With Cyberpunk 2077 having been delayed yet again, even if only by a little, you might be looking elsewhere for your fix of all things cyber and punk. So why not throw clouds into the mix as well? Cloudpunk is a game in which you make deliveries by flying a car around a blocky, cyberpunk city. You may have always wanted to explore a sprawling cyberpunk metropolis, but your enjoyment on with Cloudpunk relies more strongly on whether or not you want to go to that metropolis and be a delivery driver.
The game is absolutely gorgeous, though that’s almost in spite of its voxel graphics style. The city of Nivalis is all neon lit skyscrapers and flying cars and it’s easy to forget that it’s all made out of blocks while you’re flying around. Once you land your ship to find your customer, though, you’ll be reminded very quickly by all the people wandering around, who look like blocky abominations. There’s only so much you can expect from voxels, and having expressive characters that look like their photo isn’t one of them. The omnipresent rain in the game is a flat animation that’s played over the camera, rather than rain in the world – If you look straight up it falls across your view instead of down at you, which is a bit of a shame. Other than these two little points the game really delivers on giving you that beautiful, futuristic city to fly around.
It sounds incredible as well, with the sirens blaring in the distance, the constant background noise of the city, and the voices of holographic adverts. If you’re wearing headphones and in first person it sounds closer to walking through a futuristic dystopia than anything I’ve experienced. Then there’s the music; whether it’s slow atmospheric synths softly rising in the background or a thumping trance trace, when it kicks in as you’re driving through the city, it’s revelatory. It really feels like you could be flying through a scene from Blade Runner, and it’s awesome. At least, it is for the first couple of hours.
Described as a story-focused exploration game, you take control of Rania, a woman who recently moved to Nivalis and got a job working for the titular shady delivery company, Cloudpunk. You will drive to point A to pick up a package, then drive to point B to deliver the package, at which point you’ll have a conversation with an eccentric person. Sometimes you will have to return to A afterwards, or maybe you will have the option of delivering to C instead of B, since you do work for an illegal organisation operating against the wishes of Corpsec, which is basically corporate police. The first time this happens near the beginning of the game, the package is ticking.
The thing is, that’s all you do. It’s a game composed entirely of fetch quests, where the gameplay is just travelling between the objectives, repairing and refuelling your car, picking stuff up off the ground to keep in your inventory in case you need it later, and walking through mildly convoluted areas. It works for a while, but once the novelty of the city starts to wear off you’re left just driving from conversation to conversation. The HOVA flying car handles well, and whilst you’ll likely get annoyed at other drivers, that happens in real life and we don’t even have a vertical axis to worry about in reality. You can even use the money you earn from deliveries to upgrade your HOVA, to make it faster and a bit more manoeuvrable, or your apartment with cosmetic upgrades. There are so few HOVA upgrades that I sighed when I unlocked the trophy for getting them all, because it was the only place I wanted to spend my income.
As you deliver packages the story unfolds and you meet a colourful cast of cybercharacters, some human and some android, but all eccentric and/or tragic to some degree. The writing for these characters varies in quality almost as much as the quality of their voice acting does. Rania and other recurring characters are good, but there’s a few side characters that you only see once or twice that are pretty poorly acted, enough to pull you out of the glorious cyberpunk soundscape anyway. There’s interesting, sympathetic, and even funny stories to find around Nivalis, but there’s a few that fall flat as well, usually the ones that are trying to be funny.
Then there’s a couple of issues, such as mission objectives not being given to you until the end of a lengthy conversation over the radio, which you can’t skip through, so you’re just sat there waiting until you can carry on playing, or the split second lag that happens everytime to transition to a new area, and frame rate drops in busy areas.