Citizens of Earth Review – Charm Turns to Tedium (PS Vita, PS4)
I recognize that this is a site dedicated to a love of all things PlayStation, but I think it’s fair that we can acknowledge a classic game (whether new or old) when we see it. EarthBound for the SNES is one such game.
The title released during an era when games of a similar ilk simply didn’t exist. It offered a goofy art style, an offbeat story line and a set of characters that was, at the time, criticized for being too childish. EarthBound was seen by naysayers as a kid’s game.
Anyone who’s played it, of course, will tell you that simply isn’t the case. EarthBound is, for all intents and purposes, one of the best RPGs ever made. As such, when a title releases that so obviously owes a lot of its inspiration to a game like EarthBound, gamers like me sit up and take notice.
That title is Citizens of Earth. I’m here to tell you that there’s some fun to be had in the package, but the game doesn’t even come close approaching the standards set down by its inspiration.
Things Start With a Little Charm
At the onset, the Citizens of Earth picture is actually one I thought I’d invest myself in. You play the recently elected Vice President. It’s your day off, though the world has been consumed by all sorts of evil monsters and ne’er-do-wells. There are protesters, secret agents, rival politicians and evil coffee beans abound.
Your job is to move about the world recruiting citizens into your party of heroes bound to battle bad guys. You recruit the citizens by, essentially, performing mini sidequests after speaking with them.
The world is colorful, which is a plus, and there’s an interesting host of characters and NPCs around you. The quests, at first, seem rather clever and offer unique places to visit or items to find.
At first, the game is charming. There’s a certain sense of nostalgia at work in Citizens of Earth that works on aging gamers like myself. It feels familiar by using old mechanics ad nasuem.
That really sets in with the first few battles. Before they devolve, these battles are so, so, so similar to the line-driven stuff we played way back when. Shades of EarthBound again rear up, though one or two mechanic twists offer some variation.
That charm is there; but, then it gives way to a game that’s rather tedious and boring.
The Cracks of an Electorate
After playing Citizens of Earth for a few hours, a few things really started to grate on me. First of all, I played this game on the PS Vita. That’s the code we received for our review. On the PS Vita, there’s a loading screen between every single room. Given the game’s art style and, how can I put this, lack of graphical prowess, it’s odd that play is constantly interrupted for loading.
That aforementioned charming recruiting process for party members? That gets a bit boring as well. Over the first few hours, you’ll find that you’ve talked to so many citizens that their quests (basic fetch variety) begin to stack up. They become an unrecognizable pile of things to do while moving around, and they aren’t supported by any clever conversation or character building. You just know, for instance, that you need to visit a few spots in the game in order to recruit the photographer.
This complaint is a bit subjective, but I also found that the art style slowly moved from reminiscent of classics towards a game that belongs on a smartphone or tablet. Over time, my satisfaction with the look and movement of the game degraded, and I actual found myself really not liking how much this title looked like something I’d find in an App Store as opposed to on a proper gaming device.
And those battles? Woof.
A Boring Battle System
What starts out as a nostalgic line fighter eventually turns into a trudging affair. There’s an energy system in this game that splits attacks. Essentially, your weak attacks won’t consume energy while your more powerful stuff requires whole energy points at a time.
So, you’ll want to save energy over several turns by performing weak attacks. When you have enough points, you’ll perform your heavy stuff and, hopefully, deal enough damage to rout your opponent. If you don’t? Well, you’re back to waiting while selecting the same weak attack or healing move over and over again in order to pass the time between big hits.
“Why even have this system to begin with?” I found myself wondering. I’d much rather see the game evolve battles by adding more dynamic skills rather than leaning on this silly energy system. You’ll get new skills as you level your party members, but those skills are always hampered by this incessant need to chip away while storing up energy.
The real problem with the battle system is that it negatively complements the other tedious stuff in the game. The battles come frequently, and you always seem to be close in level to the baddies around you, so while you’re tracking down bits and pieces of a fetch quest you’ll find yourself exercising the repetition of fighting way, way too often.
Just skip the energy system altogether, developers! Citizens of Earth strives to be such a simple game that this convoluted waste of time feels like little more than game length padding.
A Game Only a Mother Could Really Love
Which gets me right down to the core problem I have with Citizens of Earth: in spite of its waning charm, I didn’t really have very much fun.
Much like the Vice President and his delivery man brother, Citizens of Earth is an RPG only a mother could truly love. It’s fun at times, and the quips and jokes stick their landing on a few occasions. It’s just that those things get lost in a sea of boring fetch-quests for party growth and a battle system that feels far too padded for its own good.
Better jokes, a stronger art style, a better battle system and a recruitment process that fells more involving would move this game from simply mediocre to a whole lot of fun. Though, that’s sort of a laundry list of problems to overcome.
A review code for Citizens of Earth was provided by the publisher for the PS Vita. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.