Citizen Sleeper

released on May 05, 2022

Roleplaying in the ruins of interplanetary capitalism. Live the life of an escaped worker, washed-up on a lawless station at the edge of an interstellar society. Inspired by the flexibility and freedom of TTRPGs, explore the station, choose your friends, escape your past and change your future.

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Citizen Sleeper is a fairly linear narrative adventure that feels like a sprawling RPG. The developers somehow make you feel like anything is possible in the Eye as you take on odd jobs and try to eke out another day by the skin of your teeth. The quality of writing here is superb, I just wanted more of it.
This is the true best Cyberpunk RPG on the market, and it shouldn't be missed. All I ask for is a proper fail state to keep you stressed about losing, as Citizen Sleeper is content to let you fuck around and make terrible choices with little consequence, which makes it a fairly chill game. This game captures the same feeling as a great book you can't put down with a tight addictive loop, and I highly recommend it.

I was not at all prepared for how this game would grab me. I fired it up on GamePass in the evening, thinking I would try it out for like an hour or so and instead wound up sitting glued to the screen until 3 AM.
This text heavy visual novel-style of RPG is not really my jam traditionally, but I might have to go and check out Disco Elysium after playing through this, seeing as there have been quite a few comparisons between the two.
When I sensed the endgame approaching I desperately wanted the game to not be over. Luckily, even after completing all the major storylines the first chapter of the free DLC had been released, so I got to play through that as well to extend my session with this game. Will check back in October for the second chapter, without a doubt.

Explores dystopian capitalism in a sci-fi setting.

Starting out, I thought the dice system was cool, and the cyberpunk setting was neat. The resource/time management aspects I liked and I thought they could do a lot with those concepts.
But at a certain point, you figure out the gameplay pretty well and then there is no challenge anymore. No struggle for money, no struggle for good dice rolls, no struggle for time. At this point, the game slows down and you are left waiting for side-quests to be available, doing nothing truly important each day. At a certain point, I was trying to figure out how to end the game because I felt like I should be done after becoming this powerful.
One thing that could make this game incredible would be if the writing was amazing. But in reality, it's... just good? The story of the game feels very disconnected. Stuff happens all over the place, but none of it is really related to each other. The game has a bunch of cool story points and choices you make, but they all seem to come out of the blue and seem like they've been forced in there for no real reason. I felt a lack of engagement with the events happening in the game. The whole time I simply did not really care. I didn't care for any of the characters really, (emphis was cool) especially the protagonist.
The main character of this game is intentionally made a blank slate so that you can - I don't know: "forge your own path in this lawless world" or whatever. But I felt no attachment to them at all. I hate to do the obvious and compare this to that other game, but having just played Disco Elysium recently, the disparity in the writing was inherently obvious to me. In that game, I was 100% invested in every character, including the protagonist. In Citizen Sleeper I didn't care what happened. My character felt like the Dragonborn in Skyrim, joining all of these different factions around the whole region, living several lives all at once. Being able to do all of these things at the same time with them not being connected at all or having any consequences was weird. It felt so disjointed and you can't truly get a grasp on the protagonists personality, stuff just happens and you do other stuff to move the game along. Also, it felt like none of my choices mattered. Things move along whether you want them to or not. The writing isn't bad but it just wasn't at a high enough level to enthrall me. I was never fully captivated.
I got 2 different endings and they both felt abrupt and meh. Like the story in the rest of the game, I didn't really care what happened. In the late-game, I felt it was dragging on as I had only like 1 quest going at a time and I just wanted to get it done so I could finish the game. So the pacing was a bit weird too.
I'm just a bit disappointed I guess. The game could've been amazing but it had some issues that just seemed weird to me. And a lot of my issues became much more prominent in the last few hours of gameplay, which sadly had the game leaving a sour taste in my mouth. I'm not sure anymore if I am going to play the DLC episodes. Maybe later I will play those and if they're super good I might update my review.

It makes me sad to see games like Citizen Sleeper because even though I'm aware of the fact that making a game is VERY hard, it just feels like games like these have huge potential still buried. First things first, it has amazing worldbuilding, and I love how cozy (for the lack of a better word) The Eye feels: A space station on the fringes of an interstellar civilization where greedy corporations exploit everything and everyone; born from the failures of that hypercapitalistic society. I found writing to be sometimes confusing or forced (for example when it describes MC's feelings, but we'll get to that), but still very much enjoyed it. However, I think the game has a big identity problem, and it affects everything. So let me say it out loud: THIS GAME IS NOT AN RPG. It isn't a bad thing in itself, of course, I loved the developers' previous game, In Other Waters, and it was a linear adventure with minimalistic gameplay.
The problems I had with CS comes mainly from its structure. It tries to be an RPG by giving you the choice on how to proceed, what to do and how to distribute your skills, with a system of using pre-determined dice rolls to interact with things and fix your decaying cyborg body. Problem is, after you get the hang of this dice system, everything becomes easy to achieve and when you get enough money to sustain yourself (which happens after 1 hour or so), you are able to do anything you want to do, and my biggest problem with the game shows itself: there are no consequences at all. No consequences if you do something, no consequences if you choose to not do something, and it's not just in the actions; it also doesn't matter what you choose in narrative parts either. Most of the time there are 2 choices with one of them being "stay silent" anyway.
Unfortunately, there are also almost no connections between storylines, so the game is more like a collection of short, self-contained and linear stories rather than a game where your choices changes things. Some of these stories are way too short to care about the characters, some of them just begin to unravel and ends. I think my favorite storyline is Lem and Mina's, which is the only one (other than the DLC storyline) that truly feels finished. Endings were also unsatisfying for me, I think there are 3 endings in the game in total, and they all felt abrupt. The ending decisions are also the only true decisions in the game, where you decide if you want to end the game at that point or not. So, it was quite unsatisfying.
In the end, I can't recommend the game if you expect a narrative heavy RPG (yes, like Disco Elysium, there, I said it). However, if you are interested in the setting and the stories it offers, give it a shot, and also definitely check out In Other Waters, I think they did a better, more focused game on that one. Still, I'm eager to see what Jump Over The Age will develop next, I know they have fascinating worlds to tell yet.

I think I understand why Austin Walker keeps talking about clocks now