Reviews

Citizen Sleeper uses tabletop mechanics to play with the sci-fi RPG format

partially citizen slippers, I realized throughout this space station that the closest thing to my true relatives was locked in an ancient vending machine. Neovend 33 is a quirky little thing, but who can blame him? The AI ​​was dormant collecting dust in a locked bay, hoping someone like me (a dysfunctional reverse locker) would come and help. Long after I said goodbye to Neobend, it remains planted like a seed in my heart, and I am alone in the face of the unreality of my existence. And when you quit the game to do nothing but exist, you deeply miss Neobend.

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Citizen Sleeper is a new story-driven, text-driven RPG from Jump Over Age (aka Gareth Damian Martin, creator of 2020’s). in other seas), using a dice system inspired by table games. Players control Sleeper, an emulated “person” who escapes the Essen-Arp giant in a proprietary body frame designed for “planned obsolescence”. Hardware designed to deliberately wither in the face of endless updates and opaque new operating systems (or hardware that bricks itself in the face of bankruptcy in the case of bionics company Second Sight) isn’t far from consumer technology now. For Essen-Arp, this frame is a safeguard to prevent a stray like me from going too far before sending someone to bring me back. However, it is possible to partially repair the sleeper’s body, which is more than can be said for many electronic devices today.

Citizen Sleeper is based on desktop inspiration and offers three different character classes. I choose one of the characteristics of real life whenever possible. An attentive, structured mechanic who excels at engineering work. Terrified, I awoke from Erlin’s Eye (or simply “Eye”), a decaying space station. My frame was in need of repair and after meeting scrap collector Dragos it became clear to me that I had to earn “Kryo”, a cryptocurrency isolated from the market. Capitalism is an endless harlot, but even when faced with truly grim choices, the game is quickly learning that a sleeper can maintain a soft, haunting humanity through conversation and action. The fleeting scenes of violence and brutality also give me weakness, and I walk away from them, filled with conflicting flashes of sadness and anger. The subplot involving a hired idiot named Ethan runs grim, and at the end of the story I tell you about the ugly little things of humanity in a universe where personal lives don’t seem to matter.

grid view

    machinist

    machinist

    Image: Beyond Age/Fellow Traveler

    extractor class

    extractor class

    Image: Beyond Age/Fellow Traveler

    operator class

    operator class

    Image: Beyond Age/Fellow Traveler

It takes a few cycles to build momentum and some confidence in your eyes towards narrative immersion. A “cycle” is an interval of time (which by default is a working day) that moves the game forward. In each cycle you have to manage your condition (the condition of your body), the available dice rolls (the actions you can perform), and your energy bar (the condition of your nutrition). The worse my condition, the fewer dice. Each time a new character is encountered or explored, the game presents a new “drive” or broader goal to pursue. I remove the arp tracker from my description frame, for example joining a commune or finding a way to eat it. The basic idea of ​​Citizen Sleeper is to survive and use the drive as a loose path to meet your own needs. Learning more about the past or finding out about the future.

If you’re familiar with turn-based tabletop RPGs running on cubes, the initial tutorial cycle isn’t complicated. Still, it takes time to find a good rhythm. Once you reach cycle 30-40 you feel a unique, laser-like focus as you enter the greenway where you have to look for brittle mushrooms. I get bogged down in finding scrap to deliver noodles, unload cargo, and fix small parts of my body.

All of these little tasks serve a larger purpose, especially your quest to help others, and fill narrative pauses and waits with purpose, even if it’s just a busy task. I feed the stray cat insisting on low temperatures at least 3 times a day in the hope that the deer will eventually succumb and allow me to have a pet.

AI Neobend 33 in citizen slippers, locked in vending machine for years

Image: Beyond Age/Fellow Traveler

With each cycle I explore the Eye more and become familiar with the temporary bureaucracy, local mercenaries and enterprising traders. After an event known as the “collapse”, the station became a beacon for misfits and refugees, a haven for victims of industrial greed and a haven for uneasy AI. There’s Emphis, a street food vendor with traces of corporate biotechnology on its body. There is also a mysterious doctor, Sabine, whose motive is questionable. One of my favorite NPCs is Feng. Feng was born and raised as a hacker, determined to get rid of his old business from his home. But it’s clearly a place rarely seen by a sleeper like me, and the realistic reality of living in this lawless zone means that many see the sleeper’s precious body as a vehicle. Everyone in sight knows their place in the world except me.

