I've been meaning to write this up for a while now, so here it is: Citizens of Earth!
If you ever played Earthbound back in the SNES days, CoE is a lot like that. Very much like that. And Earthbound was a good game! It's on a lot of "best of" lists, so you could do worse than imitate it.
CoE premise: You're the newly elected Vice President of Earth (just roll with it) and you have to deal with a mystery as well as recruit various townspeople and find lost cats and stuff. There are no NPCs in this game; you can recruit a full 40 townspeople to be in your team. You can have 3 of them with you at any time, swapping them out as needed (you yourself don't fight, you're a politician!).
It's got a lot of great humor and some nice improvements on Earthbound. Every recruitable character has strengths and weaknesses. Special attacks are actually worth something now, because you can build up your energy to use the special attacks. The game will show you (in the battle) what attack types are strong and weak against various enemies, so you don't screw up and use the wrong one.
Reflexes are mostly unnecessary in this game. I say "mostly". Combat is turn based, not timed, and you do have a limited ability to outrun enemies (but you need to fight enemies to gain XP). However there are 2 townspeople whose recruitments involve mini games and I'm just stuck on those. On the other hand, you can finish the game without them as far as I can tell. It's just nice to have the complete set.
The game is set in modern day (something else I like!) and you can use cars and helicopters to travel (to a limited extent; cars need roads, helicopters have specific landing points) as well as good old foot slogging. There are side quests and mini challenges and none of them are fishing games, thank goodness. I don't know why those are so popular. If the party gets wiped out, there's no real punishment other than probably starting over at the beginning of the zone.
Every recruit to your cause has different special powers. Some of them are group buff/debuff oriented. Some of them are all about attacks of different flavors. Firefighter has both fire and water attacks; Baker has fire attacks but also bakes up healing items; Mom has a hug that heals and removes status ailments, and so on. Yes, your mom and your brother are both recruitable - they're the first ones you convince to follow you around.
For those who remember my CoH Sims games: Yes, I named the politician Storm. The brother is now Thunder and the mom is Terecita.
The recruits have a nice diversity to them, too! I'd say half the cast is female, and there's some POC in there as well. (Of course you, the politician, are a clueless older white guy, but you come across more as lovably incompetent.) Here's my current lineup, minus the last few people I need to recruit.
You can rename each recruit from their default title (Baker, Mom, Exterminator and so forth) which is a lot of fun for me personally. I like being able to rename characters! :D
Besides levels, once you recruit the Teacher, he can give your characters tutoring. Let's say most of the party is around level 20 and you recruit someone who's level 11. They can probably tag along and hope not to get killed - only the 3 active characters gain XP - or you can pay the teacher to tutor them for XP. This can be as short as a few minutes or as long as 8 hours; the latter gives them 10k xp which is not bad at all. (And yes, you can just leave the game minimized while you do something else to let the time pass; the game must be running for the tutoring clock to count down. But see below about autosaves and crashes.)
By the way, even a "defeated" character, as long as they're still one of the three active ones, gains XP, which is a fantastic touch. You can lug their body around, let them gain XP and when they level, they wake up with a full set of HP. That's awesome! If you can carry the load, that is.
Voice acting is cute and fun. Maybe not top tier professional but definitely better than "guy from shipping", and suitably cartoony to match this game. The art is bright and colorful. This game is actually fun to look at.
The music is pleasant and will earworm you to death.
While there is an actual story arc, the game doesn't care if you spend time wandering around collecting recruits and doing side quests for a while. There isn't the sense of THE WORLD WILL END IF YOU DON'T GET ON WITH IT that some games have. On the other hand, this can mean you end up in areas you're not ready for. I got way over my head by just walking to a zone that I wasn't supposed to get to for quite a while.
The zones are a little screwy in how they match up to each other. Someone did a map of the place and the world is not a neat, seamless panel; some of the connections are a little weird. But still. You can get from here to there. Autosave kicks in when you change zones (from zone to zone, or go into/out of a building, and so on).
And that brings us to the crashing and so on.
This game was apparently last touched by the developers back in 2015, and even then people reported this game crashes a lot. I'm enjoying it enough to make the effort to save early and often, but I could see where the constant crashing could turn people off from this game. It doesn't crash the whole computer, just the game.
The crashes don't seem to be specific to anything, they just... happen. Sometimes in a battle. Sometimes when zoning. Sometimes just because. Most disturbing was that I can no longer get into one specific zone because the game will crash when I try to enter it. The good news is, I can work around that. The bad news is, if I hadn't already achieved what I needed to in that zone, I'd be SOL for continuing the story.
Also nice are multiple save slots (these have become a real rarity in today's games; why is that?) and your Veep has an "Agenda" on his PDA which tells you what quests you have to do and sometimes where they are. Sometimes they're vague. I won't deny I've had to look things up a couple times, but mostly I can do this one on my own.
In short: I really recommend this game, but go into it with full knowledge that you'd better save frequently.
ETA 10 June: I now have a new computer and that one zone? I can enter it now! I haven't had any crashes yet, so maybe that was all the fault of the old computer rather than the game.
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