Connect with us

Published

on

Citizen Sleeper is a cyberpunk RPG developed by Jump Over The Age and published by Fellow Traveler. You are an escaped Sleeper, an indentured servant to a corporation in a borrowed body. Having sold your human body, your digitized consciousness lives on in an artificial form only kept alive through proprietary medicine. As you manage to make it to Erlin’s Eye, a space station home to thousands of people, you must hide from the corporation that wants you back. And make some friends along the way.

In Citizen Sleeper you are known just as Sleeper, a doomed shell of a person. You travel around Erlin’s Eye, meet new people, and complete quests. While doing so, you just also watch your hunger and condition which represent the fragile state of your dying body. Mechanically, the game is focused on narrative, however the narrative is measured in several ways. Each day you are given a dice pool with between one and six randomly generated six-sided dice. Most actions require a die to perform, and the higher the die, the better your chances of success. Your character can also level up to gain special abilities or increase stats, that in turn affect the chance of success. There are also long term trackers of success that measure your narrative progress, usually unlocking something new when you fill them up.

A screenshot of Citizen Sleeper gameplay that shows the ‘character sheet’.

The world-building within Citizen Sleeper is exquisite. Erlin’s Eye is completely filled with interesting characters and events that keep you hooked. The way the characters and the world interact with each other is dynamic, often influencing other areas within the game. Within the game, it is easy to find characters to relate to and root for—making your progress all the more rewarding. It is also an incredibly diverse game. Characters of all identities and backgrounds are present on Erlin’s Eye. This makes it an especially welcoming RPG experience for those who are used to not being represented in RPGs. 

From a gameplay level, Citizen Sleeper is addictive. The dice pool and success tracker system means that character and story advancement is very tangible. As a result, it is so easy to tell yourself, “Just one more day!” as you are always unlocking new places to explore and people to talk to. The interface is also very dynamic and unique, which makes for an intriguing experience. Also of note, the game continues to be updated. New story acts are coming out on a regular basis. These acts are free DLC that are a continuation of the previous story. 

A screenshot of Citizen Sleeper which shows actions available at your home.

One of my biggest critiques is that not many of your choices seem to matter. This is especially true in dialogue sequences. There are several times throughout the game where you must choose one of several mutually exclusive options, however those are few and far between. This isn’t the biggest issue, as long as you know most of the options don’t matter for the large scale narrative. Along these lines, I would also love to see more character customization either cosmetically or in the upgrade process.

I would also add that it is not always clear what to do to advance a particular storyline. I know some people prefer to deduce the next step through dialogue and evidence. However, when there are so many locations to go to, I would have found it more helpful to have a more robust quest tracking system. I missed out on one of the few big story choices because I misinterpreted the dialogue and then didn’t complete the quest in time. It worked out fine (I got an achievement), but it was a confusing interaction that would have been helped by better quest notes or the ability to re-read what someone said previously. 

Advertisement
A screenshot of Citizen Sleeper that shows interactions with one of the characters.

Citizen Sleeper is a truly stellar RPG that combines addictive mechanics with both robust and diverse storytelling. It is certainly well worth the $20 on Steam. Any fan of RPGs and science fiction story telling should fall in love with this game!

4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)

As a note, the publisher Jump Over the Age accepts pitches for games at all stages of development. If you have a concept for an innovative narrative game send them a pitch!

Advertisement

Daphne (she/her) grew up in a game store in Indiana and hasn't stopped playing ttrpgs, video games, board games, and card games since. She is a self-proclaimed horror weenie but loves both campy and cosmic horror. Her favorite horror properties are Mars Attacks and Jason "David Wong" Pargin's books. When she is not writing or gaming she is being a microbiologist, teacher, or student. She can be found on Instagram @daphne.writes.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Gaming

Let’s! Revolution! @ PAX: Minesweeping Madness

Published

on

Continuing with video games I got to try out at PAX East, I was delighted to demo Let’s! Revolution! the debut game by developer and publisher BUCK. BUCK has historically been an animation and design studio, notably having worked on Into the Spiderverse and Love, Death, & Robots. Let’s! Revolution! marks their first foray into the world of video game development. I found this so interesting, I spoke to the Creative Director for Let’s! Revolution! on his career and how BUCK navigated that transition (find it here).

