Cyberpunk is a well-explored genre in science-fiction. As tech improves we can see more fleshed out versions of these worlds in video games.
One of the most anticipated games in recent years, Cyberpunk 2077, is less than a month away. Does a giant game like that take all the oxygen out of the genre or will it be a case of a high tide raising all boats? A much smaller indie game, Cloudpunk, is hoping for the latter. Any comparisons between the two games is unfair because of the difference in budget, but Cloudpunk is worth your time.
In Cloudpunk, you are a delivery driver, Rania, in a city in the clouds, Nivalis. The gameplay consists of driving to various destinations to carry out your deliveries (along with some other tasks in between). There are also areas you explore on foot to finish your deliveries after you park your hover car. If that sounds simple, well, it is.
The gameplay is simple, stress-free and enjoyable. There are no fail states. The story progresses through voice-acted dialogue. Most of the cast is very good, especially the performance of Andrea Petrille as Rania. The voice acting is carrying a lot of weight because the characters look like something you’d see in Minecraft or a Lego game.
One of the game’s concessions in terms of memory management and development budget is a blocky style to everything in the world. It looks a bit better than Minecraft, but almost everything is blocky. When you’re driving around you notice this less from a distance.
That said, while you won’t notice the blocky design from a distance, you also won’t see a ton of buildings at once. The draw distance on my launch PlayStation 4 wasn’t great. It wasn’t a deal breaker, but the frequent pop-in of various buildings as you drive was a bit jarring. It’s an indie game with an impressively big, fully three-dimensional city. That shouldn’t be a surprise. The city does have a lot of verticality.
Considering all that, the load times and consistent hitches in the few seconds after the game loads in are understandable. However, the technical issues didn’t stop there. I encountered a weird bug that apparently isn’t all that rare where the dialogue reverted back to the start and kept running sequentially without me doing anything. That blocked progress, but I was able to use an old save, which cost me about 20-30 minutes of progress. There were enough bugs that the developers of the console ports posted an apology tweet.
Cloudpunk came out on PC in April and released on October 15 on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PS4. The game will look and run better on PC so if you have the option, that’s the place to play this game.
I do think this game is worth playing on console, but it’s worth backing up your saves in the cloud or on USB storage if possible. The game doesn’t allow for multiple save files so you have to be resourceful on that front. The safest solution would be to wait until they can patch a fix to the save bug.
Despite my constant fear that the game would break at any moment (the bug happened a second time, but I was able to quit the game immediately before it autosaved), I wanted to keep living in that world. The stress-free nature of the gameplay let me take in the detail of the world. Despite the numerous low-res visual aspects, there was so much detail in the architectural design of the city.
The driving controls were good enough after I got a hang of the 3D nature of it, but I started to look forward to the on-foot sections so I could take in the design of the city. That’s when you get to see the neighborhoods and see how all the areas connect. A lift will take you from one section to another. Some have teleporters. There are open-air pedways thousands of feet in the sky that go from building to building. You’ll hear ads that talk to you like something out of Minority Report. There are nightclubs, restaurants, banks, street food stands, security checkpoints, train lines, a highway system.
I felt like a tourist in a fancy city taking in all the sights and sounds, even if it is a dystopian future. The futuristic aspects never stopped being cool in my 10-12 hours with the game.
The story is mostly basic as far as dystopian sci-fi goes. Some of the characters, especially Rania, did a better job of carrying the story than the actual premise. Given how much I liked exploring the city, the story just needed to be inoffensive to get me to want to progress.
Outside of the technical issues, I would give Cloudpunk a full recommendation. If you can play it on PC, go for it. If you can only play on console, maybe keep an eye on patches. It made me want Cyberpunk 2077 even more to see a game like that with more graphical detail, but it’s also good without that context.
Cloudpunk is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
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