I can’t quite point out what exactly got my attention to pursue and play Cloudpunk. Even without hearing much about it, it looked like the kind of game I thought I’d enjoy playing. A sci-fi setting reminiscent of Blade Runner with an open-world environment begging to be explored. The first few hours of the game really does a good job of keeping your attention, but a weak story prevents this from being as great as it could have been.
The core of Cloudpunk revolves around the metropolis of Nivalis and Rania, a newcomer to the city. Rania is in need of money, so she takes a job with a delivery service company called Cloudpunk. It’s her first night on the job and she’ll need to complete her delivery requests in order to make the money she needs to be able to stay in the city. As you play through the evening, she’ll get involved with different people and a mysterious force that could change the future for not only Rania but for Nivalis and those that inhabit it.
The delivery aspect of Cloudpunk is pretty straightforward. You travel to one location and pick up an item (or in some cases, a person) then deliver it to another spot. Traveling around Nivalis with your HOVA vehicle is pretty easy and because this is a city in the clouds, you’ll be able to get around fairly quickly. You certainly don’t have to stick to the available roads and this adventuring may lead to some interesting discoveries.
Completing deliveries is how the story progresses. In some situations on foot, it is possible for Rania to bump into new people which opens up some additional side-quests. Like the main missions, these are pretty straightforward but do also help to introduce you to new parts of Nivalis.
The story isn’t necessarily hard to follow, it just doesn’t really flow in a particularly good way. Most of Rania’s interactions happen while on the job. She’ll strike up a conversation that may reveal some information about Nivalis, Rania and/or that particular job. I just never felt like I was actually forming a relationship with any of them.
You spend most of the game chatting with Control, the person at Cloudpunk HQ who assigns you your jobs and Camus, your Automata support that also happens to be the consciousness of your dog. Outside of those two, most of the other characters just come and go and don’t really leave much of an impression.
Rania must make quite a few moral decisions through the night but their outcomes don’t really do anything to alter the course of the story. Since the events of Cloudpunk take place in a single night, outside of the game’s final decision, you don’t really see the ramifications of your decisions. Yes, you might make a bit more money choosing one option over another, I never felt like I needed to think about my decision before making it.
A problem a lot of open-world games face is pacing. Developers want to give the player the choice of playing the game at their own pace but it rarely works. Considering everything in Cloudpunk is taking place over the course of one night, Rania’s involvement and connection don’t really make sense. I wasn’t convinced that she’d do the things she does in the game or that the events that unfold over the course of one night would all happen in a matter of 8-12 hours.
While I didn’t enjoy the story that much, one aspect that I absolutely adored was the game’s soundtrack. This is without question one of the best sounding games I’ve listened to in a long time. The music just adds so much to the immersion in the game. It’s a tad disappointing that there will be times when the music isn’t playing but when it does, it certainly gets your attention.
Cloudpunk‘s unique style is another strong point, even with its blocky, Minecraft-looking character designs. You’re spending most of the game in your HOVA, so driving around the different sections is a thrill. I do kind of wish the other vehicles had more life to them, they don’t hinder the story.
When you’re on foot, characters are blocky but the aesthetic works. Additionally, there are plenty of characters you may come across over the course of the evening, and there are certainly many more you’ll miss out unless you’re willing to spend the time exploring every part of Nivalis.
It took me about 8-9 hours to reach the end of Rania’s night. I did enjoy most of my time but I still wish more focus was put on giving us a more engaging storyline. The world is absolutely fantastic and while I became invested in certain elements of it, I just wish the story was packaged better.