Ever go on social media and see screenshots or videos of a game and just think to yourself, ‘I need that in my life’? Well, that’s how I felt about Cloudpunk – the futuristic, cyberpunk-themed delivery driver sim (it’s probably the best way to describe it) from developer ION LANDS that sends players soaring through a beautiful futuristic city. It has lit up my Twitter feed with its stunning visuals over the last year, and honestly, I’ve been itching to get my hands on it.
After a fairly successful launch on Steam, it has now made its way over to consoles too. I finally got the chance to play through the game on the PlayStation 4 and I’m glad to report that it managed to capture the mesmerising world that I’d already seen on Twitter nicely, though a few lacking elements here and there as well as the occasional bug do see the experience falter in some places too.
Cloudpunk takes place in the city of Nivalis, a neon-lit metropolis that is home to all sorts of seedy and nefarious characters that need some dodgy deliveries made to them in a timely manner. That’s where Rania, a young delivery driver who works for the Cloudpunk delivery firm (who are pretty sketchy in themselves), steps in, with her work for the company imperative to her paying off some debt that is clouding over her.
It makes for an engrossing tale and one that’ll take around eight-hours to see through to its conclusion, whilst the folk you meet along the way flesh out the experience thanks to their eclectic personalities and own individual stories that need wrapping up (some of which can be REALLY wacky). There’s room for Rania to make choices along the way too, which allows you to add your own little touches to the overall narrative; the repercussions of these choices didn’t feel significant enough to necessarily warrant a second playthrough, but it was still nice to be able to influence the direction that it takes.
The core of Cloudpunk’s gameplay experience revolves around HOVA – your futuristic flying car that’ll allow you to soar through the skies of the city as you make your deliveries. You didn’t expect to make your deliveries on foot, right? Despite the advancement in technology, you’ll still need to look after HOVA carefully if you want it to stay in shipshape to make each of your deliveries, with the player expected to take it to a garage to repair it if you find yourself in a spot of bother, upgrade it with new parts, and even refuel it for longer trips across Nivalis. There’s almost an element of responsibility added to the experience, and honestly, you don’t want to find yourself short on fuel in the middle of a big delivery.
Making the deliveries themselves may not actually appeal to everyone. You know how some RPGs have fetch quests that just see you going from point A to B over and over again? Well, Cloudpunk’s gameplay revolves entirely around that concept, with the player listening to the dialogue shared between characters, travelling to the destination they’re given, and then repeating the process over and over again. There is room for minor exploration on the side and there are side quests to be discovered, but even they task you with doing similar jobs. It makes sense when you consider that you ARE a deliver driver and the way that they tie into the narrative can certainly be clever, but it does mean that the game can be lacking in variety as far as the gameplay is concerned.
Personally, I didn’t mind this – it ensured that the game is easy-going and relaxing to play, especially when you consider that the world itself is made up of wonderfully vibrant voxel sights and that there’s an AMAZING synth soundtrack that accompanies your escapade across the city. There’s simply no denying that Cloudpunk is absolutely oozing with atmosphere and it manages to capture a cyberpunk vibe perfectly within all aspects of its presentation. It was the visuals of Cloudpunk that initially drew my attention to the game, and honestly, it was the thing that stood out to me the most when playing too.
That’s not to say that there weren’t some technical hiccups that could sour the experience a fair bit. For one, the frame rate was rarely ever silky smooth, with plenty of stutters to be experienced across the entirety of the game. Now it never felt unplayable by any means, but it was a shame that navigating through Nivalis never felt as sublime as it actually looked. There were also some incredibly odd instances of quests repeating themselves, which just felt really weird in-game – especially since some of these were tied closely to the main narrative and added unnecessary inconsistencies to the tale. Having to replay missions again was a pain in itself, but the way that it broke the immersion of the experience was more annoying. Hopefully, this is something that the developer can look to fix in a patch in the future, if only not to leave the player completely baffled as to what the heck is going on.
With its tantalising world, epic soundtrack, and relaxing gameplay, Cloudpunk has the recipe to be a pretty special experience – it’s just a shame that it’s also riddled with bugs.
I’m sure Cloudpunk’s gameplay won’t be for everyone, but I really enjoyed soaring through its cyberpunk world. There’s something genuinely relaxing about it, whilst the intriguing stories interwoven across the city through its colourful cast of characters means there’s always something to invest yourself in along the way. Did I mention that Nivalis itself is beautiful too? It’s always a plus.
As it stands though, it’s hard not to be disappointed by the stuttering frame rate and the odd glitches with the quests repeating – it could be argued that the draw distance isn’t quite as impressive as on the PC version of the game either, but that’s neither here nor there. Whilst Cloudpunk is certainly an enjoyable game right now on consoles, it needs a few fixes before it will be able to fully live up to the potential that’s clearly there.
Developer: ION LANDS
Publisher: Merge Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC