Citizen Sleeper Review

Gaming
8

Great

Citizen Sleeper

Developer: Jump over the Age
Publisher: Fellow Traveller
Platform: Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: 5 May 2022
Price:  $19.99 USD/$28.95 AUD– Available Here

Video Review

Overview

Citizen Sleeper is a story-focused RPG seeking to replicate the narrative freedom of tabletop titles. Players take on the role of a Sleeper, an artificial human who now must learn to survive while on the run from the corporate overlords. To gain their freedom, players will need to find allies among the inhabitants of Erlin’s Eye all while grinding away at whatever work the player can find to feed their most basic needs for survival.

Story

Citizen Sleeper is a well written game. The game is not very long as a full run clocks in at three to five hours. Yet the writers crafted reasonably well fleshed out world filled with a colourful cast of characters in such a short time. The writers make effective use of their limited space by taking a cast of standard sci-fi characters, like the battle-hardened mercenary and the back-alley doctor, and giving them their own motivations and drives so the interaction with the player feels more like a mutual transaction versus someone being dragged along for a ride.

I like the variety of quests the game has to offer. They range from epic manhunts to humble life stories being traded at the local food stall. The variety gives Citizen Sleeper a more believable feel to both the game and Erlin’s Eye as a location.

The replayability is decent. If players learn how to play the game efficiently, then there is enough story content for players to experience all the side quests and the endings from two playthroughs of the game. There are multiple endings stemming from three different paths and multiple endings in a run can be done if they are chosen in the right order before reloading the save.

Gameplay

Citizen Sleeper is inspired by tabletop roleplaying games. The mechanics revolve around energy and dice management. Every action in the game costs dice, credits, or an item. The Sleeper’s condition determines the number of dice available per cycle, while energy serves as a secondary action limit. Dice actions can result in positive, neutral, or negative consequences resulting in the loss or gain of story progression, credits, items, energy points, or condition points. The chance of each type of consequence is based on stat bonuses and the dice used to pay for the action. Each cycle costs condition and energy points. Quests are time limited. Players are heavily incentivized to minimize risk and maximize the number of dice available per cycle because some quest progression or failure conditions occur after a set number of cycles have passed.

The Sleeper has five stats, one for each type of action. Each stat type has two skills and bonus stats that can be purchased with upgrade points earned as the game progresses. The balance is okay, but far from perfect. The Engineer and Interface skills are incredibly powerful, and I found having both maxed out made survival laughably easy by end game. Intuit’s final skill to reroll dice once per day was handy, but Endure’s final skill needs to be buffed significantly to bring it in line with the rest of the skills. That Endure skill guarantees Sleepers a minimum of two dice per day, but the game’s time pressures means players should be operating at or near the maximum of five dice if they plan on getting through most of the content during the run.

The pacing of the game is very good until end game. The developers hit the right balance between time pressure, resource scarcity, and progression activities in the early to mid game. Once the resource scarcity and time pressure almost disappear at end game, I found myself trying to rush through to the ending as quickly as possible as the challenge faded and things started to drag.

Citizen Sleeper is a polished game but could benefit from a lot of minor quality of life features. Travelling between different sections of Erlin’s Eye could have been cut down to one click once the area is unlocked. The change would speed up navigation and smooth out the pacing a little. Listing the dice required for hacking nodes on the tool tip would have been helpful as players right now have to click the node to determine what input is required. It isn’t an issue for agent nodes that always ask for the same value, but the story-based nodes can ask for a value of four, five, or six.

Visuals

The game’s visual style is eye catching. The game combines gorgeous 2D character portraits with a simple yet effective 3D environment. The colour palette is perfect for the game world as it mixes dark earth tones with bright yellows and pink accents.  

Audio

The audio experience is solid. The simple sound effects work well. The soundtrack is enchanting and relaxing. It fits the sci-fi setting beautifully and is perfect for the text heavy nature of the game. It hits the right emotional tones without getting too intense or distracting.

Overall

Citizen Sleeper is a very good narrative heavy game that is just about the right length. The world is rich, and the story is enjoyable. The gameplay loop, pacing, and balance is solid. It only starts to come apart at the seams at the very end of the game. The audio/visual experience is pleasant and delivers the game in a clean, slick package. Citizen Sleeper is absolutely worth a look for fans of RPGs and visual novels who want to try something a little off the beaten path.

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.

Summary

While the game mechanics starts to lose its pacing at the very end, Citizen Sleeper offers a great story rich experience for fans of narrative heavy games and the sci-fi genre.
8

Great

Jamie is the Managing Editor at Capsule Computers and has covered video games and technology for over a decade. When not playing or writing about video games, he can be found studying law or nerding out on fountain pens and stationery.

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