Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Switch, PC
As someone who’s done a bit of local food delivery in the past, I have to say, none of my deliveries were ever as interesting as the ones in Cloudpunk. Sure, I got to meet some interesting real-life characters, but I was never delivering talking heads or mysterious boxes. That’s actually part of the appeal of developer Ion Lands’ courier-adventure game: You rarely know exactly what it is you’re delivering, to whom, and what repercussions will follow. This makes for a genuinely interesting story and plenty of great character interactions.
Sometime in the Future…
Cloudpunk is set in a futuristic metropolis. It’s in this large, living, breathing city where protagonist Rania makes local deliveries for the titular Cloudpunk company. Rania is struggling financially, trying her hardest to get out of debt, and hustling to keep her apartment. The way the main character is fighting to keep her head above water, along with her personality, instantly establishes her as someone you want to cheer on.
It doesn't take long before Rania begins questioning what's in the packages she’s delivering. Of course, one of the Cloudpunk delivery service's rules is that you never ask what's in the box. This leads to a whole host of maybe-not-so-legal deliveries that involve all kinds of characters, from shady businessmen to offbeat jabberjaws.
I walked away from the story and characters of Cloudpunk completely satisfied. No, the story doesn't always take the most interesting route, but the ambiguous nature of the plot, as well as the wide array of characters you meet along the way, will keep you hooked. It's fun driving around the city in your flying car, making deliveries, and discovering more about the world and people you interact with. It’s especially cool when Rania’s dog AI chimes in from time to time to keep her company.
A major part of Cloudpunk is exploring the game’s world. Aside from the mainline of objectives, you’ll also come across side missions involving minor characters. These may not have much to do with the game’s plot, but a lot of them are interesting in their own right. These worthwhile diversions help build bits and pieces around the game’s lore, and a lot of times they’re some of the most wholesome interactions you’ll have.
Makin’ Them Deliveries
While making deliveries in Cloudpunk, you’ll switch between driving and walking through the bustling city. It may take a little getting used to, but your flying car controls nicely. Admittedly, bringing it down to street level to park isn’t always the smoothest experience, mostly due to the camera.
Speaking of the camera, you’re given three options when you’re on foot: a fixed, zoomed-out angle; a behind-the-back shot; and a first-person view. They all work well enough, though none of these options are perfect, unfortunately. It can be a bit difficult controlling Rania at times, especially if the angle doesn’t line up perfectly. Not to mention, with no way to invert camera controls, it can be tricky looking around the game screen if you’re used to alternate camera options.
Navigating on foot shouldn’t pose too much of a problem on account of the camera. Even with those issues, it’s still a lot of fun running around the city streets, talking to people, and finding optional collectible items. Between exploring on foot and riding around the city in your car, you’ll find a lot of joy just roaming the open world that Cloudpunk has to offer.
An Audiovisual Explosion of Neon and Synths
Whether you’re walking or driving, seeing massive skyscrapers, neon signs, and bright holograms towering over and all around you is quite a spectacle. There are other drivers and plenty of pedestrians all over, too, giving the game world a lively, busy vibe.
A major part of the reason it’s so cool exploring the cyberpunk setting of Cloudpunk is due to the art direction and tone. The night sky of the city is illuminated by bright neon signs at every corner, giving the setting a hyper-futuristic aura. It’s been said about many games before, but it’s especially fitting here: Cloudpunk will undoubtedly remind you of Blade Runner — there’s just no getting around that. That’s definitely not a bad thing, and if you’ve watched that movie — or Blade Runner 2049 — you should have a good idea of what to expect here.
Interestingly, Cloudpunk doesn’t go for realism in terms of its character designs. Instead, Rania and the hundreds of NPCs walking the streets have a simplified voxel look to them. Think 3D Dot Game Heroes, only a little more detailed. In a bit of comedic juxtaposition, the character icons that appear next to text boxes actually have detailed, realistic designs — it’s just their representations within the game world that have the quirkier appearance.
There are some really awesome synth beats to compliment the heavy cyberpunk look and feel of Cloudpunk. You’ll hear slow-paced, droning themes as you drive around the city. Contrasting those powerful compositions are faster, new wave-sounding beats. There really isn’t a bad song in the game.
The stellar sound design is capped off with some truly great voice acting. Rania has really interesting conversations with the countless people she meets. These conversations succeed in large part due to the high quality of the voice work.
Camera and control issues keep Cloudpunk from being a near-perfect courier-adventure game. Those flaws aside, you still have a truly satisfying open-world adventure game here. The story, which you’ll play through in roughly 10 hours, may not hit all the highs you’re hoping for, but the game’s neon future world and talkative characters are all so interesting that you’ll likely still walk away having enjoyed your time spent making deliveries in the cyberpunk city.