What is that? RPG spending on the struggle to survive in a space station city.
Expect to pay: $20/£15
Release date: out now
Developer: Jump over age
Editor: Travel companion
Reviewed on: Windows 10, Ryzen 9 5900X, 32GB RAM, RTX 3080
Link: Official site
Citizen Sleeper is like Blade Runner, but you’re a replicant. A synthetic being who escaped from the corporation that built you, you hide in a space station turned rogue state, home to revolutionaries, refugees, and a gang of pirates. While you worry about whether you will be chased down and shot dramatically in the back, you also worry about your day-to-day survival.
Citizen Sleeper is great for encouraging you to get into a routine. Where in Cyberpunk 2077 I only went to bed if I tried to trigger a side quest, here I experienced a daily cycle that included sleeping, eating, working, and feeding a stray cat. Some of them were mechanically necessary, and some were pure roleplaying.
Each morning your synthflesh body wakes up and a pool of dice are rolled, each of which can be used to perform an action. The higher the number, the better you will do. I could spend a 6 on a job where I help a local mechanic clear a ship’s tangled solar sails, but I haven’t gotten anything higher than a 4, so I’ll probably do a poor job by cleaning up the overgrown section of the greenway where I want to create a mushroom farm.
The lower numbers are not useless, because there is another side of the station. In the data cloud, where your consciousness floats safe from synthmeat that needs to eat and sleep, you hack systems by spending dice – only here it’s about matching numbers rather than dice. to have high ones. I can spend a 1 seeing what this Yatagan gang agent is doing, or I can get out of the data cloud and spend it working a shift at the noodle restaurant, where even if I’m doing a bad job at least I’m going to be allowed to eat some noodles and recover some energy.
So that’s not all Blade Runner. Citizen Sleeper ended up reminding me of Planets, the series about blue-collar workers picking up trash in space. Like Planetes, Citizen Sleeper focuses on ordinary people. Exploring each section of the station introduces new characters, who are depicted in expressive anime portraits superimposed on the station, alongside which text blocks tell their stories with moments of choice and consequence interaction .
Characters include a botanist studying the strange mushroom that grows wild on the station, a bar owner who wants to renovate, a shipyard worker trying to leave the station to find a better life for his daughter, and a mercenary whose “shipmind” has been stolen. You never know who will be worth being friends with. Some might abandon you, waste your time, or betray you. Who do you trust?
Their stories unfold over time. The UI tells you how many cycles until the next chapter starts, so in the meantime you go back to work at the bar or the farm stacks, explore the Rotunda or the Hub, and try not to crash. Thanks to the company that planned your obsolescence, you have a steadily declining condition stat. As you go, you get fewer dice to spend. Like a cell phone or a light bulb, you are not made to last. The stabilizer you need to fulfill your condition is expensive and hard to find.
More pressure is provided by hunters. The company or its freelancers will find you eventually, and every hack you perform gives the beastly AI that patrols the station’s cyberspace another whiff of your scent. Eventually a judgment will come.
As Citizen Sleeper progresses, you improve the operation of its systems and find solutions to these problems. I’ve made money playing a game called tavla at the Tambour Tearoom – like in many RPGs, gambling is the best way to get rich – and I’ve set up my mushroom farm nicely. I even left the shipping container I slept in.
I started to feel like I was breaking the streak of Citizen Sleeper when I found storylines that I was clearly destined to discover earlier, which would assume that I didn’t have certain items or that I didn’t. hadn’t been to some places. Even before this happened, I had a quest to build something before I needed it, stole shipments that never appeared in my inventory, and an Upgrades Available message persisted after I spent all my points of upgrade.
A few typos and punctuation errors mark the text, although the writing itself is excellent. All this focus on the mundane, cleaning and surviving, makes the occasional glimpse of something deep feel powerful – perhaps a poetic description of the data cloud of flowing cyberspace and the impossible entities that live there, or of the endless physical space in which the station revolves, and the little individuals who find hope there.
Citizen Sleeper has multiple endings, some of which allow you to continue playing to find others. By the time I was done I hadn’t seen any burning attack ships on Orion’s shoulder or C-beams glowing in the dark, but I had released an AI from a vending machine , thwarted a few corporate stratagems to gain a foothold in the station, and renovated a bar. I didn’t want to leave and reached the credits three times finding multiple endings in one playthrough.
This is the best recommendation I can give to Citizen Sleeper: it allowed me to build a life that I wanted to continue to live. When I go, who will harvest the mushrooms? Who’s going to feed this stray cat?