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There’s never a moment when Citizen Sleeper fails to stand out as a unique experience. Putting players in the role of a Sleeper — essentially a human consciousness transposed into an artificial body — lends the game a one-of-a-kind feeling of being simultaneously dehumanized while desperately scrabbling to regain even a remote sense of humanity. On the ring station Erlin’s Eye, it’s the player who’s the one discriminated against. The way the remarkable visual-novel prose depicts the entire loathsome experience makes even the faintest gesture of kindness from a fellow station resident become a vital lifeline in a tempest of misery and depression.
But developer Jump Over the Age wasn’t satisfied with presenting just a bleak sci-fi visual novel. No, Citizen Sleeper is a game that makes the player earn the right to continue to play it. Multiple ticking clocks endanger the Sleeper’s survival every single minute, and the only way to prevail and forge a path to survival is via the game’s die-rolling gameplay that restricts both the number of dice that can be rolled and what actions they can be assigned to. The game becomes arguably more difficult the worse the Sleeper’s condition and situation become. It’s a game full of original ideas that truly asks the player to sweat and suffer along with its protagonist, but rewards both with unforgettable satisfaction when mastered.
I Was a Teenage Exocolonist is a deep look at the connections between learning, growing, and the interactions between people. Set on an alien planet, the game sees the main protagonist build friendships, possibly even a romance or two, as they age from ten to twenty. Each character changes as they reach adulthood based on their personalities and the trials and tribulations of colonizing an alien planet. The main character has memories of past lives that can help subvert disaster striking, giving them insight into how to accomplish things differently. There are many ways to unravel the mysteries of the planet, and figuring out the different ways that life can end is a fascinating puzzle unto itself. There’s a depth of freedom in exploration, character creation, and relationship-building that strengthens the connections at the heart of the game as deciding whom to connect with and how to spend time adds a straight-forward allure to narrative-building. It does not hold back on heavy-hitting heartfelt moments that connect players to the deep story about growing up and exploring various roles of society and how humanity interacts with alien life, each other, and even themselves.
Created by WolfEye Studios, Weird West fills a niche not often seen: an action RPG with immersive sim elements set in the “Supernatural West”. In the game, RPGamers control a party made up of a werewolf, bounty hunter, Oneirist magic user, protector, and even a pigman. The combat feels solid, requiring consideration beforehand to make the most of the environment. However, it’s the storytelling that really stands out. Each of the five characters have their own stories to experience, complete with their own quest lines, even allowing main characters from other stories to be recruited. Together with its distinct art direction, open-ended gameplay, and unique characters, Weird West sets itself apart from a crowded field of great RPGs in 2022.
by Pascal Tekaia, Ryan Costa, and Phil Willis