Republique: Metamorphosis (iOS [reviewed on an iPhone 5], Mac, PC)
Developer: Camouflaj, Logan
Released: April 30, 2014 (iOS) / PC (TBA)
MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode)
There's no long exposé or lengthy tutorial sequence at the start of Metamorphosis, as it picks up right after the first installment ends. Our protagonist Hope is on the run and searching for answers to the dystopian society she inhabits, and you'll start things off in a typical "locked room puzzle" -- which functions as a way to re-acclimate yourself to the game's controls. If you had your save file erased and are worried about not being able to access Metamorphosis, you can go straight to episode two even without a prior save file.
For those who haven't played it before, you're basically playing the role of a shadowy "helper" type character that can operate the world's various security cameras and bits of technology, and you can only see things from the viewpoint of said cameras. In many ways it's like Metal Gear Solid, just with touch controls (that work well) and a different viewpoint -- but more of an emphasis on stealth since Hope isn't exactly battle-hardened.
Gameplay is relatively the same as before, but I feel like the series is just starting to hit its stride. Episode two takes place in a futuristic library of sorts, and as a whole, the story is more interesting from the get-go, and the locales are brighter and more fun to explore. There's also a new enemy (the ARC Prizrak) that's smarter and tougher, which changes up the gameplay significantly from the relatively weak AI in the first episode.
For starters, Hope can't use stun weapons against these foes and they tend to just wander around random paths rather than set beats, which makes everything more unpredictable in general. It's a nice way to mix things up and keep it fair, as you'll still have to be slowly escorted to a prison when you're caught.
New to Metamorphosis are the prediction and spy powers, which allow you to calculate enemy paths and see through walls, respectively. It's a perfect addition for a second episode, because I really liked how the game handled its currency and power system to begin with. The beauty is that abilities aren't overpowered in the slightest (as they run on a limited battery), and in order to acquire them, you need to find intel to sell it back to the vendor NPC. It encourages you to explore for rewards, which is genius for a stealth adventure game.
If you spring for the Season Pass, you get extra access to some behind-the-scenes commentary tapes by locating the various developer tags across Metamorphosis. These are very well done as you not only get some insight into the game's creation process, but some candid shots of the developers as well as some concept art. The audio logs are also short and to the point, so you'll want to listen to them bit by bit.
I had my doubts about the Republique project as a whole, but it's clear to me now after two episodes that Camouflaj "gets it." The studio is finding a way to improve upon the core tenets of the game while maintaining an episodic format, which many other developers don't tend to do. While I wouldn't recommend that everyone rush out and buy the Season Pass right now, I'm looking forward to seeing what the next episode brings to the table.
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