With Cyberpunk 2077 delayed yet again, are you looking for another futuristic dystopia to occupy your time? Ion Lands’ Cloudpunk might just be the game to fill that gap, albeit for a far shorter period of around 10-15 hours. Nicalis is one of few remaining cities in the clouds. It’s a voxel metropolis of contrasts, with skyscrapers displaying vast wealth found not far from rundown slums. Maybe in the daylight it’d look a bit more inviting; the game takes place on a night when it never stops raining. The many neon adverts and bright lights are the only contrast to the bleak grey void that surrounds the city.
To add to the oppressive atmosphere, Nicalis is full of people down on their luck, like Rania. She’s a driver working her first night shift for illicit delivery service Cloudpunk. Having moved to the city to escape crushing debt, she’s just trying to make ends meet. Unfortunately nobody expects her to survive her first night. Throughout the city, traffic collisions between the many flying vehicles are becoming far more frequent. Drivers are amongst the many people who are disappearing without trace. The mantra to get through the night is to complete deliveries and don’t ask questions!
Cloudpunk Review – A Bleak City in the Sky
Things begin simply. After her gruff call handler introduces himself, Rania is dispatched to pick up her first package from Cloudpunk HQ. Her destination is a different area of the city, but on the way there the problems start to appear. The introductory conversation with her call handler began all over again and the mission was duplicated in her to-do list, but the mission can only be completed once. It wasn’t a good start.
The bug didn’t prevent story progression, but it seems I was lucky. To prevent any issues further down the line, I restarted my game. The bug failed to appear the second time and I continued past the first mission. A patch has since been released to address this and other pressing issues, and I never encountered the bug after this occasion.
As a delivery driver, most of the game’s missions involve taking packages from A to B. Despite the oppressive atmosphere of the city, the driving can actually be quite relaxing. Missions certainly never reach the frantic pressure of Crazy Taxi as they’re rarely timed. If anything, you spend more time than necessary sitting around. The game doesn’t reveal the next location until Rania has finished her unskippable conversation with the dispatcher. Talking and driving is obviously too dangerous, even for an illicit delivery service.
Not all your time is spent driving around. Rania’s HOVA vehicle can’t be abandoned wherever she pleases; it has to be parked in a designated parking spot before she can get out to pick up/deliver packages. While all driving takes place in third person, on foot the camera can be altered from third to first person. I rarely found this necessary, although third person did give a strange impression of the character moonwalking if the environment wasn’t quite lined up squarely with the direction of movement.
Cloudpunk Review – What’s in the Box?
Cloudpunk’s clients are very secretive. Rania rarely knows what’s in the package, and many deliveries are illegal. Despite being told not to ask questions, that’s exactly what she does. Cloudpunk won’t tell her what’s in the box, but sometimes the senders/recipients will do. Often these conversations present a moral dilemma. Do you take a suspiciously ticking box to its destination and potentially cause harm to innocent people, or drop it into a trash chute and anger Cloudpunk for not completing the delivery? All decisions have consequences that become apparent later into the story, even if any potential effects seem to be casually dismissed at first. Camus, Rania’s canine AI companion, can deliver hints in a comedic manner similar to Doug from UP and acts like a moral compass. He also gathers intel, provides waypoints and adds some light relief into Rania’s dismal situation.
The conversations had with people dotted around the city are the most interesting parts of the game. There are lots of people to meet, from humans to androids. Some have crazy stories to tell. There’s a talking elevator that only wants to consume people and has gone on strike. Then there’s William, a head in a box. He’s on his way to a better area of the town to start an apprenticeship. Despite finding out he’s going to be an apprentice janitor android, he’s still excited for the chance to increase his social standing. All of these people are individually voice acted and it’s surprising how much work has gone into this aspect of what is essentially a small indie game.
Some of the people you meet give side quests that add variation to the standard fare of delivering packages. Most of these take the form of finding objects around Nicalis. Your next door neighbor needs you to find missing punch cards so she can restore her memory. Another city resident will purchase any old gaming memorabilia for a decent price. Meanwhile, other objects help to fix things around the city, such as elevators, so Rania can access new areas.
All of these objects are clearly marked on the map, so it isn’t a case of scouring every corner of the city. The map also shows people you can talk to, both those that give side quests and those who can sell things. Rania can purchase a variety of food, illegal drugs, and other objects, although the purpose of some of these things wasn’t always apparent.
Cloudpunk Review – Hunting for Extra Goodies
Rania’s earnings can also be used on upgrades to her apartment and her HOVA vehicle. Some upgrades are just visual while others are more practical, like the bumpers that increase the HOVA’s durability. The vehicle can be damaged by hitting things, but it’s easy enough to avoid all obstacles by driving higher than other vehicles and the surroundings.
The only real danger of being damaged is when transferring between areas. It may be instinctive to pause temporarily to get your bearings when entering a new part of the city, but most of the time this means you’ll be instantly rear-ended by another vehicle. It became a bit of a chore instantly lifting the HOVA above the traffic before opening the map. Even if you choose to move blindly forward instead of opening the map, a new area often brings screen tearing and stuttering as the environment finishes loading. The chances are a collision will happen anyway.
Even when taking the game’s minor foibles into account, Cloudpunk provides a brief journey into a deceptively fascinating city in the clouds. Rushing through the story means avoiding the game’s best bits, because Nicalis’ real stars are its residents. Now that a patch has addressed the major bug that blocked progression, there’s little reason not to recommend a foray into the dark world of this futuristic dystopia.
Cloudpunk review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.