Cloudpunk Review- Cybermess Delivery

Posted October 26, 2020 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: Ion Lands

Publisher: Maple Whispering Limited

Release date: April 4, 2020 (PC), October 15, 2020 (PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One)

Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One (reviewed)

Driving around in a futuristic city in a flying car sounds like an excellent setting for a video game. Films like Blade Runner and The Fifth Element have scenes that make this an enticing prospect. The developers at Ion Lands thought so as well, and so we get to play a delivery driver named Rania in such a city in their new game Cloudpunk . But does the game match up to the dream?

Sadly, not so much. But it’s not a total loss.

The game does get a couple of things right, the first being the primary setting of Cloudpunk – the city of Nivalis. Nivalis is rendered in spectacular neon voxel art, with colorful signs and a maze of giant buildings to navigate through, both on foot and in your flying car called a HOVA. Your HOVA can be modified, and after your initial vehicle craps out on you, there are several designs to choose from (the only real difference is cosmetic). The HOVA controls decently enough, though you will need to fuel up on occasion as well as put in for repairs. Banging into other vehicles and buildings will damage your HOVA, but you’re never in any real danger of exploding.

Technical issues do rear their head almost immediately, however. This especially happens with transitioning from one area of the city to another (something you will do frequently throughout the game’s roughly 15 hour runtime). Loading screens are long and way too abundant, and the game freezes momentarily each time you appear in a new section. The load times and freezing really break up any gameplay rhythm, and can make longer sessions more frustrating than fun.

The on foot sections aren’t much better than the driving. Going on foot means finding a parking space for your HOVA (you can’t just land anywhere), and since there are no options for brightening the screen, certain areas can be very dark and difficult to see where you’re going. You can alter your point of view to first person, but it isn’t always much better than the third person view. The character models are pixally and ugly, with no real differences between them. Only the picture next to the text when a character is speaking shows you any variety.

There are plenty of characters for Rania to meet in the game over the course of a night as she performs her job for the illegal delivery service Cloudpunk. There’s Camus, her former dog which serves as her HOVA’s AI. Control serves as Rania’s contact at Cloudpunk who sends her on deliveries. She also meets a gangster named Lomo, a Bogart like detective named Huxley, and a rogue AI named CORA, who is alternately viewed as a deity and the device responsible for randomly occurring disasters across Nivalis. All are fully voiced, but the voice acting is definitely not the best. It’s mostly passable, with a few characters being outright awful. The lack of good voice acting unfortunately robs the story of any emotional impact.

The story itself is there, but barely, and often feels like it meanders aimlessly. The ending does give you an option between two choices, but it doesn’t really matter which you choose. Neither do the choices you can make while on your job seem to have much impact. The ideas are there and the game’s concept is sound, but the execution never matches the vision, possibly because the ideas outstripped the game’s budget. Add to the aimless story a gameplay loop that never varies much beyond deliver a package/passenger from point A to point B, and it makes it hard to care whether you see the credits roll or not.

Thankfully the game does get the music right, which makes your travels across Nivalis a bit more bearable. The music nicely evokes the Vangelis themes from the movie Blade Runner and serves as a perfect backdrop to the neon lit buildings. It was good that at least was done well to balance out the voice acting.

In all, Cloudpunk is a game where the concept exceeds the execution. A few tweaks to gameplay and voice acting could have truly made this something to tide folks over until the bigger budget Cyberpunk releases onto consoles. It’s not a complete waste of time, and with tempered expectations can be a somewhat enjoyable experience, but as a high concept sci-fi open world adventure, it misses the mark. Best to wait on a discount and hope for a patch or three.

6/10 stars

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus