In recent years, the cyberpunk genre has seen a renaissance across several mediums. Television and film have seen massive success in works such as Blade Runner 2049 and Black Mirror. The video game industry is also seeing a surge in the genre with highly anticipated upcoming releases such as Ghostrunner and Cyberpunk 2077. One of the games squeezing into that crowded field is Cloudpunk, a voxel-based narrative adventure. Cloudpunk is setting itself apart by offering a low-stress alternative to the more action-oriented and grittier options.
At PAX East, I was able to sit down with publisher Merge Games’s Craig Bleasdale for a hands-on demo of the Steam version of the game. The demo took place at the opening sequence and offered the first three missions available to the player. The protagonist is Rania, a courier for the delivery service Cloudpunk, and she is out on her first day of the job. She receives transmissions from her boss, Control, which informs her of where she needs to pick up and drop off deliveries.
I started out immediately in the midst of the massive neon skies of Nivalis, a monumental megacity where I was able to freely fly around and explore the city to a relaxing soundtrack of light synth and easy beats. The world had near limitless verticality and length to it. I drove around for a few minutes to get my bearings on controls and oriented myself. Control radioed in to let me know I had a delivery to make to my first client.
I followed the mini-map, which was a tad difficult with the verticality of traversal, but got me where I needed nonetheless. In order to leave my ship, I had to find a designated parking area. While walking around, I had the option of holding down a button to slow Rania down to a pleasant walk, allowing me to relax and take in more of the scenic cityscapes. Moving on foot was light and felt like I was traveling through a dream-like state. I could interact with multiple NPCs and vendors who all had unique tidbits to throw Rania’s way about their lives or events in Nivalis. Collectibles are littered throughout the city and offer new ways to approach missions and NPCs that would otherwise be impossible. This system is meant to reward exploration and give players more choice in their narrative adventure.
In Cloudpunk, player choices are crucial to the progression of the story. During my third delivery mission, I was able to experience Ion Lands’s approach to decision-making. With this quest, Control calls in with worry in his voice about sending Rania on this next mission. She is meant to pick up a deserted package and drop it into a delivery slot to a lower section of the city. After receiving the package, Rania hears ticking inside. She consults with Camus about her unease in following through with the delivery and the player is then faced with the decision of two delivery points. Whichever delivery the player decides to make will have implications further into the game. Unfortunately, I was not able to see these implications in the demo, but I was informed that this level of choice only scratches the surface of depth in the game.
Bleasdale told me that the game would not feature any combat whatsoever. Additionally, the final build would have several more features than the demo did not house, such as upgrades for the vehicle and cosmetic options for Rania and her car. Bleasdale also told me that Ion Lands plans to house over 40 approachable NPCs in Nivalis.
Ion Lands has seemed to craft a therapeutic experience in a neon-streaked cyberpunk setting. The demo was quite indicative of the full experience and I can only hope the world will be more bustling and interactive in the final product. Cloudpunk will be a great choice for fans of the genre who are just looking for a relaxed environment in the bustle of everyday life.
Cloudpunk will be released for Steam on April 23, 2020, and will be followed by a console launch later in the year.