Once upon a time, the thought of simulating delivering packages from one place to another wouldn’t really appeal to most people outside of fans of the simulation genre. However, thanks to the popularity of Death Stranding, it seems people are more open to the idea of performing mundane day-to-day tasks as long as it’s held together with an interesting story and a fascinating environment. This week I had a chance to play through Cloudpunk, a FedEx-like delivery simulation game set within a neon-noir dystopian future filled with cyberpunk aesthetics, androids, and a city with a mysterious secret.
Cloudpunk was developed by ION LANDS, a German indie developer based in Berlin. If you’ve not heard of the developer before I wouldn’t blame you, it seems like this is their first game and it’s going to leave an incredible first impression on all who play it. Merge Games are handling the console ports, releasing the game digitally, physically, and as part of their unique Signature Editions (which I’ll get into later on). It came out originally on PC in April 2020, but I’ve been playing it on the PS4 as it landed on consoles last week and I’ve found it very hard to put down since.
So, does flying through a floating set of mini-districts in a neon-filled cyberpunk futuristic city sound exciting to you? How about being chased by rogue cops, escaping exploding packages, and safely delivering parcels regardless of the moral implications? If so, you may as well just buy the game right now. If you’re still on the fence, read on and see why I personally loved this casual delivery simulation adventure game…
Cloudpunk is held together by a very interesting and mysterious narrative which will last easily over 30 hours if you’re casually trying to get all the trophies in one playthrough. I found this quite amusing as the entire game is based upon your first night within the city, so either their day is much longer than ours, or they simply lost track of time due to how dark and sordid the city is. You play as Rania, a young lady who has moved to the city of Nivalis (from the countryside) in order to try and earn some money and make something of herself. Her past is quite mysterious due to how secretive and private her personality is.
Despite wanting to move up in the world, the job she’s managed to land is working for the ‘not-so-legal’ delivery company known as Cloudpunk, a job which entails delivering parcels without questioning why or what’s in them. Before too long, Rania discovers she can implant the memory of her robotic dog into her company HOVA (car), meaning that she no longer has to perform this monotonous task alone as she can now talk to her intellectual K9 – at least until she can afford a new ‘frame’ for him as she had to sell his original one to fund her move and debts.
You’ll get tasks given to you by ‘Control’ over the intercom, your contact at Cloudpunk, and get to meet many whimsical and unique characters as you give them lifts, deliver items to them, and randomly bump into them on the streets. Although the world is very big and such a fascinating and intriguing place to explore, the main story is rather linear, so you’re actively encouraged to branch out in order to discover everything that’s on offer. Delivering parcels and people is your main goal, but the narrative and events which occur as you perform your job are much more than your average first night as Postman Pat…
Cloudpunk is essentially broken down into two gameplay mechanics, flying and walking. Flying around is satisfying and rather interesting, making you feel like you’re in a Minecraft version of Bladerunner due to the voxel art design of this beautiful world. Your HOVA will occasionally run out of fuel and become damaged (as the others on the ‘road’ love bumping into you), so you’ll have to keep on top of your repairs and fuel if you wish to make it through the night alive.
Although there are ‘roads’ to fly on, which offer a speed boost as you glide down them, you’re free to literally fly wherever you want as long as you can ascent high enough – allowing you to find shortcuts and possibly new areas. You can only park your vehicle on a parking spot though, so you can’t get out and explore wherever you want. There is a trophy, which was my second to last one for the platinum, which involves finding every single named location, this is where you’re encouraged to explore both on foot and in your vehicle as some of the points you have to find are well-hidden and easily missed.
Flying from point A to point B is generally painless, simply follow the waypoint on the map and land on the nearest parking spot. Later into the game, you’ll have a few timed missions which can catch you off guard as you’ll sometimes not get given the waypoint until the NPC has finished talking, meaning you’re just floating there and burning petrol as you await your next destination. A few times I’ve started driving, thinking I know where to go, then the waypoint appears and I’m going the wrong way or it’s now too far to make it on time. This is one of the few problems with the game, the fact it makes you wait rather than just telling you where to go once you pick something up or begin talking to someone.
