Saturday, February 7, 2015

Citizens of Earth (PC / PS4) Review

Citizens of Earth has arrived on a multitude of platforms.  It is very humorous, but not as politically leaning as one might expect.  Sure, there is some political humor, but most of it is just jokes and puns, so no worries about it offending the red or blue halves of the country.  You start as the newly elected Vice President of the World, and must recruit citizens to fight for you as you uncover the meaning behind some bizarre happenings.  That might sound a little vague, but the story is pretty good and I don't want to spoil it for anybody.

The VP doesn't do his own fighting, so the citizens do it for him.  Your party (for fighting!) consists of up to 3 citizens.  Battles are turn based, with each citizen and opponent normally getting one action per turn.  Instead of having an MP-based system for abilities, there are energy bubbles.  Actions will either give or take energy.  Basic attacks and some self-buffs give them, while stronger attacks, elemental attacks and things like healing will take them.  There's a nice balance to juggling your actions to dish out damage, but saving some energy for harder foes... or the always useful healing.  The energy bubbles and status effects persist after battle, too, which is a nice bonus.

The game also seems to take a cue from the Persona series, in that it will reward your for striking an enemy's weakness, but punish you for hitting their resistance.  Exploiting a weakness will grant an additional energy bubble, while the enemy resisting your attack has the opposite effect.  The system is pretty easy to take advantage of.  Even if you spend energy to do an elemental attack, you will get it right back.  To balance it out, not every enemy is weak to something, so use it whenever you can for some easy victories.

The side of the battle screen shows the order for the next turn, but unfortunately only shows your side.  The only real complaint I have about the battles is the VP's commentary.  Occasionally he'll say something, usually a reaction to a critical or taking a nasty hit, but the battle has to pause while the voice clip plays.  I assume that is to prevent overlapping dialogue, but it slows down the fights and is a little irritating after awhile.

Enemies are visible on the field, so you know when you are going to get into a fight.  Normal rules for visible enemies apply, so if you can catch them from behind, you get a bonus energy bubble.  Getting ambushed will take one energy away.  It's surprisingly hard to get the preemptive strikes, at least for me.  If you are stronger than the enemies, you can win the battle instantly and gain a small portion of the experience the enemy would have given.  That's what usually happened when I got the drop on an enemy.  However, it's easier to get ambushed, since contact with any citizen in your party will trigger combat.  Trying to run away from an enemy on the field can easily get you ambushed, since you have to be aware of the train of people following you.  Also, if you make your citizens charge (square button on the field) and they miss, but hit the enemy in the back while returning, you get ambushed.  Yeah, I don't know why either, since you clearly got them in a pincer attack.  It's pretty rare, so I guess it's not an issue, but something to be aware of.

Moving around the fields is easy, and there are gifts to pick up (treasure chests), and things to search, like bookcases.  I like that examining many things for the first time will award your party with a small bit of experience.  Just be careful wandering around the maps, since you can wander into places you aren't strong enough for.  There are also some places that are blocked off, and certain citizens are required to gain access.  I think it's an interesting way to block stuff off, while not feeling like gated progress.  Want to cross that gap to be able to go somewhere else?  Recruit the architect and pay her to build a bridge.  Need through that broken door?  Recruit the handyman to fix it.  It fits really well with the theme of the game, and I really like that the citizens have more uses than just fighting.

There are other non-battle uses for citizens.  The car salesmen will let you use his car to quickly navigate the roads.  The pilot can help you warp around the map.  The lifeguard will allow you to breath underwater (just go with it, ok?).  One of the most useful is the Yoga Instructor.  She lets you level down and gain bonus points to distribute to whatever stats you see fit.  It's a much softer version of reincarnation from the Disgaea series, and it's awesome.  It's also really powerful if you abuse it, so if you want the game to be hard, stay away from her.  Also, her and many other citizens don't have to be recruited to use their functions, but you will have to track them down to do so.  Otherwise, using their abilities, changing their piece of equipment, or swapping around your battle party is pretty easy to do from the menu.

The length is pretty good, and clocks in at about 30 or so hours for the story.  Of course you will get more time by wandering around and trying to get all the citizens.  There is no platinum, much to the dismay of trophy hunters.  There's not really much replay, either, since you can't really miss anything that I know of.  Still a good value for the dollar, though.  I'll also note that some people have had some issues with the game freezing/locking up on them.  I personally had none, even in the places described, and I played it in spans of several hours each.  So regardless, I'll still advise you to save often, and use the three slots they give you to the fullest.  I would, of course, like more than three, since I'm a save-a-holic, but I can make do.

Citizens of Earth is a charming RPG.  If you like unique and quirky games, and turn based battles, definitely try the game out.  I've seen it favorably compared to Earthbound, but I'd also add it takes a few cues from other games, too, and gives the user a fun and unique experience.  I was also surprised that it ran well on my four year old mid-range PC, so if you don't have the necessary consoles, you can easily enjoy the PC version.

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