05/11/2020

☁️ Cloudpunk | Review | PS4 | "Never before have I been so sad whilst holding a controller" ☁️ @ionlands #IndieGames #GameDev

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Developer: ION Lands

Platform Reviewed: PS4 

Rating:  5/10 (MELTING)

This is not the review I wanted to write. 

Upon booting up Cloudpunk, ION Lands’ voxel-tastic cyberpunk delivery simulator, despite some clear technical issues, I was HOOKED. 

Sadly, eight hours into the game, the issues won out and I was forced to give up entirely. I can genuinely say that this would have featured in my end of year selection but in its current state, it’s a hard one to recommend and instead currently stands as one of the most infuriating gaming moments of the year for me.

Playing the part of the be-cloaked Rania, you are a new arrival in the multi-level sprawling metropolis of Nivalis and it’s the first night of your new job as a delivery driver for the titular and oh –so-shady company, Cloudpunk. 

You’ll spend this long, rain-drenched night ferrying passengers and mysterious deliveries between locations in the various areas that make up the city. From long-forgotten underworlds to the tops of spires, you, your craft and trusty (kind of) canine companion will have hours of fully-voiced conversations as the city of Nivalis and its citizens reveal itself to you.

I cannot express how hips deep I was into Cloudpunk. As I accustomed myself to the controls of my HOVA and gently glided around the wonderfully moody skyline - completely rendered in chunky voxels – I couldn’t believe how immersive I found the game. 

The soundtrack is vinyl-purchasingly good and the sheets of rain that pound down, combined with the rich voice work and tiny vignettes, peeps into the class-systems and lives of the humans, androids and automata that make up the Nivalis was something I could entirely get on board with. 

Whilst the game was light on gameplay and threat in that you can’t die and even in the on-foot sections (I highly advise using first-person to get the most out of them) aside from collecting items and chatting to folks – you can’t ‘fail’  and the entire focus is on relaxing traversal and letting the narratives around you unfold.

I was in an almost zen-like state as I busied myself listening to the landscape-esque synth, drifting across highways and searching for parking spots, even going out of my way to pick up minor collectables. Nothing could dissuade me from the sheer enjoyment I was getting out of Cloudpunk, not the pop-in, ropey frame-rate, loading times between sections, floaty walking animation (hence first-person) or the seeming superfluousness of the number of items you can pick up and sell. 

The mood was king and I lay gloriously helpless at its wonderful, voxel throne. I was waiting for some tedious stealth section or janky combat section to pop up and intrude but – thank the sweet lord – these sections never arose and I could just potter around getting lost in the dialogue and sounds as I piloted my way to the next delivery.

It was about eight hours in when disaster struck. I was just heading out of the lower regions of the city and coming to what was clearly the final leg of the game when some familiar dialogue cropped up…it was the opening lines of your boss, Control, introducing himself and advising how to steer the HOVA. 

I thought this was odd, especially when the very first mission popped back up on my map to be re-completed. I quit out of the game and headed back in but the dialogue continued and for the next three hours (I really, really loved this game and refused to believe what had happened) I sat through the entirety of the repeated dialogue of everyone in the game up to the point I was at. 

When it finally ‘caught up’ I tried to complete some missions to clear my now cluttered map but it was clear that the game was broken and refused to move forward. Once again proof that single-state auto-saves are the bane of gaming.

I know that with all the minor technical issues that existed and the lightness of gameplay that this would never be something everyone could click with but I can’t express how much Cloudpunk felt like a game made for me at an almost genetic level. 

It has such promise for genuine greatness and the voice cast deserve the loudest of applause. 

I just really, really wish that it was a far more stable and smooth experience. If you do pick up Cloudpunk (and I kind of hope you do) I would definitely suggest waiting for some patches.

5/10


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