It's time to ambass.
Earth disappeared on the new galactic ambassador’s first day in Citizens Of Space on Switch. As he journeys through space to find Earth's missing pieces, he recruits 40 party members, each with a unique role.
The turn-based RPG draws cues from other games with timing-based attacks, including a lighthearted tone and charming characters. The 12 playable characters, 12 equipable partners and 16 summons bring a ton of variety to battles. Three party members take the front line. The ambassador doesn't fight, instead swapping citizens and using items. Attacks either fill or empty an energy bar, and most grant a buff or status effect. Every move comes with its own timing microgame, like stopping a gauge or mashing a button. I quickly fell into a favorite team, but replacements hop in when a character falls, so I was punished in boss fights for not getting a feel for everyone’s attacks. Coupled with enemy weaknesses and ever-changing locations, combat stays fresh for the 30-plus-hour adventure.
The ambassador is a little dim, a fact his assistant often points out. His brainy pessimism reigns in the ambassador's sunny disposition enough to differentiate character worldview from the world. Every character has a lot of personality, from the old sea captain to the southern interior decorator who offers to “rearrange your day.” Citizens don't just sit in your party after recruitment, though; they dot the landscape with witty takes on story events. I was luckily always excited to see them as their jokes carry the scenario.
Most of the plot is an A-to-B tour through somewhat inventive worlds. The ice and fire levels are two halves of the same world, the desert area is a resort with apocalyptic weather, and the moon is a robot Western. The worlds house self-contained stories that don't contribute much to the overall plot and feel a bit like a Saturday morning cartoon. The “corporations are evil, government is good” theme worried me a bit when a light parody of the current president showed up, but things stayed tame. I kind of wish he had just been the villain as the game felt ready to end a few times.
Side quests offer the meat of content. Only a few citizens join you through the story, leaving the rest optional. I was surprised by just how different each character’s unlock conditions were. While many are fetch quests, a few took serious exploration that kept me on the lookout throughout missions, and none felt cheap. Three eluded me until the end game, but I felt dumb when I finally found the solutions. Most citizens' abilities add clever mechanics outside of battle, like a bestiary or fast-travel, so everyone feels worth recruiting.
Aiding my exploration was a robust map and quest list. Every exit on the map has markers for quests in that direction, including quests on other worlds. I was frustrated by almost every exit pointing me back to my ship but grateful that obtuse quests were reduced to “explore this specific room.” Holding Y pulls up a waypoint, but every time a quest updates, Y instead becomes a shortcut to the quest list. Sometimes the waypoint just didn't load.
While the art and dialogue of Citizens of Space are top-notch, the actual game feels held together by rubber bands. My session crashed a few times, but the autosave kicked in. The credits list more voice actors than developers, but voices and sound effects sometimes disappear until a reboot. In long battles, turn order continuously resets, turning bosses into one-on-one slogs. Nothing broke the game for me, but it is a shame to see such care poured into the artistic side and so little into the technical side.
Citizens Of Space offers a ton of worthwhile content for anyone in search of something light. Technical issues keep the adventure from matching its scenario's quality, but the excellent music plays on in my head. The last 9% of Earth still calls. The galaxy may be saved, but this ambassador ambasses on.