Welcome to the dystopian city of Nivalis
A mix of the rain-drenched neon signed voxel skyscrapers instantly reminding me of scenes from the Star Wars prequels and the shady undercity of Coruscant. You play as Rania, a woman who has had some recent bad luck and has recently moved to the big city from the countryside to try with her A. I dog companion Camus and carve out a new life for herself. It’s your first day on the job working for the Cloudpunk, an ask, no questions if it fits it ships sort of delivery service. Your operator called Control will set your various delivery jobs seeing you fly your HOVA around the megacity picking up items here and dropping them there talking to a variety of this worlds NPCs. This gameplay loop is the main driving force excuse the pun of Cloudpunk and its important to make that clear from the get-go – this look at the dark dystopian future has nothing in the way of combat. It relies on its setting, the cast of characters and dialogue and the number of small choices you get to make along the way although these often seem to have little long-term effects.
The first and most mechanic heavy part of is driving your HOVA around the city with the controls for the HOVA are easy is to use. The right trigger allows you to go forward, left trigger allows you to reverse also when not moving forward, it also acts as the air brake and at speeds allows you somewhat to drift particularly handy hover highways that give your vehicle a boost to its fairly mundane speed your HOVA usually goes. Of course, you can raise your altitude, that’s done with the right analogue stick although HOVA, however, does handle a little like a brick and while it is competent and serviceable it is nothing spectacular. Other than a few minor HOVA upgrades you can apply to improve certain aspects of your HOVA like handling, you will find yourself managing its health bumping into buildings or other HOVA’s is a good way to wreck your ride leaving one other thing to manage in the form of fuel both of these needs can be tended to at one the many garages around the city. I also found when loading into new areas or areas which more traffic the game would sometimes lock up shortly or frames would drop slowing the game down for a few moments.
Rania can leave her vehicle and often does to pick up packages this is what these sections usually boil down to, other than multiple NPCs to talk to and things to pick up, collect and the occasional merchant to interact with. This is how you also access your own apartment in the world in which you can nicely utilise money from jobs to decorate to something more of your liking, adding your own personal touch. This, however, is where some of Cloudpunks other issues begin to rear there heads such as the camera. Outside of your HOVA you have the choice of 3 cameras, a further panned outside camera, a 3rd person and 1st person respectively and while the option to have all these at your disposal each unfortunately also come with there own individual levels of jank. From weird camera transitions when leaving the HOVA to it jarringly snapping to a new fixed position in the zoomed outside view I found 3rd person to be about the best option, and despite the occasional jankness of the camera and frame rate drops for seemly no apparent reason. While you might expect this on a more action-heavy title which you would sometime occasionally see some chug, in a game such as this which minimal combat it is much more noticeable.
Although the sections on foot this is where some of the best parts of Cloudpunk really get to shine and speak for themselves. Aspects of Cloudpunk such the surrounding environment are crafted really well and look great from neon-lit sidewalks to the tall buildings cutting through a perpetual mist of rain for a voxel-based game Cloudpunk looks great and really pulls off its cyberpunk aesthetic. It reminded me of some merge between the look of Bladerunner and the feel of the fifth element both protagonists sharing a mundane job, in this case delivering packages for people no questions asked. There is a variety of characters to meet and all the NPCs you meet for deliveries are unique with there own individual character portraits and voice acting, this being one of the stronger aspects on offer here. In particular, the dialogue on offer, for the most part, is interesting and occasionally pretty funny in parts, one mission having me transport an android, a former cook no less, heading to his new digs only to in fact to be fitted to a vacuum unit. Most of this dialogue is fairly well delivered some voice acting often does miss the mark which is also somewhat of a shame as this one of the main parts of what this game is focused on including the delivery of your packages and talking to individuals about Nevalis. However this doesn’t often crop up as an issue the good definitely outweighs the bad here in the voice acting department, you occasionally get a degree of choice during your deliveries too – one of my first pickups I found Camus point out it appeared to be ticking, upon Ravia asking control he away from his headset mentioned couldn’t it be someone else? To which he quickly came back to remind us to not ask too many questions. My objective updating to have the option to drop this through a garbage shoot to the lower city or follow orders and deliver the strange ticking box. I chose the former and after the mission, I was reprimanded being given a warning, not good on the first day of the job even a threat to turn off my HOVA mid-flight. This never ever actually resulted in any consequences though for me or Rania and that’s regrettably Cloudpunk in nutshell a lot of great ideas but lacklustre in a few aspects of gameplay.
Full of great ideas but very rarely fully explored or executed. While the world is beautifully realised in its voxel graphics, a choice I found interesting and refreshing, it very much hits the Neo-Tokyo Bladerunner aesthetic with Retro Synthwave score to accompany that really sets the mood. Ckoudpink is a game that has so much potential to have the player interact with or have the “choices” you have an effect but Cloudpunk never really offers it fully. After a while I found myself losing interest in the core gameplay which does very little to keep you engaged – there simply is not enough to do outside picking up and delivering packages and talking to the many inhabitants of Navalis and with issues like FPS drops to waiting around for lifts the sometimes dodgy voice acting being the worst offender in a game focused on the story, it often kicked me right back out of the immersion.
In summary, Cloudpunk looks great and hits its aims for aesthetic perfectly while changing it up being voxel-based and has a fitting variety of interesting characters and situations to get stuck into. Surrounding Rania and her Automata companion on their first day of the job the shady delivery company won’t see you running from the feds or evading corporate goons even though these elements are eluded to by the interaction with characters and ambient elements like sirens in the world potential of what could have been but are always just out of reach. The lack of meaningful ways to affect or interact also detracts the strongest if not the reason to play Cloudpunk for its story front and centre and all its flaws even more obvious to see from its sometimes hit and miss voice acting or its complete lack of dialogue options for a game about talking to people and experiencing a world just feels like a missed opportunity.
But if you can look past its issues and just want this aesthetic and a world with a varied cast full of all sorts of characters with their own stories and do not really care for mechanically driven gameplay and are content to just relax and take Cloudpunk as more of an experience you may find something to enjoy here. When Cloudpunks voice acting is delivered well its a pleasure to experience and the people you meet, often reflect and sell the sad reality of the city but unfortunately, this isn’t often the case.
Cloudpunk has many parts that could make it great, its aesthetics and themes of a dystopian future hit the mark strongly with me and with a little work and a few fixes and additions it could really become something special, but as it stands the main hooks of the story and world while interesting are often delivered poorly to the player and does little to keep the player hooked and engaged there simply isn’t a lot to do for £19.99.
A PlayStation 4 Review Code was provided by ION Lands