These boots were made for walking…
When you’re not flying around, delivering parcels or acting as a taxi, you’ll be walking around the neon-lit mini-districts of the city. It’s here where you’ll get to talk to random characters such as the dominatrix or the elevator who likes to eat people who stand on it! There are a number of trophies within the game that relate to these interactions so I’d advise you to talk to everyone who has a ‘face’ on your map, that’s the indication that you can talk to them and possibly have a chuckle at their narrative.
I found myself simply walking around these beautiful and blocky areas looking at the gorgeous artwork on a number of occasions. You can either zoom right in and walk around in a first-person mode, zoom out a little and play as a standard third-person mode, or you can toggle the cinematic camera which changes to set camera angles – like early Resident Evil games – making it feel more like a movie. The flying stage also has a few camera angles but only third-person locked behind you or third-person with a free camera – I would have loved a first-person driving mode!
Do your choices matter?
Whether flying or on foot, you’ll sometimes be given a few moral choices – mainly towards the end of the game. You’ll have two options on how you wish to resolve the situation, such as get arrested or escape and outrun the cops. The game description says these choices have an effect on your playthrough but I’m not quite sure how much they change as I didn’t see anything drastic change when I chose to save three people over the others I left to die in an area. I imagine some dialogue and mini-events later one may have been different, but I never saw any big narrative alterations based around my actions.
If the developers do a sequel to Cloudpunk, which I really hope they do, I would love it if you could import the save from this game and maybe have events occur based upon the choices you made this time – like in Mass Effect.
I personally really enjoyed my time with Cloudpunk. I thought the story was interesting and engaging, the parcel delivery was addictive and fulfilled the casual mindless gameplay itch I wanted to scratch, and the final goal of exploring and finding all of the hidden waypoints was a fun ‘treasure hunt’ which extended the time I spent within this beautiful world. The narrative itself starts out good and gets even better as you’re introduced to even more whacky and insane humans and androids that have their own quirky personalities and great voice acting.
My only gripe is what I said before, you’re sometimes left literally ‘hanging there’ as you wait for the conversations to stop and the waypoint to appear, or you’ll arrive at the waypoint super fast (if you’ve upgraded your vehicle) and be forced to stand frozen to the spot whilst your passengers continue their conversation with you. I even had one point where I was dropping off a guy in another district and I arrived about five minutes before his conversation ended – it ended with him saying he was going to sleep until we got there. As I was already there, he had about a second of sleep before I told him we’d arrived and it was time to wake up.
It would have been nice if the dialogue system was a little more dynamic and timed based on the actual time to arrive at your destination.
There were a few emotional parts within the game, which I wasn’t expecting, and I felt a bond with the characters who joined us on our journey – so I have to congratulate the writers on making me feel that way.
As of the game today (21st October 2020), these are the issues I experienced, starting with the most important…
The platinum is unobtainable right now. The trophy for completing the game doesn’t unlock. I’ve personally made a save just before that point and backed it up to the cloud (ironically) so I can re-download and complete the game once it’s been fixed. Other people have said they had other trophies not unlock, but all of the others unlocked just fine for me. The latest patch which arrived about a week ago has resolved this issue – you can now get the Platinum with no issues. If you completed the game but never got it, update the game then re-enter your apartment.
A big issue for me, and a lot of other people out there, is that there is no invert Y-Axis option for the Right Thumbstick. I honestly don’t know why developers don’t include this?! Maybe their team only consists of gamers who play games non-inverted? Either way, every game that is a first or third-person action or adventure game, or those with flying vehicles in them, should have the option to invert the axis. I was okay as I used my NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro controller, as it lets you invert games that don’t support it, but I know very few of you out there will own one of those.