One thing that disappoints me is that after each “correct” ending, the credits play and then go back to where you left off, freeing up the rest of the drive to work or fiddle with your eyes. (I was a little embarrassed the first time I played it, but I keep playing – I missed the chance to leave my body forever. But the second time I played it, I realized that if the game repeats, it’s intentional. I really want to be free.) Eventually I quit all rides and for some reason Despite this, they choose to stay vigilant rather than avoid the promise of a better life. At this point, I have accumulated enough resources to sustain my body for 40 or 50 cycles. The panic and despair of the early cycle were long gone and my cup overflowed with cryogenics. There is nothing more to do.

After a long period of exhaustion of all impulses and still curiosity, the voluntary decision to remain with Eye abandoned me. I turned down all the endings offered in the game for self-harm Limbo that forced me to face my expectations of a clean, clean ending. I’m not sure how all this will play out to someone who opts for a more finite way of getting things done.

Overhead view of the kids section of citizen slippers

Image: Beyond Age/Fellow Traveler

But the great thing about this game (and the most annoying choice) is that it eliminates specific goals and lets them exist for no reason. I keep cycling to feed the cat, play the game Tabla Help at the local bar for Cryo. At first you expect endgame surprises like sadistic JRPG bosses lurking in the wings (which will certainly be an unusual move for developers), but nothing happens. What to do without a drive? Why am I here? Almost trolley-level, but I realized that there was no reason to expect any more. The impatience of the ‘end’, or the vague flexibility of my particular ending, was confusing, but I respected it as a form of passive-aggressive resistance.

When I finally decided to finish the game, I put my sleepers in Greenway, imagining them having a quiet and private routine. I’m not sure I’ll ever open my eyes again. Even with different choices in different runs, Citizen Sleeper’s strongest strength is in his first play, where he arrives with nothing and knows less. It’s not about “renewable value”, it’s about the unique experience of a journey that’s pretty one-way in the ragged sleeping fictional spirit struggling for survival. Did I act correctly with my sleepers? I don’t know But it all has to come to an end and I have a feeling they will understand.

citizen slippers Coming May 5 to Windows PC, Mac, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch. This game has been verified on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Jump Over Age. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. Vox Media may receive commissions for products purchased through affiliate links, but does not affect editorial content. you can find For more information on Polygon’s Ethics Policy, please click here..


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Citizen Sleeper uses tabletop mechanics to play with the sci-fi RPG format

Partway through Citizen Sleeper, I realize that the closest thing I have to real kin on this entire space station is trapped inside an ancient vending machine. Neovend 33 is a cranky little thing, but who can blame it? The AI has been dormant, gathering dust in a locked bay, hoping that someone like me — a dysfunctional Sleeper barely holding it together — would come along to help. Long after I bid Neovend farewell, it stays planted in my head like a seed, and I’m alone in facing the impracticalities of my own existence. And when I finish the game, left with nothing to do but exist, I miss Neovend, deeply.

Polygon Recommends is our way of endorsing our favorite games. When we award a game the Polygon Recommends badge, it’s because we believe the title is uniquely thought-provoking, entertaining, inventive, or fun — and worth fitting into your schedule. If you want to see the very best of the best for your platform(s) of choice, check out Polygon Essentials.
Citizen Sleeper is the new narrative-driven, text-heavy role-playing game from Jump Over the Age (aka Gareth Damian Martin, the creator of 2020’s In Other Waters) that uses a dice system inspired by tabletop games. The player controls a Sleeper — an emulated “person” fleeing from the Essen-Arp megacorp in a proprietary body frame designed for “planned obsolescence.” It’s not far off from consumer tech now — hardware purposefully designed to wither in the face of endless updates and opaque new operating systems (or in the case of bionic eye company Second Sight, hardware that bricks itself in the face of bankruptcy). For Essen-Arp, these frames are a failsafe to prevent escapees like me from getting too far before they can send someone to bring me back. It is possible, though, to partially repair the Sleeper’s body, which is more than can be said for many electronics today.
Pulling from its tabletop inspirations, Citizen Sleeper has a range of three character classes. I choose one as far as possible from my real-life traits: the careful, structured Machinist who excels at engineering-type work. I awaken, filled with anxiety, on Erlin’s Eye (or simply “the Eye”), a decaying space station. My frame is in need of repair, and after meeting junk salvager Dragos, it becomes clear that I need to earn some “cryo,” a cryptocurrency that’s been isolated from the market. Capitalism is an endless bitch, but I quickly learn that even in the face of truly bleak choices, the game always allows the Sleeper to retain a soft, haunting sense of humanity through dialogue and actions. Fleeting scenes of violence and brutality also offer vulnerability, and I come away from them filled with conflicting flashes of sadness and resentment. One subplot, involving a hired goon named Ethan, is grimly moving, and at the end of his story, I dwell on the ugly minutiae of humanity in a universe where individual lives don’t seem to matter.
Grid View

