Citizen Sleeper is a world-rich, diverse sci-fi game that combines visual novel and rpg elements. Play as an escaped android with memories of the person you once were, figure out how to survive and maintain your frame, find a home, and make some friends along the way.
One of 2022’s most acclaimed indies, the Game Awards-nominated Citizen Sleeper is a Tabletop-inspired narrative RPG set on Erlin’s Eye, a ruined space station that is home to thousands of people trying to survive on the edges of an interstellar capitalist society.
You are a sleeper, a digitised human consciousness in an artificial body, owned by a corporation that wants you back. Thrust amongst the unfamiliar and colourful inhabitants of the Eye, you need to build friendships, earn your keep, and navigate the factions of this strange metropolis, if you hope to survive to see the next cycle.
This game is well-made, and clearly made with love, and it does have some great things, but it didn’t hit the right notes for me.
What I Disliked:
The gameplay started to feel like mindless busywork after about 2 hours. Once you understand how it works, it becomes easy to stay fed and stabilized (the two metrics you have to maintain). You end up doing the same things a lot with no new text, just clicking. There are other activities that have new text, but not in the ones you have to constantly repeat.
The text/story was very world-focused. There were all these characters, and I didn’t feel like I was forming meaningful relationships with any of them (except maybe Lem and his daughter, and Peake in the DLC). I flitted from one person to the next, one task they needed me to do to the next, mostly just listening to them explain things about the world or the task I had to do while I chose to either stay quiet or ask for more info. Once their little storyline goal was completed, I usually never saw them again. Even just the ability to visit people and get a bit of new text or dialogue might’ve helped (they do this, minimally, with Lem and Mina, but I didn’t find it with anyone else). The final DLC is a slight exception to this complaint, which I’ll mention below.
There wasn’t much roleplaying. It doesn’t matter what class you choose, aside from the aesthetic, because you can get almost all the skills later. And choices, even failing goals (“drives”) didn’t seem to matter much. You get locked out of some endings if you fail certain things, but otherwise, it seemed the story just continued on as it would’ve anyway. I even went back and tried a different choice or two, when it seemed like it might change the story, but no, exactly the same text and story. Also, the player character didn’t have much personality, and the choices didn’t really let you establish any. The only roleplaying comes from the activities you choose to do, which story paths you go on, where you sleep, etc., but you’ll probably end up doing all of them in one game anyway.
What I Liked:
If you like world-building and backstory, you’ll probably love this. You learn a lot about this space station and its different factions/gangs/communes, how it ended up this way, the governments and corporations, the places different characters came from and what their lives were like. It’s very creative and detailed and clearly had a ton of thought put into it.
There are some thoughtful and well-written endings. (I would’ve felt more from them if I’d felt more connected throughout, but I’m sure they’re impactful for people who do enjoy the whole game more.)
There are three parts to the DLC, and the last part was my favorite part of the whole game and definitely my favorite ending. I feel like I got to spend enough time with Peake to make at least some connection. And I liked that most (though not all) characters from previous storylines/endings did make a brief appearance in the events leading up to the ending or the epilogue. In case anyone wants to know, I used a save file in which I did everything except the Rabiah/Yatagan route. In the final DLC: *SPOILER* Feng helps you and Peake out with your plan to loose the Gardener because he’s staying, but that’s all you see of him. Riko helps with some plants on that one ship that’s leaving, but she stays and delights in all the new plant and fungal growth on the station. Lem and Mina decide to stay, but I don’t recall any mention of them after that. Tala leaves with the rebel ship because she’s hoping to find her brother. She offers to give you the bar. If you do run the bar, Emphis is mentioned cooking there sometimes. The Navigator helps with the plan by directing the Gardener to the places you want them to go. Even the stray cat makes a little appearance in the epilogue, when it mentions that some days after a shift at the bar, you come home and feed them and just watch them. And Peake stays because they’re tired of running from their problems, and the two of you are close and lean on each other for years to come. I could’ve missed it, but I didn’t notice any mention of Moritz. *END SPOILER*
There’s diversity among the characters. Gender, age, race, disability. The player character is never given a gender.
The art and character designs are great.
The whole feel and aesthetic, the 3D space station, the UI, etc. was really nice. Immersive and nicely put together.
The gameplay involves dice rolls and using the outcomes to do activities, some of which are more risky if you don’t use a high number. You have to earn money to keep yourself fed and running. You have to accomplish certain tasks within certain time frames. There are lots of optional tasks.
The way endings work is unusual. This doesn’t follow a single storyline. You just stumble onto routes that lead to endings as you explore, and you may not even realize it until you’re there. Also, only some of the endings actually “end” the game, whereas with others, you just continue on. And ultimately, you may decide the best ending is just to reach a place where the player character is comfortable.
There is no romance. But there are a couple characters you grow close to, and they’re not in other relationships, and nothing in the text stops you from interpreting it as romantic if you so choose. Though some of them leave in certain endings, so you’d have to avoid those. *SPOILER* (I was originally gonna say I might’ve enjoyed this more if they let me romance Peake, but then they sorta did since the DLC ending when you choose to stay is the closest thing to a long-term relationship of any ending, so that was nice. Lem is the other one who you can grow closest to in the game and who stays, as long as you don’t send him off in that one ending with the big ship leaving. Tala could maybe work, if you don’t do the DLC ending. There are others who stick around, but I feel like you hardly spend time with them.) *END SPOILER*
I played for about 12 hours, including the three DLCs. (A bit longer to go back and test some things.) I did basically one playthrough but copied my save file at strategic points in order to see all but one of the endings.* You can also go back to the menu and continue after an ending (either you’ll be back before it happened, or you’ll just continue onward, though I’m not sure if this holds true for the DLC ending since I didn’t test with that one). So it may take longer if you play from the beginning more than once.
*I found my save files under Windows (C:) > Users > my username > AppData > LocalLow > Jump Over the Age. Then I copied the entire “Citizen Sleeper” folder and renamed it so I’d know which save it was. When you put an old copy back into the game folder, make sure you rename it back to just “Citizen Sleeper.”
If this still sounds good to you, go for it! But if you have similar taste to mine and are hoping for a lot from the gameplay or the characters/relationships, check out some more reviews and maybe at least wait for a good sale.
Source/Cost: I purchased this game on sale on Steam for $14.99.
– Repetitive gameplay
– Not really much roleplaying
– Most choices don’t seem to matter
– Story is rich in world-building
– Lack of connection with characters though
– Diverse characters
– Great art and general aesthetic
– Overall, well-made, but more about world than relationships or role playing
(May not include everything)
– No accessibility features for blind / visually impaired players and screen reader users.