This week has been kind of slow in general and it was while I was deciding on what to play, that it hit me. Since I’m essentially at the end game of Elden Ring and have been slowly getting back into Destiny 2 and doing work on this month’s video, I’ve tried to find something that wouldn’t be so taxing on my brain in the traditional sense. That’s when I found Sleeper Citizen, a game that was more or less the perfect vibe for the week.
I first found out about Citizen Sleeper through SkillUp’s weekly YouTube roundup show. It looked interesting enough, a narrative-focused, dice rolling centric tabletop Role Playing Game with no combat encounters. And if that sounds like Disco Elysium, then congratulations, you’re a smartypants. Structurally, it reminded me of Disco despite me never playing it but hearing a lot about it, but I think that for as potentially good as that game could be for me, I never touched it because the aesthetic of the game never vibed with me. Citizen Sleeper, on the other hand, does not have this problem.
The main thing that jumped out at me with this game was the art style, character designs, and the User Interface. The main conceit of this game is that you are a Sleeper, a copied human mind inside of an artificial body, who is simply trying to do their best to survive on a decaying space station and find a way to outlast their “planned obsolescence”; this leads to a lot of the technology, characters and locations that you encounter throughout the game to look like they’ve been through some things. Characters dress practically for the work that they do, and all have tiny details that make them stand out, my favourite has to be the scrapper Dragos with his ocular visor acting as a direct link to the spider-like drone on his shoulder.
This also ties into the main strength of the game: its writing. Citizen Sleeper is primarily a test of the player’s reading comprehension skill as it dishes out a ton of words and uses them all very effectively to get the point across. In the few hours I’ve played so far, the cast of characters I’ve met was all interesting in their own ways. The aforementioned Dragos and his scrapping operations ease you into life on the Eye, Sabine, your doctor, helps you not die while also opening up more about how life as a sleeper works, Feng is your contact with finding old data related to the Eye, Emphis is your go-to food guy with a love of both stories and food, and so on. All of these characters I’ve mentioned feel like living, breathing people and that is a great accomplishment in my book because I’m invested in their stories and want to see how things pan out while also pursuing my own character’s quest for true freedom.
The way the game has you interacting with the world is the second most important/interesting thing about it. You primarily read scores of well-written flavour text and character dialogue to get and move the narrative forward and roll dice to perform tasks. Depending on your stability level, you can have up to five dice at a time to use on skill and task rolls. Depending on the dice you have and on whether the task is classified as either risky or safe, you can have a chance of getting either a positive outcome or a negative outcome. This also affects the rewards, is affected by the type of Sleeper you play as (three in total) you and advances clocks that countdown to special events and advance story beats. After a few days (classified as cycles in-universe), you begin to get into a groove of going around the station, doing tasks, and just generally trying to make the best of a shitty situation, and this is before you get access to the station’s cyberspace network and learn more about its history and how it came to be. It’s one of the most unique experiences I’ve seen in a game in a long time and I’m super into it because I usually don’t go for this type of game due to my ADHD giving me the attention span of a caffeinated squirrel.
Citizen Sleeper is a game that’s worth checking out and I’m adding it to the “finish it and consider for the games of 2022” pile. Which currently consists of Elden Ring and…well just Elden Ring so far. And considering how much I like Elden Ring, that is high praise indeed.