Have you tried… navigating the pitfalls of space capitalism in Citizen Sleeper?

Citizen Sleeper
(Image credit: Fellow Traveller)

Erlin’s Eye has captured me. Not that the space station, abandoned by its corporate masters years ago and left in the hands of a ragtag group of survivors, criminals, and living space debris, can enact its will upon me in any real way. And yet, it still feels true to say now months after first picking up Citizen Sleeper.

In the confines of that space station, a series of fictional lives play out – of which my experience as a player, a Sleeper, is only a small part. Perhaps an integral part, or a pivotal one, but a part only nonetheless. The mechanics are relatively simple but cascade into more than the sum of their parts, however, and developer Jump Over the Age manages the tricky task well.

The basic premise of Citizen Sleeper has players wandering through and between the complex relationships forged between the people that live on the station, the corporations and organizations that have a vested interest in it or want one, and the ways in which the previous try to manipulate, control, or otherwise interact with the protagonist, who is an emulated consciousness with a deliberately built-in obsolescence.

Wake up, Sleeper

Citizen Sleeper

(Image credit: Fellow Traveller)

How this all plays out is through a series of tabletop-like mechanics, complete with six-sided dice. An individual die is used for an action, and the number on the die determines how potentially successful that action might be. Add to this the fact that fewer dice are granted as your body breaks down and skills that change or otherwise have an effect on dice and something as simple as deciding where to spend your limited time on Erlin’s Eye becomes quite complex.

There are no simple answers to any of the questions posed in Citizen Sleeper. Every individual character introduced, with gorgeous art by Guillaume Singelin, has their own reason for sticking around or leaving and what they’re looking to accomplish or prevent. Even though it’s for just one small segment of their lives, their histories are carefully presented through dialogue and actions while you personally help determine their futures – for better or worse.

It’s not hard to imagine the sorts of problems a game like Citizen Sleeper might have. It would have been easy enough for the title to slide into overly simplified caricatures and saccharine responses. To divy up the bad and the good with a bold dividing line. Instead, even the contract bounty hunter looking to turn you in to Essen-Arp, the company that built you, is hard not to feel sympathetic for - despite the fact that he can also be a bit of a mean-spirited lush.

Citizen Sleeper

(Image credit: Fellow Traveller)

It’s not a terribly lengthy game, with the main run of it with the vast majority of various spokes of narrative explored in around 10 hours or so, but it’s the one where I’ve spent the longest deliberating about what to do. When you’ve reached the conclusion of certain sets of drives or quests, the game indicates that some next decision will be your last.

And so I sat, and I deferred, and I explored other nooks and crannies until there were no more nooks and crannies to shine a spotlight on. And I chose - I’m not sure whether it was right or if there is even really such a concept in Citizen Sleeper. Months and months after finishing, I’m left with that thought still. Is there possibly any better praise for a video game? That it consumes some part of you, lighting a fire within that ebbs but never truly goes out?

Wouldn’t you like to find out for yourself?

Citizen Sleeper is out now on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S (on Xbox Game Pass), and Nintendo Switch. 

Rollin Bishop
US Managing Editor

Rollin is the US Managing Editor at GamesRadar+. With over 16 years of online journalism experience, Rollin has helped provide coverage of gaming and entertainment for brands like IGN, Inverse, ComicBook.com, and more. While he has approximate knowledge of many things, his work often has a focus on RPGs and animation in addition to franchises like Pokemon and Dragon Age. In his spare time, Rollin likes to import Valkyria Chronicles merch and watch anime.