I play a lot of video games. It's how I stay interested and up-to-date in the industry that fuels my career while still having fun on my own time. I simply don't have time to write about every game I play. Once in a while, though, I'll play a game that affects me to such a degree that I can't help but try and share that experience with others; a game that occupies my every waking thought until the credits roll and lingers long after I've set the controller down.
Recently, I wrote about playing Fable for the very first time. This time, however, I'm writing about a game that is critically acclaimed and beloved by its growing community of 500,000 players — but you still probably haven't heard of it. This is Citizen Sleeper, a glorious character-driven narrative-adventure set in a dystopian sci-fi universe and inspired by table-top RPGs (TTRPGs). It's bloody brilliant, and you should go play it.
A futuristic society burdened by unbridled greed
On the surface, Citizen Sleeper flows through a similar vein as many other sci-fi universes. Humans have become unimaginably technologically advanced and have colonized countless planets in the universe. However, the push for expansion has granted immeasurable power to the corporations behind it, cultivating a dystopian society fueled by the expenditure of the poor to the benefit of the rich. If you're a sci-fi fan, this will all sound instantly familiar to you.
Despite a generic foundation, Citizen Sleeper still excels at building a believable, immersive, and complete universe that draws you in and holds you taut in the face of the story's inevitable progress. You play as a Sleeper, an emulated human consciousness trapped in an artificial body, after the original you agreed to sell a copy of yourself in exchange for a chance at a better future. Desperate to escape the clutches of the exploitative corporation that owns your body, you fled to a decrepit, ring-like station at the edges of colonized space: Erlin's Eye.
Erlin's Eye was built by a prominent megacorporation, but the collapse of that company resulted in the station and its thousands of residents being utterly abandoned by all the core worlds. Left to survive on their own, the people of Erlin's Eye struggled to hold their decaying home together, eventually cultivating a hub for refugees and outcasts from across the universe. At first, Erlin's Eye is dark, cold, and utterly devoid of all hope.
As a Sleeper, you are an outcast among outcasts, stripped of human rights because the "real" you rests in cryogenic sleep countless thousands of miles away. You're burdened by the knowledge that Essen-Arp, the entity that created you, will never let you escape it for long (even if they have to terminate you). Erlin's Eye is a potential safehold, but one fraught with its own uncertainties and dangers. To this end, Citizen Sleeper starts off desolate and desperate — until you start meeting the people that call Erlin's Eye their home.
A mesmerizing story driven by the world, its people, and you
The story of the Sleeper is one of lost purpose and found family. You must learn to survive in this unfamiliar place, escape the past that hunts you, and decide for yourself what direction your future will take. Of course, you can't do this alone, and you'll meet people along the way that will either help you or harm you. You must explore Erlin's Eyes in order to find food, shelter, and a way to combat the flaws of your broken artificial body — on the way, you hope you'll also find a home.
From a gameplay perspective, Citizen Sleeper is relatively simple. It's inspired by TTRPGs and uses turn-like Cycles to track the progression of time, Action Dice to dictate your abilities to progress each Cycle, and various status bars to notate your Condition and Energy levels. Of course, there's also a Skills tree to upgrade the Sleeper's abilities, which can open new avenues and make you more effective at surviving.
There is a rhythm to Citizen Sleeper despite its many available paths and choices, with each Cycle evolving and expanding your routine. It's an intriguing mixture of calming comfort and hectic hardship, and it provides the backbone that keeps you hooked between story beats. To this effect, Citizen Sleeper is filled with unique, meticulously written characters, and it's your relationship with each of these characters and the surrounding universe that makes the game so very special.
Every single interaction in Citizen Sleeper is accompanied by beautiful, evocative writing. Every single line of text adds to the stories of each character you meet, the Erlin's Eye and the universe in which it exists, and the Sleeper trying to find their place — however small and insignificant — in it all. The thoughtful quality of this writing always left me aching for more; I wanted to learn all I could before I met the inevitable confines of the game. One ending wasn't enough; I sought the conclusion to every chapter with fervent obsession, eager to nudge the Sleeper forward in their ceaseless, complicated evolution.
There were occasional grammatical errors, and some may criticize Citizen Sleeper's writing for being "too flowery" or "too idealistic," but I loved it all. Citizen Sleeper is the epitome of character-driven storytelling and is a masterclass in allowing gameplay to take a backseat to make room for the worldbuilding and narrative — without the game being boring or uninteresting to play. It reminds me a lot of Pentiment, a similarly story-driven RPG that earned a perfect review score from me.
In Citizen Sleeper, you drive the story... But it's Erlin's Eye and its people that have control.
An unforgettable experience and incredible value
Citizen Sleeper was released in May 2022, and Jump Over the Age has since released two completely free DLC expansions (FLUX and REFUGE), with a final chapter releasing later this year. As of Feb. 23, 2022, Citizen Sleeper has been played by over 500,000 players. This is an impressive milestone, and I congratulate the teams at Jump Over the Age and Fellow Traveller for their wonderful accomplishment — but it's not enough for me.
I want more people to experience Citizen Sleeper, to appreciate all the reasons it's one of the best games on Xbox released in all of 2022. If I can convince even one person to go and download Citizen Sleeper through my words, I'll be satisfied... I won't be completely happy, though, until it's announced that Citizen Sleeper has crossed one million players and is continuing to grow. This game deserves to succeed in every way so that the creators behind it have the freedom to go and create something new and just as awe-inspiring. I bought the game immediately after completing Citizen Sleeper to support the developers (and ensure I always have access to it).
Still on the fence? Citizen Sleeper is incredibly easy to play, and it offers astounding value for the experience found within. It took me a little over 10 hours to work my way through the base game and the two additional episodes, and the conclusion (PURGE) is on its way at no additional cost. You can find Citizen Sleeper on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC, and Nintendo Switch for only $20! It's also included in Xbox Game Pass, PC Game Pass, and Xbox Cloud Gaming (I played the entire game on the Razer Edge and had a flawless experience).
Only 500,000 people have played one of the greatest Xbox Game Pass games, but maybe that's not quite right. It's more accurate to say that over 500,000 people have already experienced this fantastic game, and everyone else — you included — is missing out.
If you love peerless character writing and worldbuilding, then Citizen Sleeper is a sci-fi RPG you can't afford to miss. Played like a virtual TTRPG, this game offers ridiculous value for only $20 on Xbox consoles and Windows PCs.
Buy from: Xbox
Citizen Sleeper is a hidden gem buried within the folds of Xbox and PC Game Pass. It's an incredible narrative-driven sci-fi RPG and deserves so much more attention. It's on every tier of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, making it so easy to experience.
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Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.