Eden Industries’ reverential yet forward-thinking RPG Citizens of Earth originally began as a Kickstarter campaign. They fell short of their initial $100,000 goal by, well, a lot. Creator Ryan Vandendyck and his team vowed to continue development and their work paid off — Atlus picked up the game for distribution and now the game will be available come January 20th on PS4, Vita, Wii U, 3DS, and PC. This is a title that had been on the radars of RPG fans everywhere for over a year now despite initial setbacks. The game, clearly inspired by the likes of Itoi-san’s Earthbound and the Mother series that spawned it, not only features Americana with a twist but also a large roster of characters. This is yet another reason Atlus remains a personal favorite of mine among publishers who still specialize in RPGs.
The newly elected Vice President of Earth is back in his hometown for some rest and relaxation. Not everybody is so pleased with the new VP and his perfectly coiffed hair, though. Protesters and the Opposition Leader have led to police barricades, general panic, and a sense of things just not being “quite right”. The game’s humor is apparent right away with small flavor text accessible all over the place along with dialogue that just pops. The Vice President is every bit the politician one would expect him to be, though in the time spent with the game the shtick hasn’t worn thin. He is, like all great leaders before him, not going to be the one getting his hands dirty, though.
The VP’s own dear Mother, with all her hugs and emotional support, and his Brother, a delivery guy for FedUPS, serve as the first of forty different recruits the VP elect can make use of. One of the things that becomes immediately clear is the distinct lack of NPCs in the game. There are enemies (all of which are present on the map and avoidable if you’re nimble enough) and recruits. It gives the universe of Citizens of Earth a generally organic feel that works quite well. Everyone is a potential civil servant, and there is a lot of work to do.
The flavor of Earthbound‘s Onett is all splashed all over Citzens of Earth, yet it never feels derivative. The game manages to stand on its own as a strong RPG full of interesting mechanics, hilarious writing, and customization that isn’t Disgaea-insane but it definitely has its quirks. Citizens that need to be recruited will remind players of something like Suikoden. You’re not quite recruiting the same large number, but each recruit brings new options and combat potential to the table that is refreshing. The setting is also great to see in an RPG. Not every single RPG that comes out needs to be high fantasy. Room exists for an Earthbound-esque title as the Mother series has endured long after initial release and held in high regard.
Battles, which can be avoided or engaged at will, launch into a semi-psychedelic waves that are definitely lifted from the aforementioned SNES classic. Actions for any recruits require Energy and it makes for an interesting ebb and flow to encounters that make combat engaging. There are basic abilities that generate Energy and characters’ ultimate attacks/abilities are available at any time so long as the Energy is present for it. It is nice to still be able to do something even if Energy is at a minimum as opposed to a more traditional MP-based system.
Leveling seems to be fairly brisk with a definite lack of grinding. That is a welcome change as 15-20 hours invested in a game would be better served not having to power level for almost any player. The addition of recruits like the Teacher and the Scientist can also support inactive recruits — a nice touch.
The enemy design ranges from the pedestrian to the downright absurd. Protesters will berate you, hecklers will accost you with megaphones, and bees floating about in bubbles will try to sting you. Telefawns (pictured above) and Decaffitators will attempt to end your journey early. One cannot help but think back to the days of Spiteful Crows and Smilin’ Sam duking it out with all sorts of baddies. The overall aesthetic is definitely cartoon-y but has a cleverness to it.
The dialogue is snappy and is, other than scant instances, fully voice-acted. The voice work is solid all around and features a gamut of over-the-top and varied performances. The mid-battle dialogue from the Vice President and boss characters offers a running commentary on the state of the conflict that also makes encounters fly by.
Overall the initial time spent with Citizens of Earth proves to be quite positive. This is a game that remains reverential to its influences but forges ahead with interesting mechanics and writing. APGNation’s Nicole Serpahita will review the game with a more in-depth analysis, but until then keep on the lookout for this promising title. Early adopters even get a discount on every platform ranging from the $11.99 price tag on Steam to a 20% discount across the board on physical copies.