Citizen Sleeper 2 feels a little bit Farscape, a little bit Mass Effect, and like everything I could possibly want

Citizen Sleeper 2
(Image credit: Fellow Traveller)

Citizen Sleeper 2: Starward Vector has captured me. In much the same way as its immediate predecessor Citizen Sleeper did, the tabletop-inspired cyberpunk sequel has been sitting at or near the top of my most-anticipated games ever since it was first announced. And having now played a small section of it, as well as having spoken with developer Jump Over the Age's Gareth Damian Martin, I simply cannot imagine it being dethroned until it actually releases.

There's just something about the original Citizen Sleeper that really makes my neurons fire. The combination of extremely personal stories told through dice rolls in place of direct actions out in fictional future space with beautiful character art by Guillaume Singelin left me stunned – to the point that one of the first things I wrote for GamesRadar+ after getting hired was a love letter to the game.

It's just RPG candy to me that I can't get enough of. It's the kind of game that makes me want to stay up way past my bedtime to dig deep on the terrors of space capitalism and android maintenance for just one more turn. (You play an emulated consciousness that's basically renting its body from a major corporation, and a large part of the first game is struggling to break free from that.)

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Wake up again, Sleeper

Citizen Sleeper 2

(Image credit: Fellow Traveller)

Despite the fact that I felt perfectly satisfied with the conclusion to the original, the sequel has raised the stakes in two significant ways: by leaving the setting of the first behind in favor of modular locations and stations to explore, as well as what appears to be a much more expansive set of narrative opportunities in large part due to the addition of crew mechanics. You can fly around to different places to accomplish different goals, and now you get to pick and choose some crew to come with you.

"Citizen Sleeper 1 was a bit of an experiment in trying to bring some tabletop ideas to games," says Martin when I ask why they went in such a spacefaring direction. "Maybe other people knew better than me, but I didn't know if it would be a big hit, and it turned out people really loved it."

"And so that left me at the end of making the DLC kind of feeling like there was untrodden territory for me where it's like, 'Well, actually, I have tons of ideas about how I would like to remix this structure and think about it differently,'" they continue. "And one of the things that I really love is those stories kind of like Firefly, Farscape-type stories, and they just don't feel like a part – we've got Mass Effect 2, and maybe a couple of other games, and they don't really capture the heart of those stories."

Expanding Citizen Sleeper 2: Starward Vector out to include different kinds of adventures in different kinds of places with different kinds of people came naturally, according to Martin. All of the "thematic structure," as they call it, was already present in the original.

"In Citizen Sleeper 1, the NPCs have a lot of agency and the focus is on human stories," says Martin, "and we have a dice system which is all about being able to have the player do things other than combat."

Motley crew

Citizen Sleeper 2

(Image credit: Fellow Traveller)

When you think about it, it's like, who would jump at the chance to hop on your ship? They're probably also somebody on the run from something.

Though my time with Citizen Sleeper 2: Starward Vector has been brief – just a small section after the opening bit, per Martin's description – I've definitely gotten a taste of all of the above. Several different characters, including multiple possible crew members, had their own thing going on that impacted how I went about trying to gather the materials to get where I was going in several instances.

Do I, for example, agree to let someone I just met have an important bauble someone else hired me to grab, just because it might contain a long-held secret? Or do I tell them to pound sand and make my delivery? Both options would appear to have serious consequences, though I've not been able to see for myself exactly what all that might be just yet. But I've had a taste now, and I yearn for more.

The crew members aren't just an opportunity for narrative arcs, either. They all bring their own skills (and additional dice) to bear in various activities you participate in. Each member of the crew has a couple dice per cycle (each turn, essentially) with their own strengths and weaknesses. But maybe don't get too attached, as these people will often come and go.

"It's a bit more limited as we don't kind of treat crew like something you bank like in Mass Effect 2," adds Martin. "In Mass Effect 2, you just go around the galaxy, hoover up everybody, and then they live in your ship forever. In this game, it's a bit different in the sense that there are local crew, so they're people who live somewhere, and they'll help you out on jobs from that location, but you can't pick them up and put them in your ship and take them anywhere."

"Only certain crew will join your ship," continues Martin, noting that anyone that's up and willing to join a stranger's crew on a somewhat permanent basis might have their own reasons for doing so. "When you think about it, it's like, who would jump at the chance to hop on your ship? They're probably also somebody on the run from something."

What that could possibly be, I don't know, nor do I know exactly what sets the Sleeper you play as off on their own adventure. But I can't wait to find out.


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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.