Let’s! Revolution! is a roguelike puzzle game inspired by the classic game Minesweeper. In it, you play as one of six heroes fighting their way along the dangerous roads to the capital city. Once there, you can defeat the tyrannical king and save the kingdom from his reign. Released in July of 2023, the game has been met with high praise. Unsurprisingly, this includes the game’s artistic and musical direction (by the team at Antfood), which is both stylistic and beautiful.

Watch the console reveal trailer here for a taste of the delightful animation and music:

I had the opportunity to play a 20 minute demo of Let’s! Revolution! on the PAX East show floor. I played alongside the Creative Director and other people who worked on the game. It’s important to note that this wasn’t long enough to get a feel for all the characters or the replayability of the game. But, it was definitely long enough to be enchanted by the game and the passion of the people who made it. 

Advertisement

The core mechanics are inspired by Minesweeper. The player must use the power of deduction to uncover procedurally generated maze pathways to the exit. However, enemies are hidden along the way and can defeat the player before they reach their goal. Each character has their own special abilities that can help. Items and general abilities can also be bought or discovered to make your hero more powerful. All of these are limited in some way either by energy (your action currency) or limited uses per run.

A screenshot of gameplay from Let’s! Revolution!

From what I played, the gameplay is relatively simple with a mix of chance and strategy. I liked the cozy atmosphere, especially when combined with the ‘high stakes’ mechanics associated with Minesweeper. The UI was easy to understand and interact with while still being cohesive with the storytelling. And of course, the character design is exquisite and narratively driven, with many of the characters presenting as queer. 

Having released on consoles earlier this month (April 2024), Let’s! Revolution! is even easier to access than ever. Let’s! Revolution! is a perfect game for those who love cozy roguelites and beautiful (queer) aesthetics. I definitely recommend it for fans of roguelites looking to try something fresh. Look for it anywhere you game!

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)


Check out my other PAX posts here!

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Gaming

Interview with Creative Director Michael Highland: Let’s! Revolution! @ PAX

Published

on

Another game I had the chance to play at PAX East was, Let’s! Revolution!, a Minesweeper-inspired roguelite puzzle game by animation (and now game) studio, BUCK. I talk more about the game itself in another post. Here, I wanted to highlight the conversation I had with Michael Highland, the Creative Director for Let’s! Revolution! and his journey through video game development.


How did you become involved in video game development?

I studied digital media design in college; this was before there were many programs dedicated to game development. After graduating, I self-published a mobile game called Hipster City Cycle with friends. Over the next few years, I slowly got more freelance work as a game designer, and eventually landed a full-time role at thatgamecompany working on the follow-up to their 2012 GOTY Journey. I worked my way up there and was eventually the Lead Designer on Sky: Children of the Light. Working at thatgamecompany opened a lot of doors professionally. I eventually wound up at BUCK, where I saw the opportunity to help establish a new game studio within a very vibrant existing creative culture.

What has been the most challenging aspect of the development process?

Advertisement

Each studio has its own unique issues based on the people involved. There are commonalities like the need to fight feature creep and building consensus around ideas early in the process when all you have is an abstract grey box prototype to react to. At BUCK the biggest challenge has been channeling the abundance of creative energy and talent into a shippable product. There’s a ton of enthusiasm for games within the company, and without clear product-centric goals (who is the target audience, what platform are we releasing on, what’s the marketing strategy), projects have the tendency to spiral out of scope. Another challenge has been building credibility with publishers. BUCK has an amazing pedigree for animation and design, maybe the best in the world, but when we initially pitched ideas to publishers, they all said the same thing: looks great, but until you’ve shipped a game, you’re too high-risk. That’s what led to us self-publishing Let’s! Revolution! Now that we have a well-reviewed game out in the wild, I feel confident we’ll have more luck with publishers. 

BUCK primarily has its roots in animation, what led the decision to start branching into video game development?

