Citizen Sleeper places you in the role of a synthetic robot-person—called a Sleeper—who awakens on a grimy space station bustling with all kinds of morally and legally grey activities and organizations. Your character escaped from working at a colony for a megacorporation who literally owns their body and now has to contend with the consequences of this break for freedom.
Not only has the corporation hired goons to track you down and bring you back in, but your body is dependent on a supplement exclusively produced by the company. To survive, you’ll have to work in shipyards, trade with scavengers, visit slum doctors, and make hard decisions as you look for a way off the station.
The story is something of a braided narrative, weaving together several deep subplots that develop more of the culture and hierarchy of the station in extended questlines. One subplot tasks you with helping a mercenary repair her ship. Another has you conspiring with a sentient vending machine to take down a rogue AI program.
You don’t have to follow every questline in a playthrough—in fact, you can’t—and there are branching pathways where you can choose to either remain loyal to your tense allies or stab them in the back to further your own position. This makes Citizen Sleeper ripe for replayability; an average run should only take you four or five hours, but there are several endings you can get depending on who you allied with and what order you did quests in.
Gameplay is less about ‘playing’ than it is about constantly managing slim resources. Questlines and various world events are tracked by ‘cycles’ which pass every time you go to sleep and each cycle will result in your body breaking down a little more and your character coming a little closer to starvation. Each cycle will also bring with it a number of random dice rolls that you can then spend on any activity in the station.
As your body breaks down, you’ll have fewer dice, which means there are fewer things you can do in a given cycle. Part of the thrill of the experience is making the tough calls every day about what to do next; sometimes you have to sell out a friend to ensure you don’t starve the next day, and your decisions can have some surprising consequences later down the road.
The art style features some exceedingly well-drawn pictures of your friends and foes as they converse with you, really selling the aesthetic of the filthy cyberpunk world developer Jump Over The Age (of In Other Waters fame) is going for. Meanwhile, your decision-making process is always accompanied by a somber synthwave soundtrack that’s equal parts hopeless and intriguing. The atmosphere, then, is top notch; Citizen Sleeper does a great job of immersing you in this dark and diverse community.
If we were to name one complaint, it would be that this isn’t a game that plays all that nicely with a controller. It’s perfectly serviceable, but navigating between nodes on the map is consistently awkward and sometimes disorienting, and there’s no touchscreen support wither. Not game- or deal-breaking, but certainly something to keep in mind if you have a PC you could play this on instead.
We’d give Citizen Sleeper a strong recommendation to anybody who liked Disco Elysium or any general role playing games with a heavy emphasis on the role. A synthwave soundtrack, strong writing, and high-pressure gameplay make this a game that’ll be tough to put down once you get into it.