Citizen Sleeper is a narrative RPG where you live the life of an escaped worker on a lawless station at the edge of interstellar space. This is a game inspired by table-top RPGs where you can explore the station, choose your friends, escape your past and change the future.
You are a Sleeper, a digital mind inside an artificial body, owned by a corporation, and they want their body back. It’s down to you to build friendships, earn your way and navigate the factions of the strange space station called Erlin’s Eye. Citizen Sleeper will have you on edge; you have a corporation trying to hunt you down, but you also have the day to day perils of the other factions too.
Citizen Sleeper is all about finding a decent routine. There’s a built-in cycle to the game of sleep, eating, working and other pastime activities like feeding your cat. Every morning you wake up and some dice are rolled, and for each, you can perform an action.
The higher the dice roll, the better you are going to do. For example, you can spend a 5 helping out someone on the ship fix a problem they have, or you could use a 4 to do an average job of helping someone clear away some garbage. Lower numbers are surprisingly useful too. Rather than spend numbers to do jobs and tasks, you can use these in the data cloud where your consciousness can roam free of your body, and you can match numbers to perform tasks. For example, match a 2 to spy on a gang, or you can escape the data cloud and spend the roll working a shift at a local bar.
Citizen Sleeper is about regular, everyday stories and lives and the space station is filled with interesting characters and stories. There’s a bar owner who wants to renovate, a shipyard worker trying to get off the station to find a better life for his daughter, and a botanist who’s into growing a strange fungus. The stories themselves are interesting, but it’s worth befriending as many people as possible as you never know what you are going to get. Some will reward you, some will leave you and some will betray you.
Stories in the game open up over time and the UI is clean and smart and gives you all the pointers you need before the next chapter begins. If you have some time to kill then you can always do a few shifts at the bar, explore the station, and try not to go mad. The corporation that created you managed to implant a mechanism whereby you’ll slowly degrade over time. As this condition gets worse, you’ll have fewer dice to roll.
Together with this slowly decaying feature added by your owners, you also have Hunters to look out for. The corporation isn’t just waiting for you to die, they are also hunting you down with freelancers looking to knock you out and bring you back to where they think you belong. They are pretty much impossible to avoid, however much you try to avoid them, they’ll get you in the end.
The more you play the better you’ll get at making the most of the systems the game gives you. You can make money by playing mini-games, you can then use this money to gable for get rich quick, plus you can set up your own little farms and you may even move to a better apartment.
For the most part, Citizen Sleeper is an enjoyable RPG. There are a few odd little bugs where you can access quests before you are supposed to, plus a few typos here and there when it comes to the narrative. On the whole, the writing is excellent. This is a story about real lives and the people that live them. All the slow build, coupled with the freelance Hunters out to get you, and your slow impending death, makes for a compelling story.
Citizen Sleeper has multiple endings based on the choices you make throughout your playthrough. It’s a game full of little stories, full of detail, and it might have some of the best writing in games in 2022. Narrative adventures appear to be making a comeback in 2022, and Citizen Sleeper is definitely up there among the better of them.
Developer: Jump Over the Age
Publisher: Fellow Traveller
Platforms: PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, (Reviewed on PC)
Release date: May 5th, 2022