentally compensate for the change in perspective that occurs each time you call it up — and by having your online friend Cooper drop hints that are just sufficient enough to point you in the right direction without giving anything away. You’ll rarely feel like you don’t know where to go next, though the difficulty is high enough that you might not be able to pull off what you want to accomplish without failing a few times first.
Twists and turns in the storyline generally play out in cutscenes that feature more outstanding work by a voice cast that returns David Hayter, Jennifer Hale and Khary Payton, among others. Those are in addition to all of the dialogue that plays out whenever you find a newspaper or voice recording, and while this remains a dense game in terms of the sheer size of the script, none of it feels extraneous. Metamorphosis is a world you want to learn more about, and the best way to do that is to listen.
Does Hope make it out, or at least find some sympathetic characters to team with? That would be telling, especially with three more episodes still to come. The only reason to not be on-board with all of them is that there’s a price to pay for each new chapter, though even that can be mitigated by shelling out for the season pass, granting you access to all of the new content when it releases and a series of developer commentaries.
Not many video games, let alone mobile games, are challenging, thought-provoking and dripping with high production values, but République manages to pull off that hat trick again. Paranoia and isolation have rarely been this fun, and probably won’t be again until Camouflaj releases the game’s next installment — hopefully sooner rather than later.