Citizen Sleeper is an incredibly narrative-driven RPG resource manager where you try to survive in the dystopian ruins of interplanetary capitalism. It’s tense, it’s beautiful, it’s somber. What else could you want?
Weigh up your consequences as you fight against a deteriorating body, and make sacrifices that could change day-to-day life as you know it. But stay quiet, as you never know who or what the next chance might affect.
On the surface, this title offers a lot to the player from the get-go. Which initially may seem like an overwhelming amount of information. You take on the role of a synthetic cyborg person, called a sleeper, who is one of the thousands of people fighting to survive an almost-apocalyptic world. You’ve escaped your regular lifestyle of working for a megacorporation that coincidentally created the body you inhabit. So with your great escape comes excellent consequence.
A sequence of storylines
However, the story isn’t as simple as merely escaping. Citizen Sleeper weaves several deep plots to explain what lies within the space station you now call home. As I’ve mentioned, you aren’t the only person fighting for your life. The plot really makes it a game you have to sink your teeth into. Although the mechanics of the game feel simple, the narrative, which is the title’s most significant selling point, keeps you coming back time and time again.
Though this approach to storyline may be incredibly overwhelming for a handful of players like me. Luckily, if you’re like me and struggle to keep up with several branches of story-led games, you don’t have to follow every single storyline the game presents to you. There’s no pressure whatsoever to follow storylines you’re disinterested with. It won’t negatively impact your gameplay – and allows you to focus on the stories you enjoy.
A slave to capitalism
Your body is owned by the company that you’re trying to escape from. In turn, you’re running from the enemies that have been sent to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. Unfortunately, however, your body is deteriorating, with the only cure being a supplement made exclusively by the megacorporation. I found that this heavy reliance on the thing you’re in the process of fleeing from made the story and entire experience so incredibly tense. Although it seems like a lax supply management game, Citizen Sleeper can have you on the edge of your seat on multiple occasions.
A new take on the day/night cycle
This title doesn’t rely so much on the gameplay factor as it does on your engagement with the characters. Your days are tracked by ‘cycles’, in which you are responsible for consistently managing the few resources you have left. Every time you sleep and end a cycle, your body deteriorates a little bit further. And you slowly begin to starve due to your lack of supplies.
During cycles, Citizen Sleeper offers you a variety of activities to complete to keep day-to-day life slightly more exhilarating than just awaiting your death. But with each new cycle, you have to complete several dice rolls to then spend towards your next activity in the station. As you deteriorate, you get few and few dice rolls per cycle. I loved this feature. It was a tangible loss of energy rather than a depleting stamina bar or anything of that style. You have to select where you use the remaining energy of your body wisely since you won’t last forever. You also have to make life or death decisions as you deteriorate. It gets to a point where you will do anything to ensure you don’t go another day without food. Even if it means sacrificing a friend.
The sound (and art) of space
Citizen Sleeper is a visually breathtaking game, which is what you need from a title so heavily dependent on its characters. The art style gives the game some real-life behind its heavy stories and also provides the player with a visual knowledge of the character they’re playing. I find it incredibly hard to engage with a heavily story-led narrative without knowing who it is I’m playing as. Citizen Sleeper undoubtedly soothed those concerns.
Accompanying your grand escape is an epic synth-wave soundtrack that is equal parts somber as it is surprising. This soundtrack also adds to the tension the chase between your ex-employer and yourself engages in. It all comes together to create a phenomenal take on a dystopian future.
As a whole, Citizen Sleeper is a fantastic RPG management game that involves a heavy dystopian tone of a derelict future. If this sounds like something you love, and if you’re a fan of games like In Other Waters and Disco Elysium then this may be for you. I’d recommend it to anyone searching for the next space-based adventure, especially since it only takes about five hours to fight your way through.