Reviews - Updated on May 11, 2022

Relevant for the platform: XBOXSX

Many games from independent developers try, first of all, to show, not to tell – they may not have text at all, but indecently much attention is paid to the “visual”. Citizen Sleeper is arranged differently – there are mountains of text here, and it is written so amazingly that there would be no point in looking at what was described. It’s like a game of “table” with the leader, who consumes a ton of all kinds of literature around the clock and colorfully retells what is happening to the party participants.

interactive book

In my reviews, I have repeatedly mentioned In Other Waters, a very sketchy and minimalist, but bright and memorable adventure about a scuba diver. Its creator Gareth Damian Martin, two years later, decided to move away from underwater exploration and turned to science fiction. The project this time is noticeably more ambitious – at least there are many times more characters here.

Reading texts in Citizen Sleeper is a pleasure if you know English well. “The amber light of aging lamps floods everything with a pale orange light.” “Plasma flashes outline his slim figure as he returns to work.” Dialogues are not limited to two or three phrases, but each would fit on the page of a book. And in the descriptions, they always talk in detail about the environment or the behavior of the characters. When you start reading them, after the second “paragraph” you immerse yourself in the atmosphere and draw pictures in your head.

As with In Other Waters, knowledge of English is a must.

As with In Other Waters, knowledge of English is a must.

That’s why the characters sink into the soul. Old man Dragos, saving such poor fellows as the main character. Boy-woman Ankita, solving difficult problems. Hard worker Lem and his daughter Mina, whose story is not as simple as it seems at first. Feng, who loves to get to the bottom of things. By the end of the game, when it’s time to part with everyone, I really don’t want the story to end.

No time to sleep

We play as a sleeper – this is how shells in this universe are called, into which copies of human consciousness have been implanted. The original body of the protagonist was bought by the corporation for a lot of money, but the one sleeping from this is neither cold nor hot – he has human feelings, but not memories. Therefore, it is logical that some sleepers try to escape before they are finally turned into slaves. And the corporation opens the hunt for them.

The player is often offered a choice - the ending depends on the actions.  Many possible endings will be shown after the first playthrough.

The player is often offered a choice – the ending depends on the actions. Many possible endings will be shown after the first playthrough.

The premise of Citizen Sleeper isn’t the most original, but it’s interesting enough to grab the player’s attention. Even when you see sci-fi clichés like evil corporations or critiques of capitalism, the brilliantly written dialogue keeps the action entertaining. For example, a hunter who comes to pick up a hero becomes one of the most memorable heroes.

The developer did not change himself and made the interface as simple as in In Other Waters. The space station where the protagonist arrives is a three-dimensional model that we look at from above. Interaction with individual points allows you to get closer to some area: someone’s house, eatery, bar or dock, where merchant ships fly up from time to time.

Navigation is not the most convenient, but tolerable - you get used to it quickly.

Navigation is not the most convenient, but tolerable – you get used to it quickly.

We see characters only in static images, which rarely change, but are well drawn. Yes, and the soundtrack is beautiful: it is not intrusive at all, it turns on only from time to time and is truly “cosmic” – you want to listen to it separately and enjoy it.

By the will of fate

Each new day (here it is called a cycle) the protagonist begins with a roll of dice. Dice are used to complete quests and gain access to new areas and heroes. For example, you need to win the trust of the inhabitants of a certain area or attract someone’s attention – you can use the rolled dice to complete schematic tasks, fill in the corresponding scales and eventually achieve what you want.

Only one out of four cases will have a positive result.  Is it risky?

Only one out of four cases will have a positive result. Is it risky?

At the same time, it is not a fact that the applied dice will help to achieve success – the fewer points on them, the higher the chance of failure. Since little depends on you, they don’t punish you much for a miss – they can take away money or energy, but that’s okay. Yes, and for cubes with small numbers there is a separate application, and “fives” and “sixes” are almost always used successfully.

The number of available dice depends on the state of the main character. As explained in the game, the shells are specifically made in such a way that over time they become unusable without outside interference. Our sleeper has the opportunity to patch himself up – to increase his health and eat food so that his energy supply does not run out. The better the condition, the more cubes will be given at the beginning of the cycle.

You can invest in many actions several times until you fill the scale.  But you don't do it in one cycle.

You can invest in many actions several times until you fill the scale. But you don’t do it in one cycle.

All this requires money, and here Citizen Sleeper pleases with a balance. Due to the limited number of dice, you can’t complete everything quickly, and there are usually not too many currencies and consumables. There is always something to strive for, you always plan what you will do in the next cycle. This is successfully combined with the story, which gradually acquires more and more details – it is thanks to the excellent balance that interest in it does not fade away and remains approximately at the same level. Plus, the plot here is non-linear – if someone’s story is interesting, you can delve into it, and not be scattered over several characters.

Spend money and earn right away.

It is a pity that the duration of Citizen Sleeper is too small – about six hours. However, this is a very intense six hours without unnecessary storylines. The only thing that seems inappropriate is pumping: some improvements seem absolutely unnecessary, while others are necessary (but there are few of them). Choosing a class at the beginning of the game does not really affect anything – you just unlock one skill before others.

With one of the perks, the prices of everything are reduced - obviously, you want to get it as soon as possible.

With one of the perks, the prices of everything are reduced – obviously, you want to get it as soon as possible.

Compared to In Other Waters, Martin has taken a big step forward. He’s still a master at storytelling (which, due to the language barrier, can get past many of our readers), and this time around, he’s taken a chance and created a much more ambitious game. Citizen Sleeper is one of the best video game stories of this year, meditative and complex at the same time, making you empathize with the characters and enthusiastically learn the details of an interesting universe.

Pros: A well-written story with memorable characters and interesting themes; a pleasant soundtrack that goes well with a minimalist visual style; simple but addictive gameplay in which the elements of randomness do not cause irritation.

Cons: Leveling and class system seem out of place.

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