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Sovereign Citizens

by Laura Paul and Max Woodring profile


Web Site

(based on 8 ratings)
4 reviews

About the Story

A transient duo finds an abandoned mansion to camp out in, but comes to find many details of the estate inhospitable

Game Details


Audience Choice--Best Capitalist Critique, Best Location Descriptions, Most Uncanny Reappropriation, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2021


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Number of Reviews: 4
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Too luxurious to be livable., April 19, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Slice of Life

This is more an experience than a game. Sovereign Citizens lets the player look over the shoulder of a homeless woman while she's exploring an abandoned mansion.

The choices involved (in my playthrough at least) amount to nothing more than choosing which room to visit next. Once in those rooms, the only thing to do was let the text draw me along in the woman's thoughts, feelings and memories.

Fortunately, the writing is good. The loneliness and abandonement of the house is clear, as is the held-back desperation of the woman as she wanders through empty room after empty room. The relationship between the woman and her husband (I think) is one of mutual comfort, their being together might well be the real home in the story.

The experience is vivid and immersive, and in the end it lets the reader draw their own conclusions. There are political, emotional, psychological themes that are touched upon, without pushing them into the reader's face.

A good click-through read, not much of a game.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Abandoned lives of the disturbingly rich, April 15, 2021

The short but impactful Sovereign Citizens presents a dark, claustrophobic story about a couple experiencing homelessness who explore an abandonded mansion by the sea. It starts as an affecting, if straightforward, narrative as they arrive and try to settle in for the night in what seems to be a well-equipped, upscale place.

Slowly, though, as one of them decides to explore the mansion, things get increasingly weird and satirical. The mansion is sprawling and almost impossibly laid out, one room devoted to recreating a tiki bar complete with climate control, another room full of trophies for a litany of achievements that don't seem real, etc. I like that this exploration can be read in different ways, whether as a commentary on the absurdity and ego of conspicuous wealth, or as a perspective on how things that seem normal in a status-focused culture might feel alien to those who've been excluded from it. The protagonist exploring the mansion has a slightly menacing edge, and given the contrast between their circumstances and the excesses discovered in the house, it's understandable.

While the interactive elements and design are somewhat basic, the focus on navigation aligns well with the sense of disorientation the game sets out to create, and the experience lingered with me after I finished playing.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Purely exploration. A twine game about an abandoned home, April 14, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game takes on a social problem: America has millions of empty homes but the homeless aren't allowed to live in them.

In this game, you play a homeless couple who breaks into an ultra-mansion. There are tons of rooms, and you can explore them for a long time.

Almost all interactions are choosing which room to see next. There are some fun self-referential moments (like finding a CYOA book and talking about how much you disliked them when younger), but the vast bulk of the game is marveling at the excess and poor taste of the rich owners.

It's hard to sympathize with the PC as they seem more motivated by envy than by higher ideals.

There were a few minor typos here and there (I think there was a stray 'a', like the phrase 'the a'). Overall, though, the writing was vivid. While this game seems to be a complete idea, I wouldn't mind spending more time with these characters in this world.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A different kind of haunted house, April 17, 2021
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2021

Sovereign Citizens managed to defy my expectations at least two or three times Ė which is good, I think, since those expectations were mostly negative! When I read the title, I was worried it was going to center on the insane anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about Ė I mean, I canít really explain what itís about since itís insane, but I know they hate admiralty law? Then when I read the blurb and authorsí note, I was worried it was going to be a thuddingly didactic bit of political evangelism subordinating character and drama to an oversimplified message.

Fortunately this elusive game isnít that either Ė though Iím not sure itís great that Iím hard-pressed to say what it actually is. Summarizing the plot is simple enough, at least. You play one of a couple who seem to be homeless, camping out outside and carrying their few belongings with them in backpacks.

Thereís not much detail given to flesh out their circumstances, including where they are Ė itís a less-settled area, at least Ė and how they got there Ė thereís a short semi-flashback suggesting they once had a home and were evicted, but itís unclear. They donít appear to be especially deprived, and since there are no other people around, thereís almost a post-apocalyptic vibe. The nature of the coupleís relationship is also really unclear Ė they donít interact that much, and they could be siblings or friends instead of romantic partners for all I could tell.

Regardless, as one of these vague people in a vague world, you stumble upon an unoccupied mansion on the coast, and decide to break in. This isnít too challenging, and then most of the game is taken up by exploring the house, which is sprawling and often bizarre. Itís positioned as a rich personís playground, with a full movie theater, art displays, and incredibly fancy bathroom installations. It also has very strange features, like whatís described as a therapistís office decorated with degrees made out to obviously fake names. The fridge is locked, with an Alexa-type virtual assistant asking for a passcode before opening it (though this is presented as a frustrating but not necessarily weird security feature, as best I could determine). And though most of the house appears to be stocked and furnished, there arenít mattresses in the beds, meaning that itís an uncomfortable place to stay. After spending a cold night, the couple decide to leave, taking nothing that they found.

The writing I think fits the alienating, confusing vibe of the story, though itís occasionally fairly clumsy. Hereís an early description of the house:

"Noland had noticed the abandoned mansionís for sale sign knocked over on the now muddy lawn. For the summer we circulated on the beaches nearby there was never a car, homeowner, or even cleaner who we ever noticed go in or out."

Thereís nothing grammatically incorrect there, but the overuse of stacked clauses make these sentences rather ungainly. There are also a few typos.

Ultimately I found playing Sovereign Citizens to be a meditative experience, with a few nicely-observed details sticking in my mind, like the flurry of realtorsí cards crunching like leaves underfoot when the couple enter. Despite its flaws it worked for me as a vignette of alienation, presenting a house haunted and made inhospitable not by ghosts, but by idiosyncratic capitalist excess. If itís meant to be political, I think the context is too lightly-sketched to allow its message to really land, but in these matters better to have too light than too heavy a hand I suppose.

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This is version 5 of this page, edited by Laura Paul on 12 October 2021 at 5:39pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page