A lot of flashy and exciting games got announced during E3 earlier this month. A second trailer (and release date) for Elden Ring! Bethesda’s Starfield! Arkane’s Redfall! But of all the games shown during this year’s biggest gaming news event, the game that’s stuck in my mind the most is a little indie title whose trailer was tucked into the back half of the PC Gaming Show: Citizen Sleeper.
Developed by Gareth Damian Martin, aka Jump Over The Age, Citizen Sleeper is a slice-of-life narrative RPG inspired by tabletop roleplaying games. Set on a derelict space station named Erlin’s Eye, Citizen Sleeper’s cast consists of a ragtag group of outcasts, hackers, mercenaries, and everyday folks trying their best to escape from out of the long pernicious shadow of interplanetary capitalism and build a world where something better might be possible.
Players assume the role of the Sleeper, a digital human consciousness who has escaped the clutches of Essen-Arp, a ruthless space conglomerate, via an artificial body and landed smack dab on Erlin’s Eye. With no one to turn to for help (and as the physical body hosting your consciousness is slowly dying from a failsafe mechanism implanted by your former employers/captors), you’ll have to navigate the station’s numerous factions, forge and maintain friendships, and earn credits in order to upgrade your body, all while staying one step ahead of Essen-Arp’s desperate attempt to reclaim their “property” and gradually unearthing the secrets of the station’s past.
Played from an isometric perspective and utilizing a simulated dice roll system that sees choices and consequences evolve and change over several turn-based “cycles,” Citizen Sleeper is an energetic shift in tone and aesthetic from the otherwise relaxed and melancholic In Other Waters, the developer’s previous game released last year.
When I make sci-fi I am making work about now, not making predictions about some distant future. This is a game about what it means to be a person now, fed through the distorting and distancing lens of fiction and fantasy. Just like @InOtherWaters
— Gareth Damian Martin | Jump Over the Age (@JumpOvertheAge) June 17, 2021
Featuring character artwork by graphic novelist Guillaume Singelin and music from In Other Waters composer Amos Roddy, Martin claims that the game will be complimentary in theme to that of the studio’s previous game despite its shift in tone and genre. “[Citizen Sleeper] is about surviving in precarious conditions, about gig-work, about living in a body that sometimes feels antagonistic to you,” Martin said on Twitter. “It is also about hope, support and building a life.”
Citizen Sleeper is being published by Fellow Traveller and set for release on Windows PC in 2022.
[Disclosure: The writer wrote once for Heterotopias, a digital zine and website created by In Other Waters developer Gareth Damian Martin.]