It started with a general excitement about the medium and a desire among the staff to work on a game. Leadership at BUCK is all about providing the staff with exciting creative opportunities, and getting to work on a game, is, for some, a creative dream come true. And putting BUCK content out in the world is a point of pride and a boost to morale. From a business perspective, the fact we can staff out game projects with the top animation and design talent in the world is a huge advantage. We’re already starting to see new opportunities for the service side of the business based on the success of Let’s! Revolution! 

The art, unsurprisingly, is delightful. What were some of the priorities during the character design process and how did those influence the final hero designs?

Our Art Director Emily Suvanvej really led the charge on the look of the game. There are obvious influences like Studio Ghibli, Moebius, and Steven Universe. My shared goal with Emily was to make something together that reflected the diversity of the team’s artistic and lived experiences. The artists put so much love into the character designs and animation, it really shows. 

Advertisement

Some of the primary game mechanics take inspiration from Minesweeper, what was the process like to create your own interpretation of those classic mechanics?

This article goes into depth on this topic. The TLDR is that we took a very iterative approach, at each stage trying to identify what was working about the prototype and lean into that. The initial game concept came together relatively quickly in part because our goal for this project was just to finish a game. We just focused on what was good and kept building on it. I wouldn’t say the final game is “perfect” – but we wound up with a much bigger and higher quality experience than I expected by not letting perfectionism get in the way of making good better. 

Is there anything else you would like to plug or that you think is important for people to know about Let’s! Revolution! or other upcoming projects?

The music and sound design for the game is stellar. We worked with a creative audio company called Antfood and they knocked it out of the park. The audio got an honorable mention from IGF, which I think is extra impressive because most of the other games were audio-centric titles with some unusual hook to the sound design. For the OST, Antfood reworked all of the music from the game into a continuous flow, like a concept album. It’s so good. I love working with them.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Gaming

Quest Master @ PAX: A Dungeon-Builder First Look

Published

on

Next in my journey of all the cool games I saw at PAX, Quest Master! Quest Master is a love letter to retro dungeon crawlers and level designers. Taking inspiration from both Mario Maker and the Legend of Zelda franchise, Quest Master promises the ability to play and design dungeons with a variety of enemies, traps, and puzzles. 

Check out the Quest Master game announcement here:

I was given a private 30-minute demo, where I got to try out some of the core features in a pre-beta version of Quest Master. This demo was led by one of the developers, Julian Creutz who shared some insight into the game design and user experience. My interview with Julian about Quest Master can be found here.

Quest Master has two main modes, playing dungeons and building them. I got to try out both, though I had a more comprehensive experience playing dungeons. While playing dungeons, the game mechanics were intuitive and simple. However, I was continuously surprised by the complexities offered by the puzzle and logic systems. For example, you can collect a boomerang which is incredibly easy to use. To solve one of the puzzles, I had to throw the boomerang through a torch (which I thought was just decorative) to catch the boomerang on fire and enable it to activate a gem. While the individual mechanics were basic, they combined into a sophisticated puzzle-solving experience.

Advertisement

Immediately, I was eager to look under the hood and see how the dungeon building mode enables the puzzle solving as previously described. Once again, I was impressed with the sophistication of a system with such simple mechanics. The controls for building weren’t intuitive for me, though I also don’t use a controller for much of my gaming (like I was during the demo). Additionally, I could see how it would be really easy to get accustomed to as you build.

As it was a short demo, I wasn’t able to try any of the multiplayer features (i.e. co-op, online map sharing) so I can’t speak to the success of their implementation. As this is supposed to be a large part of the game, I’m wary of wholeheartedly suggesting Quest Master for those interested in the multiplayer experience. However, I was impressed with Quest Master’s modern take on retro dungeon crawlers like the Legend of Zelda games. The graphics and controls feel like much needed quality of life updates for a system taking inspiration from older classics. 

I recommend wishlisting Quest Master if you are a fan of old Legend of Zelda games or are looking for a fresh take on the dungeon builder genre. If Quest Master interests you, don’t forget to check out my conversation with Julian too!

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)


Check out my other PAX posts here!

Advertisement

Continue Reading

Trending