Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows (Reviewed on Xbox One)
Developer: ION LANDS
Publisher: Merge Games
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What happens when you take Shadowrun, F-Zero and Minecraft and mix it up with some Blade Runner and cyberpunk noir? You get “Cloudpunk”, a game where you’re a delivery driver named Rania who had been debt-conscripted to work for the illegal delivery service called Cloudpunk.
It’s your first night in the city of Nivalis, a sprawling 4-dimensional neon-infused cyberpunk city full of low-life scum, corporate greed and rat kabobs all in a Voxel style design. The premise of the game has you flying around on neon-lit skyways in your HOVA vehicle while getting missions from a man simply known as Control. You can exit your HOVA and explore any area of the city on foot as long as there is a parking area for you to land on. There are plenty of collectibles along the way that easily appear on your map but may be out of reach unless you find spare parts to fix a hover lift or can gain security access. Some of the collectibles have their own storylines to discover as well.
Things are pretty basic at first…you pick up packages and go from point A to point B delivering packages and getting paid. Soon enough you are presented with decisions in regards to who or what you are delivering. One mission had you delivering a ticking package to a drop box but you had an option to dump in in a waste disposal chute but at the dismay of Control and most likely with a pay cut or possibly even being fired. It was early on in the game and I didn’t want to lose my much needed job, so I delivered the package no questions asked which was in the rulebook. Later on there was a large explosion in a delivery bay and I was told to ignore it and received a pay bonus.
As the game progressed on throughout the night, you begin learning of accidents in the city as well as rampant AIs and major computer malfunctions. You’ll begin to get other missions such as taxiing people or delivering emergency supplies. During one mission you encounter an entity named CORA in an abandoned part of the city and this is where the story turns. Rania and her dog automata Camus are thrust into events that will decide the future of Nevalis and the other cities that remain in the world.
While the initial concept of driving around and delivering packages all night sounds boring, “Cloudpunk” interjects lots of conversation during deliveries and you really get to know those who you were thrust in with such as Control and clients that you meet along the way. The city map is huge and you can discover new locations forward, backward, up and down with plenty of collectibles and people to meet and places to discover. The story is unique and intriguing but sometimes you lose track of the whys and hows of what you’re supposed to do and what is going on at certain points. I’m not quite sold on the choice of the Voxel/pixel style graphics…I feel that something more realistic or darker would have fit the desolate cyberpunk setting, but the cityscape itself looks amazing as you’re flying around. I was also somewhat disappointed that, outside of achievements and trophies, your in-game decisions don’t really matter that much in the long run.
What really stands out for me and still sticks with me the most after finishing the game is the superb voice acting in “Cloudpunk”. The voice cast really does a fantastic job bringing the characters to life and adding depth to the story which resonates after finishing the game. Rania is a well-rounded character that just had a run of bad luck but reluctantly wants to help out those in need. Her relationship with her automata dog/friend Camus is well-written and feels genuine. The two rely on each other to keep themselves sane and to keep their dignity and moral fabric. This is similar to the relationship that develops with Rania and Control. At first he’s just your dispatcher but as you work together throughout the long night, you discover that you have a lot of things in common…tragedy, loss, disillusionment and sadness. As the story progresses, these relationships are what shape the events that transpire. You’ll also meet some fun and interesting side-characters along the way like Comrade Bop and Huxley who will leave a lasting impression.
I also enjoyed the fact that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously at times. Even though there are dire events and tragedies transpiring throughout the city, sometimes you’ll encounter some funny and strange occurrences that will mix goofiness with dark humor such as the escalator to nowhere or the story of Anderson Financial. These moments were quite enjoyable when discovered.
While initially “Cloudpunk” may seem like a futuristic driving simulator, upon further inspection it is a well-written, well-acted slice of cyberpunk fandom. I’ve never quite played anything like it before but yet so much of it felt familiar. If you’re looking for something fresh with a unique storyline and memorable characters, send your resume over to Cloudpunk HR immediately.