REVIEW: ‘Cloudpunk’ is Easy-Going with Big Themes (PS4)

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Cloudpunk

Cloudpunk is a cyberpunk, story-based exploration game created by ION LANDS. Nivalis, the ever rain-drenched mega-city, attracts people from all walks of life, including our main character, Rania. It’s her first night working for Cloudpunk, a delivery company that dabbles in shipping both legal and illegal packages anywhere from the poor streets of the Marrow to the upper spires that rise above the gray clouds. So long as Rania follows the two rules of Cloudpunk—don’t miss a delivery and don’t ask what’s in the package—she just might make it through the night.

As Rania, players will be tasked with picking up packages from areas across the city and delivering them. To do this, you’ll be able to drive a hover car that moves both vertically and horizontally, driving around towering buildings or speeding along the neon highways. You’ll also be able to park and run about on foot to further explore the various levels across the city. Packages will range from the typical to the unscrupulous. Although things start out placid, players will be confronted with some daunting choices.

In this neon-noir tale, players will be regaled by a sprawling metropolis with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore and a diverse array of characters to interact with. From androids to unscrupulous humans to human-eating elevators, everyone has a story and it’s these stories and relationships that make this game thrive. Although there’s the main story to follow, and plenty of main missions to keep you busy, with just a bit of exploring players will discover hidden areas, items, and people to open up additional stories and side missions to further elucidate the daily life of the inhabitants of Nivalis.

The futuristic world of Cloudpunk is no doubt a dystopia, and the dialogue and characters you will interact with only reinforce this concept. However, the developers balance out this bleakness by inundating the grim interactions with satire. The developers make light of things like hipster trends, toxic masculinity, bro culture, and even coffee. But the satire is pointed enough to make a statement about the progress of society like any good cyberpunk media should. From the wacky ways rich people distance themselves from the poor and the way humans who are dating androids are still prejudiced against androids, a lot of these themes are typical of the genre but nevertheless reflect society. But the game really hits home in this genre by illuminating the interaction between capitalism and ethics.

Players will experience this first-hand with Rania. Rania interacts with everyone, from the lowest parts of the city which are ridden with crime and drugs to the spires where only the wealthy get to see the sky. But you’ll soon realize that everyone is miserable in one way or another, despite the difference in income. But this idea is really emboldened with the deliveries you’ll make. Rania will often be given the option between doing the right thing and just taking the money. You’ll be asked to stick with the status quo, but should you? And it’s these decisions that will have a lasting impact on not only the story but also your fellow inhabitants.

Cloudpunk

The art is pixelated and blocky but despite this, the city of Navalis is something to behold. In the Marrow, one of the lower portions of the city, the bleak cityscape is inundated by neon advertisements and strobing lights from clubs. Giving the sense that life only exists when you have money to waste. Despite the lack of detail due to Cloudpunk’s unique art style, the environments you’ll explore are remarkable. However, the other characters you’ll encounter are less than impressive. The graphics make people look gangly and their faces have very little detail.

But the game improves upon this downfall with the way it handles dialogue conversations. A detailed portrait of the speaker will pop up at the bottom of the screen along with scrolling dialogue. The game is entirely voice acted, so the combo of the portraits and the emotive voice acting allows players to really connect to the characters despite the lack of facial details.

Overall, Cloudpunk has been a wonderful game but it does have a few mechanistic problems. Given that there are multiple levels to Nivalis, it’s hard to tell what level some of the items you can see on the map are on. The city is also very convoluted and not the easiest to traverse. This may be an intentional design but it was nevertheless frustrating at times. I encountered a few glitches where conversations would repeat or even the waypoints for missions wouldn’t be removed from my map despite finishing the mission.

What irked me the most was the difference in the mechanics surrounding the dialogue scenes in the side missions and the main missions. In the scenes in the side missions, you can skip through the dialogue with a click of a button. I usually read faster than these people talked so I enjoyed being able to manually skip to the next block of dialogue to continue reading. However, you aren’t allowed to skip through the dialogue in the main missions despite them being exactly the same as the side missions.

With the game falling at around nine hours of gameplay, Cloudpunk is a quaint game that’s easy-going but also hits on some big themes in the cyberpunk genre. Cloudpunk is beautiful, humorous, and most importantly is a window through which to view the progress of society.

Cloudpunk is available now on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.


Cloudpunk
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

With the game falling at around nine hours of gameplay, Cloudpunk is a quaint game that’s easy-going but also hits on some big themes in the cyberpunk genre. Cloudpunk is beautiful, humorous, and most importantly is a window through which to view the progress of society.