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Citizens of Earth (Wii U) artwork

Citizens of Earth (Wii U) review

"Maybe someday, patches will come along and make the game as great as it deserves to be, but we're not there yet..."

Citizens of Earth, a new RPG from Eden Industries and Atlus, is almost one of the most refreshing and enjoyable RPGs to come along in ages. Featuring a clever sense of humor, smart retro sensibilities, a world chock full of secrets and a satisfying combat system, it nevertheless managed to disappoint me a great deal more than its numerous positive attributes suggest should even be possible.

The game opens with you resting in bed after a long day of… campaigning? I'm not sure what you did the night before, but somehow it got you elected Vice President of the World. Your mom wakes you up as if none of that even happened, though, and tells you to get up and at 'em. I suspect this is a nod to the beginning of various other classic RPGs, such as Chrono Trigger, but here it feels just a bit silly. What are you doing waking up in a cottage when you now hold a political position that puts you very near the head of the free world?

As you explore your own house and the world that waits beyond, you'll find that "silly" is something the game tries for repeatedly. You'll also discover that you can recruit your family members to join your team. Your brother and your mother are the first of around 40 potential allies. No matter how many you recruit, though, you can only ever have three active party members at once.

Citizens of Earth (Wii U) image

Roaming through town, I quickly found myself battling protesters who weren't quite convinced that I should really be in politics. Wisely, the game's developers set it up so that you can theoretically avoid engaging in battle when it suits you. Enemies roam the map, and all you have to do is keep out of their way. This is sometimes easier said than done, though. Many of the environments are rather cramped, thanks to buildings and plants and rocks and such. Enemies chase after you if they spot you, and it's not uncommon to dash right into a group of waiting fiends. Honestly, the battles might as well have been random. You won't have much better luck dodging fights here than you would while roaming the world of The 7th Saga on the old Super Nintendo. It's possible to send your allies out to surprise attack an enemy--perhaps immediately winning the fight and gaining some experience in the process--but this feature is too limited to get much mileage.

When you do enter a fight, whether because you meant to or because you got ambushed, the first thing you're likely to notice is that the background is quite psychedelic. It feels like something out of Earthbound. That classic RPG's influence is frequently evident, and I heartily approve. I particularly enjoyed fighting some of the zany foes that were out for blood, from the aforementioned protesters, to roaming stop signs, to violent hippies and so forth. Humorous text accompanies many of the attacks, and it's clear the writers had a lot of fun with the descriptions.

Once you get used to the aesthetic, you'll next want to figure out how to win. Typically, doing so doesn't prove all that difficult. Characters have elemental alignments, which are then divided according to those moves that require energy and others that accrue it. If you want to heal everybody in the middle of battle, you'll of course want to have built up enough orbs to use the ability. Naturally, some party members are good at keeping everyone patched up and others are better at attacking or buffing. It's fairly standard stuff, and it works very well. Outside of combat, your party members also have other uses. For instance, you can find a car salesman who lets you drive around the map, or a musician who can change background music, or an architect who builds bridges in key locations. This feels like something out of Suikoden, and it ensures that each new addition to your party is cause for celebration.

Citizens of Earth (Wii U) image

A final one of the game's strengths that I should mention is its interesting, interconnected world. At first, the world seems quite small, with its two main cities built so close together. However, there are a lot of outlying regions. The world is maze-like, with shortcuts and roads and tunnels. Gradually, the number of areas you can safely explore will expand, and you'll encounter additional regions and challenges and story elements. Each is populated by unique adversaries, and environments are beautifully illustrated so that no two feel overly similar. Citizens of Earth is a vibrant game, through and through, and I appreciate that about it.

Unfortunately, I don't have much else to add that fits within the "positives" column. The game has only a few flaws, but they're real doozies of the sort that can turn even an apparent positive into a negative.

