Reviews

Citizens of Earth Review – Being Vice President Of The Earth Is A Tough Job

KeyArt

Platforms: PC, PS4, Vita, 3DS, WiiU
Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Eden Industries
Publisher: Atlus
Singleplayer: Yes
Multiplayer: No

You’ll be taking on the role of Vice President of Earth, a charming yet none-too-bright bloke who managed to somehow get into office the day before the game’s events take place. We find the VP having a bit of a snooze in his mum’s house, taking a short vacation after the mayhem of an election. He wanders outside to find a group of people protesting his rise to power, and some rather strange events occurring which seem to centre around the local Moonbucks Coffee shop. Naturally it’s up to him, and you, to find out what’s going on and why.

So, if you hadn’t already guessed Citizens of Earth is a comedy, one with a pleasing sense of humour that pervades almost every centimetre of the game, from sentient coffee beans to a squid holding stop signs. The VP himself is ably acted by a someone with a hugely charismatic voice, though only some dialogue gets full voice over which is a little disappointing, and while a clear moron he remains fun and charming, never falling into that obnoxious category that so many characters of his ilk have stumbled into before. His cheery demeanor and  set up some pretty great jokes that poke fun at the state of politics. He spouts generic lines about his voters and firmly believes that a winning smile and handsome features make him truly brilliant for the job. He’s charismatic but clueless. Meanwhile the wonderfully weird assortment of enemies and friends you encounter are a joy across the board. How about an eagle wearing a toupee working a desk job at the White House?

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As the Vice President of the entire of Earth your pretty face is far too valuable to be placed on the front lines of battle, hence the need for poor lackeys recruited from around town. Said lackeys often need quests done for them first before they’ll join you, but once on your team they can be swapped out and even outfitted with items to provide some extra benefits. There’s an almost absurd selection of people to bring along with you, and each of them have different abilities, from the healing and support powers of your mom to the Conspiracy Guy’s skills of persuasion and ability to savagely accuse the enemy of a cover up. Each person you recruit can even be renamed, and the  grand total selectable party members is huge if you’re willing to put the time into acquiring them all, creating a roster totalling 40 potential allies.

With your gaggle of followers following your every step you navigate the world in a top-down perspective, interacting with quest providers, recruiting more comrades, finding the occasional item and battling the many weird and wonderful foes that get in the way, with  highlights including walking stop signs and deer with telephones on their antlers. Combat is a fairly standard turn based fare with the order of attack decided every round, so you need to consider what abilities to use and when. Using an ability that brings down the enemy’s defense after your other party members have already attacked is pretty pointless, for example. And speaking of abilities there’s a wide range to employ in combat, each of which takes Energy to use, which is in turn regained through standard attacks. It’s not mentally taxing stuff, but it’s enjoyable to time attacks and target certain enemies who pose the most danger. Of course there’s also elemental strengths and weaknesses to take into account, including the standard water and fire, but also extending to things like verbal. For example a gloomy, depressed cloud is vulnerable to a verbal clouting, making a psychologist the best choice,.

It’s got a pretty awkward tempo, though. Combat essentially boils down to repeating a few basic moves to get the required Energy for some harder hitting power strikes. It would be fine if the game didn’t insist on throwing you into combat so frequently. You can avoid some of the enemies on the world map, but they’ll try to seek you out and there are times when it feels like you can’t move more than 10-feet without being thrown into another fight against an enemy you’ve battled countless times already. Dungeons are the worst culprit with foes absolutely everywhere, swarming the map like ants. The combat is neither deep enough nor exciting enough to justify so much fighting, and it took me all of twenty mintues to begin avoiding as many enemies as I humanly could. Furthermore there’s some pretty big balancing issues; spend a short time in an area and enemies become a pushover to combat. Once you move to another area the difficulty ramps back up, but only briefly until you are once again too strong, which in turn makes combating a parade of enemies duller. There’s a character within the world that can adjust difficulty, but it doesn’t really get rid of the core problem.

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Movement on the world map can also alter combat marginally. Enemies can ambush you, taking away some of your energy reserves and thereby leaving you at a slight disadvantage. On the flip side you can also ambush the enemy, boosting your energy for a strong starting onslaught. Neither being ambushed or doing the ambushing usually swings the combat too much in favour of one party or the other, but it’s a nice addition. To help you catch the foe unaware you can send your minions scurrying forward quickly like , and if they manage to run into an enemy that is facing away from them the that enemy dies immediately, though you’ll get minor XP for this.