The Machinist class
Image: Jump Over the Age/Fellow Traveller

The Extractor class
Image: Jump Over the Age/Fellow Traveller

The Operator class
Image: Jump Over the Age/Fellow Traveller

It takes me several cycles to build momentum toward narrative immersion, as well as a bit of fledgling confidence on the Eye. “Cycles” are the increments of time that move the game forward (they’re basically working days). Each cycle requires managing my condition (the state of my body), my available dice rolls (the actions I can perform), and my energy bar (the food situation). The worse my condition, the fewer dice I have. With each new character I meet, or area I explore, the game unlocks a new “drive,” or broad objectives to pursue — like joining a commune or finding a way to remove the Essen-Arp tracker from my traitorous frame. The essential idea behind Citizen Sleeper is to survive and use drives as loose pathways to fulfill your own needs, whether that means learning more about your past or figuring out your future.
The early tutorial cycles aren’t complicated if you’re familiar with turn-based tabletop RPGs that run on dice. Still, it takes me some time to find a good rhythm. By the time I hit cycles 30-40 I feel a singular, laser-like focus as I enter the Greenway, where I must forage for fragile mushrooms. I immerse myself in delivering noodles, unloading cargo, and scavenging for scraps to repair little parts of my body.
All of these small tasks serve greater objectives — particularly the drives to help others — and they fill narrative lulls and waiting periods with a sense of purpose, even if it is just busywork. I stubbornly spend at least 3 cryo a day feeding a stray cat, in the hopes that maybe the game will eventually cave and allow me to have a pet (it doesn’t).

Image: Jump Over the Age/Fellow Traveller
As each cycle goes on, I explore more of the Eye and get acquainted with its ad-hoc bureaucracies, sojourning mercenaries, and enterprising merchants. After an event known as the “collapse,” the station became a lodestar for misfits and fugitives, a refuge for casualties of industrial greed, and a hideaway for restless AIs. There’s Emphis, a street food vendor whose body is marked with the telltale signs of corporate biotech; there’s also Sabine, an enigmatic doctor with suspicious motives. One of my favorite NPCs is Feng, a hacker born and raised on the Eye, determined to exorcize his home of its corporate past. It’s clear that Sleepers like me are a rare sight here, though, and the practical realities of living in this lawless place mean that many people view the Sleeper’s valuable body as a means to an end. Everyone on the Eye knows their place in the world except me.
Citizen Sleeper’s greatest strength (and also its most infuriating choice) is to untether me from concrete objectives and let me exist without a reasonOne thing that threw me off is that the credits play after every “proper” ending, and then I’m returned to where I left off, free to work on any remaining drives or just putter around the Eye. (I was a little confused the first time it happened, but continued playing — I’d passed up a chance to leave my body for good. But the second time it happened, I realized that this was by design, as if the game was repeatedly testing my desire to be truly free.) Finally, I complete all the drives and choose, against all sense, to stay on the Eye instead of escaping to the promise of a better life. At this point I’ve amassed enough resources to keep my body going for 40 or 50 cycles — if I keep doing my chores, I can exist as long as I want to. The panic and desperation of the early cycles are long gone, and my cup overflows with cryo. I have nothing left to do.
My spontaneous decision to stick around on the Eye, long after I’ve exhausted all my drives and lingering curiosities, threw me for a loop. I rejected all of the game’s proffered endings in favor of a self-induced limbo, which forced me to confront my expectations of clean, neat closure; I’m not sure how it’ll all resonate with someone who chose a more finite way to wrap things up.