The first and most persistent issue concerns exploration. Traveling through the world is a real chore. This is true especially because of load screens, which are both lengthy and frequent. Any time you enter a building from the map, there's a load screen. If you switch floors within a building, that action produces another one. If you leave the building to return to the map… load screen. Head down an alleyway? Load screen. Some of these last only briefly, but the bulk of them--at least on Wii U, which is the version of the game I played--linger for more like 15 or 20 seconds. If you take a wrong turn and realize it too late, you just wasted a minute of your time, if not more.

The frequent enemy encounters only compound the issue. They're not difficult to survive, particularly if you adjust the difficulty using one of the characters you can meet and recruit early in the campaign. However, they're distracting and sometimes you'll face several in a row with only a second or two between them. Then you'll find foes that heal themselves, or throw up shields (of a sort) and make you sit through a couple of turns of nothing, just so you can finally land a killing blow. Citizens of Earth clearly doesn't value my time as much as I do.

Citizens of Earth (Wii U) image

Sometimes, the game also needs to do a better job of telling you where to go next. There's a mini-map that points you toward possible objectives, but it can become cluttered with enough side mission prompts that it's difficult to tell where you need to travel next to progress the plot. A journal keeps track of that from your subscreen, but sometimes the advice it gives doesn't go into sufficient detail or seems to be at odds with the feedback you get when attempting to follow directions. And since wandering around and trying to figure out what you're missing is a time-consuming affair, you're likely to find yourself ploughing through a lot of tedious filler.

A final issue, at least for me, is that the game is super buggy. When I first started playing, it wasn't so bad. I had a crash or two that forced me to power off my system. Progress is saved automatically--and frequently--so I didn't lose much ground. As I kept going, though, crashes came along more frequently. Finally, around 18 hours into the campaign, I couldn't play more than 3 or 4 minutes without a crash. I literally could progress no further because I couldn't play long enough to get anything done. I haven't finished the game because it simply wouldn't let me. Even deleting and reinstalling it didn't work. I looked around online and it sounds like people are also encountering crashes on PC, PlayStation 4, and Vita (albeit less frequently). It's nice to know I'm not alone, but it would be nicer still if the issues I'm encountering had all been ironed out ahead of the game's release.

So it's like I said: Citizens of Earth is almost one of the most enjoyable RPGs released in a long while. If Eden Industries can improve load times and eliminate the glitches and tone down enemy density and maybe make a few other tweaks I didn't have time to discuss here, the end result could very well prove to be a modern classic. The experience that's available at present, though, is only just good enough to leave me pining for what might have been.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (January 25, 2015)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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JoeTheDestroyer posted January 26, 2015:

I only encountered crashes on the PC version at the beginning of the campaign, and haven't had one in a long time. That sucks about your playthrough, though.

The load screens are also not nearly as bad on the PC version. They're there, but they only last a couple of seconds. I probably would have gone nuts if they were as long as the Wii U version, by the sounds of it. I can imagine that encounters would be a royal pain, as you indicated.

One other complaint I have is one that I wouldn't criticize the game for, but it's irritating getting it to work with Steam's in-home streaming. About half of the time, I only get the game's sound and nothing else. That sends me downstairs to close the game out on my PC, which somewhat defeats the purpose of streaming the game to another device. Again, I don't think it's really something the developers can work on. It could just be that Valve needs to improve in-home, which is still far from perfect.

Oh, and wonderful review, by the way. I agree that it's a good game, but issues like that are inexcusable.
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honestgamer posted January 26, 2015:

To be clear, random encounters don't prompt the lengthy load screens I described. They're not as smooth and instant as I would expect, but there's only the briefest of delays. It's just that they add to the frustration after the delay moving from map segment to map segment.

I didn't mention it in the review, but some of the mini-games to recruit people really bugged me, too. The rhythm game (for the Musician, who I named Marley) took me hours of effort to clear, and the soda shop game was danged difficult, as well. I feel like they could have been made slightly easier while still providing a challenge for a lot of players. I did clear them both, but I can imagine a lot of gamers saying "Well, I don't want that guy anyway" and moving onto other things.

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