Levelling up your crew of motley meat puppets is fairly quick paced, with stats being given an extra bonus boost depending on who else is in your party and new abilities being added often in order to keep you changing tactics. The sheer number of followers and abilities gives you plenty of reason to mix up your party, though some people feel generally more useful than others. Your initial combo of the VP’s mum and brother, for example, is very effective, and I found myself viewing them as the go to party selection if I wanted to plow through combat. The variety of characters also combats the fact that you have no direct control over what skills your party gain when levelling and must simply accept whatever you’re given. During combat you’ll also be granted the option to completely restart the fight with a new party, so if you’re in a bind you can take maximum advantage of the enemy’s weaknesses by switching out the right people.

Other character skills can be used outside of combat, like letting you order items from FedUps or even summoning a car to get around quicker. You’ll find a strongman capable of moving heavy objects out of the way, and a mascot who can alter difficulty and even a pilot who can fly you around the map.

Party members you aren’t using can be placed into the local school where for a small fee they can be enrolled for a period of time in which they’ll gain XP. Obviously it’s a method of keeping unused members powered up while you galavant around with your more favored crew, but sadly the game doesn’t count time spent outside of the game, so you’ll need to spend 15-minutes to an hour or even up to 8 hours in-game in order for your people to gain the bonus experience, by which point I found that my primary party had gathered far more experience through fighting and were again vastly ahead of those stuck in school. Some minor tweaking could be a huge help here.

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Your band of merry minions, though, are sadly nothing more than a collection of names without personality, their entire character boiling down to the nameplate assigned to them, be it “cop”, “mom” or “Conspiracy guy”. If you’re after an RPG that features a compelling cash of comrades this isn’t the title for you. Indeed, dialogue is actually interchangeable between them during certain moments, further increasing the idea that these aren’t people, they are just walking stats. At least it fits thematically since the VP himself is oblivious to people outside of giving them a big smile and hoping they’ll support his political endeavours.

Citizens of Earth is a busy game, packed with a lot of pure content for players to work through, provided they can handle most of it being the same type of mission over and over. Repetition can become a problem as pretty much everything boils down to fighting things. Of course to complete the quests you also have to deal with the game’s often vague objectives, an aspect some people will love and others shall hate.  The Agenda menu is used to keep track of quests and such, but can be pretty vague about everything. Obscure methods of advancing through the game are quite commonplace, and more often than not I found myself wondering around blindly until something finally clicked into place. You might be tasked with finding evidence, a baffling statement until you randomly discover that getting said evidence requires beating up some java beans, or you might need to recruit a strongman by beating him at weightlifting, but not even a basic clue is provided. Sometimes this can lead to satisfying “AH-HA!” moments, and no doubt some people will enjoy having to go round and round the map until they find the answers, but more often than not it’s a little annoying because finding the solution wasn’t done through thought, it was done through chance.

Graphically the game isn’t pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, but it has a lovely, cartoon art style that manages to feel retro without actually looking retro, a fantastic if possibly actually impossible feat of artistic merit. With its vibrant colors and wonderful design Citizens of Earth is a visually pleasing game, reinforced by an enjoyable if fairly standard musical score.

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There’s some glitches and problems worth talking about before we finish up this review, the biggest of which was quite a few crashes throughout my time with the game. Then there’s the small design flaws that irritate, like how you can’t use the map while in a car, or how if you choose to chat to a character at the end of the conversation you’ll revert back to the world map rather than the dialogue tree. Nor can you zoom the map out for a look at the wider world. I also found a strange problem in which having a gamepad plugged into the controller would force the game to default to that control style, and it wouldn’t let me change to keyboard and mouse.

Quirky, fun and utterly charming Citizens of Earth is a good RPG tarnished by some problems that never manage to entirely ruin the fun. With some updates this could be a great game, but as it stands it’s worth picking up just for the humour and visuals.

The Good:
+ Barmy!
+  Sumptious visuals.
+ Enjoyable combat…

The Bad:
– …but just too much of it.
–  Crashing.
– Vague mission objectives.

The Verdict: 3.5/5 – Good, bordering on great.
Overly confident in its own combat skills Citizens of Earth largely gets by on its graphics and its strong humour. You’ll tire of fighting enemies, but smile at almost every joke.

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