Cloudpunk | Friendly Neighborhood Delivery Driver
Cloudpunk is a game that makes you feel like Korben Dallas in The Fifth Element in the scenes where he’s driving his flying taxi around while other vehicles bustle and zoom around him, above him, and below him. In Cloudpunk, you don’t play as a taxi driver but rather a delivery driver named Rania. Close enough.
It’s Rania’s first day on the job which means you, the player, get to learn how things work at the same time she does. The job itself is simple in that you’re expected to pick up packages at one location and drop them off at another. That’s it.
What’s in the packages is supposed to be kept secret and yet you have characters who’ll just tell you straight up what’s in them.
In the beginning, your first delivery recipient straight up opens the package right in front of you. The contents of the packages you deliver are far less important than the people you’re delivering them to. Each delivery offers insight into the city of Nivalis, its inhabitants, system of corporate corruption, and the organization Rania’s working for, Cloudpunk.
To put it another way, the conversations you have take a straightforward delivery job and turn it into a more intricate endeavor. It’s never a quick pick-up and drop-off.
Unlike other games where you can cut conversations short and walk away in order to get to the next objective faster, Cloudpunk makes the bold choice by freezing in place you during key dialogue scenes.
You can’t walk away until the character you’re speaking with has finished speaking, forcing you to hear what they have to say. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of this. I’m used to speeding my way through games, pressing on any and all buttons to make conversations go faster, or ignoring conversation opportunities entirely.
The interactions you have are the cornerstones of the game’s story and help drive the campaign forward, so I think it’s smart that ION LANDS chose to incorporate a mechanic that makes you more thoughtful when speaking to someone.
Speaking to side characters and shop vendors is optional and you can skip through conversations with them by pressing the spacebar, so if you’re not big on chatting it up and you want to stick to the main campaign and the main campaign alone, you’re free to do so.
You can earn rewards for completing side quests and gain additional insight into the game’s world, which makes it worth speaking to strangers in my opinion. Before putting time into Cloudpunk, I read conflicting things about whether the game counts as an RPG or not.
To set things straight, Cloudpunk is an RPG, but don’t expect it to be something like Cyberpunk 2077. You’re free to fly wherever you want to go in Cloudpunk, but there’s a limit to how long you can fly around for before you need to stop and fuel up. You can also land wherever there’s a designated parking area, get out, and walk around.
You can’t enter and exit the buildings, but you can use walkways to fully circle around and explore. You can even find hidden areas where you can pick up loot. Whenever you turn a corner, the camera snaps around, and at first this can be a little disorienting. I got used to it after a while, but be prepared to have to quickly reorient yourself in order to continue walking in the right direction.
Another interesting aspect of Cloudpunk is how you can’t really control the camera. You can press “X” to unlock the camera when you’re driving around which can be helpful if you’re looking for something like a parking lot, but for the most part, everything is handled for you.
In other games, it can be frustrating to lose that element of camera control. In Cloudpunk, it can work to the game’s benefit at times. ION LANDS stripped things down so that you can gawk at all the buildings, art, and signage without having to also concentrate on where the camera is pointed.
It makes it so you’re always looking the right way, allowing you to focus on more important things, like finding a merchant after they’ve walked away or avoiding collisions with other vehicles. Speaking of which, collisions can feel unavoidable at times as it’s hard to predict where certain cars will turn.
You can also overshoot your exit like I did during the early stages of the game and have to double back around. Making a U-turn in the middle of a busy freeway? Sure, why not. Be prepared to bounce off a few bumpers as your fellow travelers have little time or patience for your poor driving skills, and quite frankly, they don’t seem to care either.
It’s probably a good thing too as it’d be a huge pain to have to stop and exchange insurance info. Speaking of which, I can’t help but wonder how that would work. You obviously can’t get out in mid-air to assess the damage, so you’d need to find a parking lot.
Would this make it easier for people to do the whole hit-and-run thing? I suppose if you have cars that can fly, you could also make them indestructible, which seems to be the case in Cloudpunk.
While you’re able to do repairs on your HOVA, you won’t have to worry about external damage impacting your ability to make deliveries. In fact, I can personally attest to driving into several bumpers, buildings, and even a bridge and my HOVA was just fine. I looked like a complete idiot, but the HOVA was able to bounce back, literally and figuratively.
To add to this, the collisions can make for some funny moments as you mentally picture other drivers shouting obscenities at you as you fly away. You can also stop smack dab in the middle of the “road” to regroup and get your bearings. I did this a lot as I kept opening up the map to look for more areas with collectable loot.
The ability to scoop up loot is great as it gives you the chance to explore and rewards you with some interesting goodies for your time. Well, for the most part, I collected a fair amount of garbage like a ruined book with a topless man on the cover. I’m genuinely curious as to the contents of the ruined book. Sadly, I can’t read it. Maybe that’s for the best, who knows?
Loot is marked by blue indicators in Cloudpunk, and there’s a hell of a lot of loot to collect. It can honestly be hard to resist the urge to fly to a new area just so you can collect everything even if that area is nowhere near where you actually need to go. I know I spent a solid hour just driving around and collecting loot while streaming the game on IO’s Twitch.
It makes personal exploration outside of the campaign a bit more interesting that’s for sure.
Exploration opportunities aren’t limited to your time on the ground either. Flying your HOVA is pretty open in how you can ignore objectives and fly outside freeway boundaries to your heart’s content. You can ascend or descend away from the freeway, drive off to the side of it, or skip the freeways entirely and forge your own path through the towering city skyscrapers.
Cloudpunk encourages you to use the freeways as much as possible as you get a speed boost when you stay with the other cars and “follow the current” so to speak. Of course, it can be fun to simply get away from it all and see the sights from a higher vantage point. Sightseeing in Cloudpunk is an absolute must as the sights are absolutely gorgeous.
The developers have managed to expertly craft a unique voxel landscape full of moody lighting and interesting area contrasts like when you move between places like Midtown and The Marrow. Cloudpunk is a game you can’t help but want to explore. If you have the opportunity to play with a decent headset, the sound design is also superb.
Everything is done to maximize your immersion in Cloudpunk, and it works really well. I think if you love the cyberpunk genre and are looking for a game that gives you a small taste of what it might be like to live in a futuristic city full of flying cars, Cloudpunk will more than satisfy.
Minor complaints that I have include the inability to enter any of the buildings, the camera snap when you round a corner, not having the option to unlock the camera while exploring on foot, inability to put custom markers on the map, and the lack of a New Game + mode or a Zen Mode where you can just relax and fly around for the hell of it.
It’s worth noting that ION LANDS is continuing to add to and develop Cloudpunk. On Steam, they stated the following:
“We have several ideas and we will definitely develop Cloudpunk further. We will keep everyone updated on our plans step by step. First we’d like to squash all remaining bugs and improve the features already in the game. Afterwards we will start working on new features.”
As the game is currently, I’d definitely recommend it. I think the atmosphere and smooth driving alone are enough to warrant a purchase, though there are plenty of other tidbits and details that make your time in Cloudpunk a truly enjoyable experience.
Cloudpunk is available right now on Steam with a console release on Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch coming later this year. For updates and additional info on the game, I recommend following ION LANDS on Twitter.