Citizens Of Earth: Review

Outside looking in, this top-down, Japanese-style roleplayer has its fingers in all the right biscuit jars. With its turn-based combat, meandering story and quirky cast of characters, delivered via a colourful and cartoony coating, there’s more than a lingering whiff of SNES-era master-work Earthbound. But whereas Shigesato Itoi’s iconic classic paved the way for an entire subgenre of storytelling, Citizens Of Earth feels like it’s arrived to the party a decade too late and with a truckload of uninvited guests clinging to its coat tails.

You play as the newly elected Vice President of Earth and it’s your job to figure out, and put a stop to, a series of strange events that are wracking the planet. To do this you jog about town recruiting the titular population to fight on your side within a three-strong party. Initially this seems to be a great little twist on the tried and tested formula. The people you gather, up to 40 total, initially make for a varied and entertainingly comical cast. There’s the Conspiracy Guy, for example, whose actions are all geared towards getting to the truth (the traditional enemy-scanning moves in the JRPG playbook). Or there’s the Vice President’s mother, who threatens to do the Pokémon thing and see you off on
your adventure at the outset, but ends up tagging along to dish out the game’s tutorial as an ‘ability’ instead. You’ll emit a titter here and there.

Joke and dagger
But very quickly this sweet sense of character sours. Combat is just too boring an activity to adequately prop up the rest of the game. Imagine seeing a stand up comedian every single night for an entire UK-wide tour. Now imagine their set was only two minutes long. Now imagine that they tell the same joke each time on repeat. That’s what combat feels like. That’s the level of comedy-killing frustration we’re talking about.
“Pokes fun at Political types about as effectively as a sponge gently caressing your shins”
Aside from the repetitive dialogue, it’s all just feels so… done. You select attacks or abilities from a list with each round that passes and then wait your turn. There’s variety to be found in switching between party members after each fight, but doing this kills any sense of building a party or of owning your play.

Then there’s the criminal pacing not just of the story which pokes fun at ’90s-era RPGs and political types about as effectively as a sponge gently caressing the shins of South Park’s foul-mouthed, biting satire but the frequency of those crushingly dull fights. At times you can barely walk two steps in the field before you’re whisked into another numbing, neon-backed battle scene.

In its bid to tap into Earthbound’s brand of whimsy, Citizens Of Earth forgoes a significant story hook. With its baggy cast it alienates and waters down any personality it might have otherwise tapped into. The by-the-book combat, which fails to implement the knowledge earned through thousands
of hours spent in RPG worlds similarly weighed down by archaic convention, offends. It’s a shame, though, as for a minute there it looked like it was on the right track. Not enough games attempt to recreate what made Earthbound so special. Perhaps now we know why.


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