Cloudpunk is a voxel-based narrative game developed by Ion Lands and published by Maple Whisphering Limited. It originally released on Steam on April 24, 2020, followed by consoles later in the year. This was one of my favourite games from that year and with a new game Nivalis recently announced, I have jump back in for a retrospective look. I will also review the City of Ghosts expansion. With the Cloudpunk base game, I was immediately attracted to the very first images showcasing a vehicle hovering through a dark neon-filled city. It straight away reminded me of Blade Runner and Fifth Element, especially with the image of the yellow taxi in the game’s logo. When I jumped into the game for the first time, I felt like I was Korben Dallas driving my taxi around.
You play as Rania (Andrea Petrille) and it’s your first night working for Cloudpunk, a delivery company based in the city of Nivalis. Your callsign is 14FC and you interact with Control (Mike Berlak) through the car’s comms systems. Your job is simple – deliver packages and don’t ask what’s in them. Therefore, the game consists of two gameplay elements. The first is driving your vehicle from point A to point B along highways and through the skies of the city. Once you park your vehicle at your destination, you control Rania on foot as you walk to the specific shop, vendor or npc to complete the delivery.
The story is a slow-burn which may be too slow for players looking for action, though it suited me well and shows us the various sides of these dystopian futures. There’s the upper class and wealthy humans ruling the roost where you’ll visit bars and clubs with great music. There are numerous androids you’ll meet, as well as some way-out-there characters. A lot of these npcs you meet are literally just for lore background. There are no quests out of the conversations, though you will earn steam achievements so it’s worth talking to all named npcs. Then there are parts of the game where you go down into the slums and witness the sometimes-horrifying life they live down there. It was comparable the those that live in Coruscant and Nar Shadaa within the Star Wars universe. The state of society improves the higher you get within the sky, or clouds in this game.
I can’t get enough of driving around the city, it’s by far my favourite part of the game. There are huge advertising billboards, neon signs on buildings and it’s just a joy to fly through. I don’t mind if the delivery point is several zones away, it just means I get to drive around this world as much as I can. There are numerous zones to navigate, each with major highways designated with blue “skyroads” and your vehicle travels at a faster rate when over these blue roads. However, at any point you can veer off the road and hover through the skies, travelling as close as you like to the tall and hulking city buildings. Everything looks crisp, neon and futuristic when in your vehicle.
Once you get close to your destination, you’ll need to locate an available parking space which is designated with a big blue ‘P’ parking sign. At release. once on the ground, things get a little blocky which is where the voxel-based graphics come into play. The camera angle zoomed out a fair way when on foot, and sometimes it was hard to make out the numerous wandering npcs around featuring humans and androids. A first-person mode was added to the game in June 2020, and this was followed up in October 2020 with a long-awaited cockpit view to the game. The camera can be unlocked to look around inside your car and out through the windows, and to assist with parking, a holographic down-looking camera appears on your dash during your approach.
Also in these ground areas are loot items designated on the map. You can pick up things like punch cards, used batteries, coolant, electrical parts, broken android parts and numerous other things. Some of these items, such as electrical parts and coolant, are used to repair broken lifts throughout the game so it’s worth hanging onto them. Others can be sold to vendors for cash. Cash in the game is used to purchase food/drink, though there’s no hunger or thirst like in survival games. It’s more the fact that the story says you should be hungry, so go eat. Other items like Corsec flyers are used to bypas Corsec security points. There’s no limit to your inventory so I held onto everything unless there was a vehicle or apartment upgrade I wanted.
You can upgrade your vehicle with several parts, some cosmetic and some increase the performance. You can get a speed boost upgrade that you press ‘E’ to activate when driving, and can also get upgrades to improve your vertical movement. Other items like antennas and flare colours are just cosmetic. You get an opportunity about halfway through the game to obtain a new one vehicle from of a choice of six variations. Given my love of Fifth Element, I chose the one that most resembles a yellow New York taxi. There are also items you can purchase to upgrade the visuals of your apartment. Though with the voxel design of the apartment interior, many of these items are hardly noticeable, or so small there’s almost no point getting them. I only bought all vehicle and apartment upgrades purely to get those achievements.
Overall, Cloudpunk was everything I wanted it to be. From flying around in my HOVA through the neon-filled night sky, to interacting with all sorts of humans, androids and AI characters. It really captured the feel of being in the Blade Runner or Fifth Element universes, whilst carving its own niche into the cyberpunk theme. The story was slowly revealed to you, and it gives you time to think about it whilst driving around Nivalis.
This review utilised a Steam key provided by Future Friends Games and Cloudpunk is available on Steam, Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch. Coming soon is a follow up game called Nivalis which I will preview in a future article.