Cloudpunk is a more recent title that I acquired on Steam and that got some glowing reviews for its retro design and cyberpunk world building. Not similar in any other way to Cyberpunk 2077, it’s basically a chill Fedex game where you’re delivering parcels of more or less dubious origin across the city of Nivalis. Every now and then you get to make a choice none of which ever feel particularly meaningful.
I really enjoyed exploring in Cloudpunk for the first two or so hours. The vertical city is superbly made and oozes cyberpunk atmosphere in a dark yet glam way which reminded me of a darker version of the 5th Element. Exploring the different maps is interesting at first and gets better once your HOVA vehicle is somewhat upgraded for smoother navigation. The HOVA is capable of landing on different parking hubs from which you get to continue on foot in either 1st or 3rd person. Besides the fetch and delivery quests, there’s a ton of talking to NPCs and looting involved too. Every now and then a side quest is triggered but they seem rare and mostly repetitive. Nothing really stands out in a good way.
Putting another 4 hours into the game, things started to go downhill fast. You keep delivering parcels to different city blocks and listening to the often unnatural or inconsequential dialogues that are peppered across the city. At some point you unlock a companion AI that insists on presenting and acting like a dog who is an old friend of your character Rania. He is called Camus which is almost insulting considering what a dull character he turns out to be. The dialogue and jokes between them are horribly written at times and the twist of an AI acting like a pet isn’t nearly half as clever as it sounds. The fact that Rania’s voice acting is fairly bad too doesn’t improve matters. There’s an underlying background story to her character that gets unfolded ever so slowly and made me care exactly zero about her for this reason.
After almost 8 hours of monotonous delivery quests, the final nail in the coffin were dialogues between Rania and various NPCs which insisted on randomly introducing politics. There’s a quest in which you escort a male prostitute android to his next client. The game makes clear to point out that androids are lesser citizens and property of the real humans despite their sentient capacity. On the road, the android insists on educating you that he has chosen to become somebody’s sex property out of his own free will and that sex work is work, as you go through a series of cringey dialogue choices which feel like the game is trying to trap you on some non-existent bias.
Another random quest has Rania talking to a singer/songwriter who really likes the style of a family heirloom (a flower) she’s carrying. When he proposes to purchase it off her, she starts lecturing him about cultural appropriation and then scams him out of a bit of cash, selling him a fake version of the heirloom.
Why these topics needed to be awkwardly thrown into random side-quests in a game that otherwise has no narrative ambition beats me. They felt disconnected and poorly executed like so many things in Cloudpunk once you take the time to dig a little deeper. It’s a crying shame because from the outset, the game had the potential to become a 10/10 indie title thanks to the immersive city and atmosphere. The synthwave soundtrack is pretty good too, although you end up listening to the same tame themes for most of it.
There’s much that could’ve been done with the gameplay, had there been any stakes to it and an existing, engaging story. Alas, it’s repetitive gameplay, poor writing and unlikable characters that bring the game down so much I decided to quit. Cloudpunk is boring and that is really one of the worst verdicts I could give a game such as this!