E3 2002Republic: The Revolution impressions

We saw the latest build of Elixir Studios' ambitious 3D strategy game set in the former Soviet Union. Check out our new screens, movies, and impressions.


Republic: The Revolution has been in the works for a while. That's no surprise considering the game's ambitious design. Set in Novistrana, a fictitious nation trying to survive in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, Republic: The Revolution will challenge you to rise to power and lead the nation out of strife. The means you can use to accomplish this goal will be entirely up to you. You may choose to align yourself with the church, the mafia, the military, and more. Or you may seek political or economic victory. The game uses a proprietary 3D engine to render an entire 3D city filled with traffic and civilians. There's a lot of detail in the visuals--the closer you get to something, the more detail you'll notice.

Over the past year, Elixir has refined and streamlined the design of Republic to give the player a much more clear-cut sense of purpose, both at the outset and also throughout the game. Now, Novistrana isn't just a Soviet nation looking for an identity--it's essentially a police state, ruled with an iron fist by a cruel leader. You begin as just another one of this Orwellian nation's unhappy citizens, only you have more clout and more ambition than most of the rest, and so you decide to topple its ruler and take his place.

As a political entity in Novistrana, you know that you cannot succeed without allies. So the object of the game is to recruit new allies into your inner circle and then use them to perform various actions--things like giving public speeches from soapboxes and attending charity gala events to improve your image, and things like intimidating certain individuals or even assassinating them. Actions play out in real time between 3D characters reminiscent of those in The Sims, and you can have up to nine simultaneous actions pending and can jump between them easily. During these nicely animated exchanges, you can tweak the results one way or the other to influence the outcome. For instance, if you start a boxing fight club to rile up the populace, you can influence whether the club will be friendly or more violent.

There's an objectives system in the game that keeps your actions focused. Elixir demonstrated a sequence where the player, in an effort to gain more prestige within the city, decided to make a martyr for his cause. The first order of business was to coerce a journalist into subservience--a bunch of armed thugs, trained from a fight club, made the man join the cause. Next, a particularly spirited individual was selected to be the martyr--a young, zealous student. He was then ordered to stand in protest of Novistrana's military regime. We saw him standing in the way of a military tank on patrol. The tank kept pushing him forward, but then the man was ordered to stand his ground. He was crushed under the tank's treads--and the journalist was available to report on the issue.

The game consists of layers of objectives. At any point, you have five different objectives available, and you must complete three of them to proceed to the next layer. Depending on which objectives you complete, or even how you complete them, your next layer may be different to reflect the sort of individual you're becoming.

Another new area of Republic that's been revealed is the recruitment process. This is a very hands-on process that actually plays out similarly to something like Magic: The Gathering, using color-coded, iconic symbols. There's a five-tiered rock-paper-scissors system in place that represents possible dialogue options. Characters can debate using various techniques: guile, knowledge, intellect, presence, and resistance. Each character is rated differently in these categories, so certain types of recruit actions are more influential against certain characters than others. We didn't actually see a recruitment exchange in the works, though the system behind it sounds interesting.

We could describe a number of other aspects of Republic in just that fashion--the design is sweeping and ambitious, and there's a lot to be said about the game, but there appears to be a lot left for the developers to do. For instance, even though Republic has been in development for years, the 3D engine is still looking a bit rough around the edges. The frame rate of the demo we saw running ranged from slow to very slow. Elixir notes that optimizing the code is still one of the key issues left, along with adding in key content, but states that the game is just six months away and should ship around Christmastime. Stay tuned for more information on this promising game in the weeks to come.

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