I also had a big issue with the game crashing on my PS4 Pro. There was no reason or obvious cause to the crashing, it just randomly crashed when going through to a new area (which has a fairly long loading time) or entering my apartment. The game autosaves when you get in or out of your car, or enter a new area, but if it crashes whilst doing that, it could have been a while since it last saved. I lost around two hours of gameplay due to one of the crashes.
There is a little screen tearing as well – may be worse on the base PS4. It wasn’t too intense, but you can notice it at times.
Finally, the game crashed around fifteen hours in on my first playthrough and the save was on top of a tower. The only way to get off was to interact with a poster. but, as I’d already done that before it crashed, I couldn’t interact with it again and the game had stranded me here forever. This basically forced me to restart the entire game again – which is why it took me 53 hours to complete to platinum completion (bar the bugged trophy). I would have prefered a manual save option as there’s no indication when the game is saving so you have to pray it’s saved before you turn it off.
As you can see by the images within the review, Cloudpunk is a beautiful game. It’s all voxel-based so it looks like Minecraft and Portal Knights, but with a Blade Runner and Cyberpunk aesthetic instead of the bright greens and blues of the former two games. On the PS4 Pro, the game ran great, I didn’t notice any slow down or framerate issues and the visuals looked stunning on my 4K TV. There didn’t appear to be any HDR but I bet the Auto-HDR on the Xbox Series X really makes the neon lights pop out of your TV.
The music is very fitting for the atmosphere, delivering a beautiful futuristic and cyberpunk soundtrack that emphasises your adventure and purpose within the game. I loved the voice acting which was present for every NPC you could interact with, giving each of them their own personality and ‘character’. The one thing I found a little strange was that you’d see the voxel art version of the NPC on the screen, but when they were talking to you they’d have an almost-realistic portrait symbolising what they actually look like, often nothing like the voxel counterpart. It was odd.
I just wanted to mention the rain and overall visual effects within the game – it looks so good! It does appear some visual effects may have been cut back – such as the fog and more advanced lighting effects, but unless you’re comparing the PC version to the console version, you wouldn’t really know they were missing. However, with the PS5 just around the corner, I would love for the developers and Merge Games to port over the best quality PC version to the new console, it’ll make a great launch window show-off title.
If you’re looking for a casual game with an interesting story and a car AI which was once a dog, Cloudpunk is for you. Despite the few technical issues I had with the game, I can easily highly recommend the game to anyone who likes games they can just put on and relax whilst playing. The voxel art design combined with the cyberpunk theme works really well, delivering a futuristic dystopian city to explore as if someone’s recreated Blade Runner in Lego or Minecraft!
The story is linear and choices aren’t too important, but you’ll easily find yourself addicted to the compelling gameplay, unable to stop playing until you find out what’s going on and how you can help the citizens of Nivalis.
As I mentioned above, Merge Games have published this title on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. As well as being able to pick it up digitally for £19.99 on all platforms (some may have a discount), you can buy it physically for £24.99 (PS4/XO) and £29.99 (Switch).
Alternatively, you can pick up the Signature Edition of the game for £34.99 (PS4/XO) or £39.99 (Switch) – HERE. This edition has the game, a 2-CD soundtrack, numbered comic art print, Cloudpunk and Camus (the dog) enamel badges, and it’s all packaged in a bigger collectors case. If I had the money, I would certainly pick up this edition for the soundtrack alone (as it’s not actually available to buy on PSN).
- - Interesting story and very likeable characters
- - Great soundtrack and voice acting
- - Casual gameplay with a story that will last you around 25-30 hours if going for the platinum
- - Very funny interactions and dialogue
- - The city is beautiful, it's like Blade Runner but built out of Lego or in Minecraft!
- - There are a few bugs and issues at the time of the review
- - The moral choices are fun but I never saw any major repercussions for my actions
- - The game makes you wait until the characters have stopped talking rather than dynamically adjusting to your pace and situation