Image: Jump Over the Age/Fellow Traveller
But the game’s greatest strength (and also its most infuriating choice) is to untether me from concrete objectives and let me exist without a reason. I continue going through cycles to feed the cat, play games of tavla for cryo, and help out at the local bar. At first, I expect an endgame surprise, like a sadistic JRPG boss hiding in the wings (which would be a decidedly uncharacteristic move for the developer), but nothing happens. What am I supposed to do without a drive? Why am I even here? It’s almost trollish, but I realize I have no reason to expect more. The abruptness of the “ending,” or rather the vague flexibility around my particular end, is bewildering, but I respected it as a sort of passive-aggressive drag.
When I finally decide to end the game, I leave my Sleeper in the Greenway, where I imagine they can keep on going about their quiet, private routines. I’m not sure I’ll come back to the Eye again, because even if I make different decisions on another run, Citizen Sleeper’s most potent power lies in that first playthrough, when you arrive with nothing, and know even less. This isn’t so much about “replay value” as it is about the singular experience of a journey that — in keeping with the fiction of being a ragged Sleeper trying to survive — is very much a one-way street. Did I do right by my Sleeper? I don’t know. But all things must come to an end, and I feel like they would understand.
Citizen Sleeper will be released on May 5 on Windows PC, Mac, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch. The game was reviewed on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Jump Over the Age. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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Citizen Sleeper uses tabletop mechanics to play with the sci-fi RPG format

Partway through Citizen Sleeper, I realize that the closest thing I have to real kin on this entire space station is trapped inside an ancient vending machine. Neovend 33 is a cranky little thing, but who can blame it? The AI has been dormant, gathering dust in a locked bay, hoping that someone like me — a dysfunctional Sleeper barely holding it together — would come along to help. Long after I bid Neovend farewell, it stays planted in my head like a seed, and I’m alone in facing the impracticalities of my own existence. And when I finish the game, left with nothing to do but exist, I miss Neovend, deeply.

Polygon Recommends is our way of endorsing our favorite games. When we award a game the Polygon Recommends badge, it’s because we believe the title is uniquely thought-provoking, entertaining, inventive, or fun — and worth fitting into your schedule. If you want to see the very best of the best for your platform(s) of choice, check out Polygon Essentials.
Citizen Sleeper is the new narrative-driven, text-heavy role-playing game from Jump Over the Age (aka Gareth Damian Martin, the creator of 2020’s In Other Waters) that uses a dice system inspired by tabletop games. The player controls a Sleeper — an emulated “person” fleeing from the Essen-Arp megacorp in a proprietary body frame designed for “planned obsolescence.” It’s not far off from consumer tech now — hardware purposefully designed to wither in the face of endless updates and opaque new operating systems (or in the case of bionic eye company Second Sight, hardware that bricks itself in the face of bankruptcy). For Essen-Arp, these frames are a failsafe to prevent escapees like me from getting too far before they can send someone to bring me back. It is possible, though, to partially repair the Sleeper’s body, which is more than can be said for many electronics today.
Pulling from its tabletop inspirations, Citizen Sleeper has a range of three character classes. I choose one as far as possible from my real-life traits: the careful, structured Machinist who excels at engineering-type work. I awaken, filled with anxiety, on Erlin’s Eye (or simply “the Eye”), a decaying space station. My frame is in need of repair, and after meeting junk salvager Dragos, it becomes clear that I need to earn some “cryo,” a cryptocurrency that’s been isolated from the market. Capitalism is an endless bitch, but I quickly learn that even in the face of truly bleak choices, the game always allows the Sleeper to retain a soft, haunting sense of humanity through dialogue and actions. Fleeting scenes of violence and brutality also offer vulnerability, and I come away from them filled with conflicting flashes of sadness and resentment. One subplot, involving a hired goon named Ethan, is grimly moving, and at the end of his story, I dwell on the ugly minutiae of humanity in a universe where individual lives don’t seem to matter.
Grid View

