Developer: Ion Lands
Release Date: April 23rd 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Maple Whispering Limited
We seem to be in the age of cyberpunk where developers are doing anything they can to distinguish themselves from other titles in the genre, which I’m definitely not opposed to. Cloudpunk from developer Ion Lands and Publisher Maple Whispering Limited presents a scenario where a seemingly mundane occupation can lead to escalating circumstances and great moral dilemmas.
In Cloudpunk, you assume the role of Rania as she heads out on her first shift for the mobile delivery service Cloudpunk. With her artificially intelligent dog, Camus, uploaded into the flying car’s navigation system, you make deliveries for customers living in the rain-drenched city Nivalis. After meeting several strange characters and repeatedly told not to ask about the contents of your delivery packages, she begins to suspect that Cloudpunk may be involved in various nefarious activities.
Gameplay mostly consists of flying your car or HOVA through different sections of the city to pick up and deliver packages. Controlling your HOVA feels natural and makes for easy traversal throughout the dark and intimidating futuristic landscape. Parking lots are set up at each destination, which allows you to land and continue your delivery on foot.
While exploring, it’s possible sometimes to find random items, merchants, food stands, or interesting characters to talk to. On the other hand, flying your HOVA becomes much more entertaining when you have some proper upgrades installed, but you can’t drive too recklessly, or you will need to get it repaired. Luckily, the game isn’t too strict with this. Considering how many cars and buildings I ran into, I only went in for repairs twice during my playthrough. For another added layer of immersion, you’ll slowly run out of gas and need to refill at a station periodically, but again, this only happened a handful of times.
Flying through Nivalis is a great way to experience the beautiful visuals that Cloudpunk features. Neon lights and hologram billboards top almost every towering building that comes into view. Furthermore, different sections of Nivalis have their own identity and atmosphere, which the design of the environment reflects.
Organic material like character models and trees are represented with simple geometric voxel shapes, which feel at home in this broken digital world. It’s a pretty striking art design and one that epitomizes cyberpunk. In combination with this is the dark soundtrack, mostly consisting of various synth beats or droning ambiance. Periodically you are given just the sounds of your HOVA and the city around you. It’s a fantastic soundtrack but also one that conveys the bleakness of Nivalis.
On foot, you quickly realize the more dingy and sketchy streets that the city has to offer. While some areas are intriguing to explore, traveling by foot can be rather tedious. Many sections have various levels or parking places a reasonable distance from your destination. It’s not a huge issue, but it made collecting particular objects feel like a bit of a chore at times.
Thankfully, your map displays any essential items you can collect or people of importance to talk to. Items can also be unlocked through side quests, while others can help you earn currency, known as “Lims.” Lims can also be acquired from completing jobs or simply entering city sections.
Besides HOVA upgrades and maintenance, you can purchase food, drugs, clothing, or furniture for your apartment. While some of these items can help with bribing characters and advancing plot, others are purely cosmetic. I didn’t feel there was much incentive to buy clothing as the camera is pulled away pretty far from your character, making any changes not really noticeable. Still, it’s there if you want it, and by no means are you required to concern yourself with these items if you are only interested in getting through the main campaign.
Nivalis is fairly large, and while you can spend time exploring, the game is mostly story-driven. Every delivery gives you chances to interact with new odd characters. As Rania and Camus are new to the city, you learn about certain customs and underlining seediness along with them.
At several points during the journey, you will have to make some moral decisions. Some choices are pretty straightforward, like choosing to steal, but others are more ambiguous. Each predicament can have repercussions either for yourself or others. Some of these scenarios left me wondering if I should be as paranoid as my characters or if I was just overthinking things. While I’m not sure any choices cause massive alterations from the main campaign, there is a definite darkness that permeates when you have the knowledge your actions may have led to some scary stuff.
Cloudpunk presents a cynical and dystopian world, but it’s not all doom and gloom. There is a fair amount of humor that surprisingly doesn’t feel out of place as it makes the mood a bit lighter. Many of these moments come from interactions with your naive and optimistic dog. Still, there are a few jokes that go on a bit too long, along with a gag character that I found downright annoying. The game does acknowledge his annoyance, but it didn’t make those scenes any more enjoyable because of it.
All dialogue is voice acted with the main cast being exceptionally well represented by their respective voice over. However, the side characters are pretty hit and miss. I can overlook when this affects the more lighthearted scenes, but during some of the game’s more emotional moments with the supporting cast, the delivery completely ruins it.
Voice issues aside, there is a very intriguing story here and solid world-building, which I really enjoyed. If focusing mostly on the main story, the game will probably take about nine hours to beat. It’s a good length and would likely overstay it’s welcome if it was too much longer. Collecting all objects in the game will add several more hours, and for those interested, there is replay value if you decide to see alternative choice outcomes.
Cloudpunk is a morally conflicting cyberpunk experience wrapped in a grimy and glitzy aesthetic. The gameloop of exploring the world as a delivery driver and discovering everything it has to offer provided to be a unique enough angle that held my attention from beginning to end, even if the pacing felt off at times when switching between flying and walking. Those looking for an over-the-top Sci-fi adventure, Cloudpunk definitely delivers.
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