Back in January I was excited to report on Citizens of Earth, the latest project from Canadian studio Eden Industries. Thankfully the developers saw fit to put together a demo for GDC and were kind enough to share it with us. Certainly my early expectations couldn’t all be fulfilled, right? You’ll just have to read on to find out.
Many of the features have already been covered in our initial preview (linked to above), so I’ll only be detailing a few that I wasn’t able to cover until actually playing the game. For those unfamiliar with Citizens of Earth, it’s constructed like an old-school Earthbound-style RPG but with modern sensibilities. Players take on the role of Vice President of the World who’s recently returned to his hometown only to find that things are amiss. Exploration of the town and its surrounding areas lead to strange events and meeting a wide cast of quirky characters, many of whom the player will be trying to recruit to his/her team.
I was very impressed with the combat system. It was one of the question marks I had back when the game was announced. Battle takes place in a turn-based system once the player encounters enemies by running into them. While the team is technically made up of four characters at a time, the VP is only there as a commentator while his three companions do all of the dirty work. Each character has their own power meter with some abilities refilling that meter and others (typically more powerful) using up the power. It produces a nice balance of having to leverage different attacks at different times, and it keeps the player from ever being too overpowered. Getting the jump on enemies by basically hurling the party at them will give an immediate boost to each fighter’s meter, whereas getting ambushed produces an initial penalty.
Speaking of the enemies, the demo included a nice variety which quickly change depending on the locale of the party. Many of the enemy designs are even more bizarre than the human personalities the player meets during exploration. There are also a few bosses in the demo for good measure. While the individual enemy battles were not that difficult, I did find the bosses to be a good challenge in terms of having to balance attacks, buffs, and debuffs amongst the party.
Leveling up can increase nearly a half-dozen stats, and specific stat bonuses come into play when different characters are paired together. Party members can be swapped out at any time between fights allowing the player to experiment more liberally. New individual abilities are introduced every few levels which keeps the battling from getting stale, and it’s a nice touch that the abilities are tied to the character’s job or personality.
I grew up playing RPGs like Dragon Quest and to a lesser degree the more light-hearted Earthbound series. I’ve also played Zeboyd Games‘ modern takes on the genre like Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World. While those newer titles would be the most apt comparisons to Citizens of Earth in terms of tone, what really separates this game is the visual style. There are no retro sprites to be found here. The artwork is sharp and well-defined, and it’s such a beautiful change from what I’m used to in this type of game. It might have left a more indelible mark than any other part of the experience playing through the demo.
Despite there being a few technical issues due to it being an early build, what I’ve been able to play so far has certainly whet my appetite for the full game to be released. The team is still deciding if and when to release a demo to the public. So if these impressions have you curious, unfortunately you’ll have to wait. Again, no release date has been officially announced so keep checking back here or on the CoE website for updates.
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