The Machinist class
Image: Jump Over the Age/Fellow Traveller

The Extractor class
Image: Jump Over the Age/Fellow Traveller

The Operator class
Image: Jump Over the Age/Fellow Traveller

It takes me several cycles to build momentum toward narrative immersion, as well as a bit of fledgling confidence on the Eye. “Cycles” are the increments of time that move the game forward (they’re basically working days). Each cycle requires managing my condition (the state of my body), my available dice rolls (the actions I can perform), and my energy bar (the food situation). The worse my condition, the fewer dice I have. With each new character I meet, or area I explore, the game unlocks a new “drive,” or broad objectives to pursue — like joining a commune or finding a way to remove the Essen-Arp tracker from my traitorous frame. The essential idea behind Citizen Sleeper is to survive and use drives as loose pathways to fulfill your own needs, whether that means learning more about your past or figuring out your future.
The early tutorial cycles aren’t complicated if you’re familiar with turn-based tabletop RPGs that run on dice. Still, it takes me some time to find a good rhythm. By the time I hit cycles 30-40 I feel a singular, laser-like focus as I enter the Greenway, where I must forage for fragile mushrooms. I immerse myself in delivering noodles, unloading cargo, and scavenging for scraps to repair little parts of my body.
All of these small tasks serve greater objectives — particularly the drives to help others — and they fill narrative lulls and waiting periods with a sense of purpose, even if it is just busywork. I stubbornly spend at least 3 cryo a day feeding a stray cat, in the hopes that maybe the game will eventually cave and allow me to have a pet (it doesn’t).

Image: Jump Over the Age/Fellow Traveller
As each cycle goes on, I explore more of the Eye and get acquainted with its ad-hoc bureaucracies, sojourning mercenaries, and enterprising merchants. After an event known as the “collapse,” the station became a lodestar for misfits and fugitives, a refuge for casualties of industrial greed, and a hideaway for restless AIs. There’s Emphis, a street food vendor whose body is marked with the telltale signs of corporate biotech; there’s also Sabine, an enigmatic doctor with suspicious motives. One of my favorite NPCs is Feng, a hacker born and raised on the Eye, determined to exorcize his home of its corporate past. It’s clear that Sleepers like me are a rare sight here, though, and the practical realities of living in this lawless place mean that many people view the Sleeper’s valuable body as a means to an end. Everyone on the Eye knows their place in the world except me.
Citizen Sleeper’s greatest strength (and also its most infuriating choice) is to untether me from concrete objectives and let me exist without a reasonOne thing that threw me off is that the credits play after every “proper” ending, and then I’m returned to where I left off, free to work on any remaining drives or just putter around the Eye. (I was a little confused the first time it happened, but continued playing — I’d passed up a chance to leave my body for good. But the second time it happened, I realized that this was by design, as if the game was repeatedly testing my desire to be truly free.) Finally, I complete all the drives and choose, against all sense, to stay on the Eye instead of escaping to the promise of a better life. At this point I’ve amassed enough resources to keep my body going for 40 or 50 cycles — if I keep doing my chores, I can exist as long as I want to. The panic and desperation of the early cycles are long gone, and my cup overflows with cryo. I have nothing left to do.
My spontaneous decision to stick around on the Eye, long after I’ve exhausted all my drives and lingering curiosities, threw me for a loop. I rejected all of the game’s proffered endings in favor of a self-induced limbo, which forced me to confront my expectations of clean, neat closure; I’m not sure how it’ll all resonate with someone who chose a more finite way to wrap things up.

Image: Jump Over the Age/Fellow Traveller
But the game’s greatest strength (and also its most infuriating choice) is to untether me from concrete objectives and let me exist without a reason. I continue going through cycles to feed the cat, play games of tavla for cryo, and help out at the local bar. At first, I expect an endgame surprise, like a sadistic JRPG boss hiding in the wings (which would be a decidedly uncharacteristic move for the developer), but nothing happens. What am I supposed to do without a drive? Why am I even here? It’s almost trollish, but I realize I have no reason to expect more. The abruptness of the “ending,” or rather the vague flexibility around my particular end, is bewildering, but I respected it as a sort of passive-aggressive drag.
When I finally decide to end the game, I leave my Sleeper in the Greenway, where I imagine they can keep on going about their quiet, private routines. I’m not sure I’ll come back to the Eye again, because even if I make different decisions on another run, Citizen Sleeper’s most potent power lies in that first playthrough, when you arrive with nothing, and know even less. This isn’t so much about “replay value” as it is about the singular experience of a journey that — in keeping with the fiction of being a ragged Sleeper trying to survive — is very much a one-way street. Did I do right by my Sleeper? I don’t know. But all things must come to an end, and I feel like they would understand.
Citizen Sleeper will be released on May 5 on Windows PC, Mac, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch. The game was reviewed on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Jump Over the Age. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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