Citizens of Earth Wants You! [Preview]
In case it hasn’t been clear, I love me some old RPGs. The Citizens of Earth demo that released on their Kickstarter page looked like it was going to hit on that old passion, but Eden Industries has also thrown in a couple of things to make it more interesting and visually appealing to modern players. With a nice graphic design and some innovations to make combat more in-depth, they just might have a hit on their hands.
Citizens of Earth starts right off with you taking on the role of the Vice President of the World, and as such, you’re far above the fighting that takes place in the streets. What political figure would fight his own battles, anyway? So, your job is to find other people and recruit them, forcing them to do the fighting while the Vice President provides moral support. I know I was thrilled when a boss had me beaten down to almost no health, with two of my other characters dead, and the Vice President called him a mean name. Super helpful.
The people can take part in the neat combat style the game has. You have a variety of basic moves in the game, but instead of having spell or special ability costs, you just have moves that either add or subtract a point from your available power points. Characters typically had three available power points, and these could be charged up by doing attacks that added one point to them. I’m not talking sitting around and defending to build up power like Xenogears, as most of your basic powers, even ones that hit every enemy, will give you a power point back. Your stronger abilities often cost one or two power points to cast, so there’s this balance in powerful and regular attacks since you need the former to charge the latter. It also means that your healer might only be able to cast about three heals before needing to attack, making it so players really need to think of what they want to be doing a few turns later.
Your power pool stays with you when you finish a battle instead of recharging, so when you’re out in the field you need to be thinking of what enemies are wandering around. If you have trouble with a certain type and want to dig out more powerful attacks in the first round, you may need to just use basic attacks against some other enemies you run into. It made me feel like I had to be a lot more aware of what was going on in combat and on the maps, as I had to factor in all sorts of information I normally wouldn’t care about otherwise. I mean, if my guy is hurt I heal him, otherwise I hit with the hardest attack I can. That’s typical RPG planning for me, but in this demo I had to think about whether I should save a heal since I could only rip off three quick ones in a row before I ran out of power. Would I be better off saving special attacks for the more powerful enemies in the area, or was I wasting health by not dispatching softball enemies as fast as I could? It made me a lot more involved in the combat over time rather than just focusing on it on a round-by-round basis.
Entering combat was actually interesting as well. It uses the Earthbound-style system where enemies are live on the map, and attacking them from behind gets you a bonus while getting attacked from behind yourself gives you a penalty. Instead of free rounds for whoever attacked first, the game will either add a point to your pool at the start of combat (Or remove a point if you get attacked first), so it can make a pretty big difference. Another nice bonus of it is the game will just instantly kill the enemy if you’re much stronger than it and also give you the experience, which is pretty cool once you get really sick of fighting the same guys in an area.
What’s new to that system is that you’re still not the person doing the fighting. You’re the Vice President of the World, after all. You can enter combat by walking into enemies, but you also have the ability to order your party to charge at the enemies by pointing the mouse at them and clicking. Your party will rush forward much faster than you could normally move, making it easy to get in some surprise rounds on most enemies. The enemies only seem to get concerned when the Vice Preisdent gets close, so they tend to stay unaware if you just send your party in after them. It’s a handy way to get free experience and to always get a little boost in combat.
Who would the Vice President get to fight for him, though? Regular, everyday people! Your party in Citizens of Earth is composed of bakers, police officers, coffee shop workers, and every other poor soul you come across in your journey. There is an option to recruit just about anyone you run across, reminding me of the Suikoden series (108 available characters in every one of those games) or Pokemon. You have to do small tasks for people in order to get them to join you, as the police officer won’t join without the town being free of trouble and the Conspiracy Guy won’t throw in with you until you can prove one of his theories. It never was anything more complicated than collecting stuff or killing stuff, so it was quite simple in the demo. It’s still an interesting idea to be able to recruit every single person you met in the game, though.
Taking these people out and getting them leveled up has nice bonuses as well. Characters that run shops get better at their jobs as they level, so if I take the Baker out for a few hours, he’ll have better things in his shop when I go back to it. I was afraid that recruiting the baker would mean that the Bakery would close down altogether, so I was pleased to find that I was rewarded for taking him along instead of screwing myself over. It also made me feel a lot more connected to the central town, as I could directly improve it through actions I took. I hope it forms a central hub I can improve with a bunch of other characters as the game progresses, but I guess I’ll just have to see as the game nears release.
The graphics are quite nice, too. Many indie RPGs lean toward pixel art style, which I do enjoy when it’s done well, but it’s nice to see something different. The style leans toward comical cartoon, almost reminding me of the cartoon characters from the Fallout series for some reason. The characters look good in motion, as they are constantly doing something even when left in a passive state. Enemies do the same thing even though they’re presented in the old Dragon Warrior style in combat, moving and dancing around while you pick out your moves. It makes the game feel lively and fun, and goes along well with the silly premise. It doesn’t hurt that these goofy characters and enemies are fun to watch.
Speaking of silly, I spent most of the first hour with the game fighting protestors who didn’t like that I’d come into power. Many of them attacked me with protest signs ‘with malice aforethought’, unless I was fighting animated coffee machines that were spewing scalding coffee everywhere. The game really doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the enemy attacks and various dialogues throughout the game are pretty goofy. If you’re looking for a serious story of politicians saving the Earth, you won’t find it here (You also probably don’t exist. I can’t imagine a single person wanting to hear that story). If you enjoy a little dumb humor combined with some downright bizarre enemy designs (Honey Bear and Bubble Bee come to mind), you’ll probably enjoy it. It definitely has an Earthbound feel to its humor and design.
The music is not quite up to the standards of the rest of the game, as far as the demo’s concerned. The music is bouncy and happy, but something about it didn’t really click with me. It’s well made and all seems to focus on a sound theme that you can hear throughout most of its tracks, but I just really didn’t care for how it sounded. I’m only getting a little taste of the various sounds from the demo, and from what I can see it has a cohesive design that makes the tracks feel like they come together well, but there’s just something about how they sound that did nothing for me. That can be a big issue for me in long RPGs, but I’d have to know more before I made a final judgement call. At worst, it all works and matches the feel of the game, but it just doesn’t sit well in my ears.
The other issue I had with the game was that many areas had a lot of enemies, and most of them were quite similar. The last dungeon of the demo wasn’t all that long, but it was absolutely choked with enemies and it really got on my nerves over time. Considering I always poke around for treasure it was probably my own fault for running into so many, but it just seemed like I was in as many fights as I would have been if this were an early Final Fantasy. Having to put the added thought into combat that I previously enjoyed started to become a headache at this point, since it made combat take longer and made the repeat battles more frustrating. I was pretty tired and already annoyed from dying at a boss three times before that, so factor that into this opinion, though. Still, I do think there were far too many creatures to fight in there, and would have preferred fighting less things for more experience.
The game does look very good in its demo, though. Being able to recruit anyone and have leveling characters giving me better things than just stronger combat characters was a great idea. The art style is nice and animated, and the game’s silly sense of humor makes it all come together really well. Even if I have some complaints about the encounter rate and the music, this is just an alpha demo. If it’s looking this good now, I can only imagine what Eden Industries will be able to do it if they make their Kickstarter goal this Sunday.
Which you should go help them out with by going to their Kickstarter page and donating. You can also download the demo for yourself from the link and see what I’m talking about.