Cloudpunk Review — Missed Opportunities
Cloudpunk is miles away from being an enjoyable ride in a pixelated cyberpunk world.
Merge Games Limited
Xbox One, Switch, PC
Review copy provided by the publisher
It’s always tough to simulate a certain type of job in a video game and keep it from getting repetitive for players. Of course, every job has its own unique details, but you can’t find any job in the world that isn’t trapped in a cycle of its own kind. However, when it comes to video games, your main goal is to create a highlight of different scenarios and place them in the best order possible to deliver an enjoyable and diverse experience. Cloudpunk tries to put you in the role of a futuristic delivery-woman, but it often fails to achieve its pursuit as an enjoyable gameplay experience.
Cloudpunk reminds me of Night Call in some aspects, as both games try to follow various storylines defined by the nature of the jobs they are simulating. In Night Call, you’re an ordinary taxi driver and face various people with different stories every night. However, when you unintentionally choose to get yourself involved in those stories, the game starts to show off its narrative potential. The same goes for Cloudpunk as well. Working for a futuristic delivery service, you get to meet different people and transport various cargo from point A to point B, but sometimes you have to get yourself into some trouble to avoid even bigger problems.
“Cloudpunk tries to put you in the role of a futuristic delivery-woman, but it often fails to achieve its pursuit as an enjoyable gameplay experience.”
Unfortunately, both games sacrifice gameplay for a better story, though at least Cloudpunk handles this in a stronger way than Night Call. It seems as if Cloudpunk is only using certain gameplay mechanics to tell a story, and it doesn’t matter how well those mechanics have been organized. The main thing you do in the game is drive your futuristic car between the lawless skies of a Blade Runner-style city. As you work more and more, you can get new parts for your vehicle and can buy some new furniture for your tiny home. You should also make enough money each night to fill up your gas tank and repair your car if it’s too damaged.
Each delivery that you make has its own story behind it. Sometimes the game gives you the choice to finish a job in the way you want, though you have to consider the outcomes. Unfortunately, the world-building in Cloudpunk just doesn’t feel satisfying enough. I don’t have any problem with the cube-like graphical style of the game, but the world feels empty and repetitive most of the time. The design of the tall buildings and skyscrapers are varied and gorgeous, and it feels different each time you get out of the car to deliver a package to a destination, but it doesn’t feel the same when driving.
While driving on highways, you can barely find crowded places full of vehicles; most of the time, it’s you and a lot of empty roads. When there’s no crowd in the city, how could driving be a challenge for you? This is especially true in a game like Cloudpunk where there are no certain avenues or streets or alleys. An issue like this could be less apparent with stronger driving gameplay, which Cloudpunk had the potential for. But unfortunately, the driving itself is boring enough that you always wish to reach your destination as soon as possible to see what happens with the new delivery instead of enjoying a ride in the high skies.
Despite all those gameplay issues, Cloudpunk has a good number of varied missions that most of the time bring in new characters with their own complicated stories. Some of them are filled with sarcasm that aims at a bunch of hilarious Twitter-like cultures of the modern world, and they exactly hit the spot. Overall, the game features a strong and structured storyline with skilled voice actors, and it’s the only thing in Cloudpunk that can secure your connection to the game until the end of it. That is, if the technical issues allow you to finish your missions properly.
“For me, Cloudpunk was totally against what I thought it would be.”
After all those problems I mentioned previously, at least you might’ve expected a sustainable and strong technical performance, but I’m sorry to tell you that Cloudpunk is probably going to wear you down. The biggest issue that I faced while playing the game was a very strange bug that kept reshowing missions that I had already done on the map and HUD several minutes after finishing them. That was still something bearable for me until the game started replaying all the dialogue between characters from the beginning.
At one point, I was delivering new cargo to a new destination, but I was hearing the dialogue between the protagonist and her chief from the very beginning of the game. I’ve never ever seen anything like that in a game before. I mean, how is someone expected to finish this game with a bug like that? As of right now, the bug is still there, even though the game has received some updates since its release.
Even if Cloudpunk isn’t a technically broken game, it’s a mediocre experience that can only satisfy those who play games looking for deep, interesting storytelling. But with so many frustrating bugs, you can’t understand anything from the story from a certain point on. I can only recommend playing it once these technical issues are resolved. For me, Cloudpunk was totally against what I thought it would be. It’s a flawed experience in every primary aspect that a video game should represent and proved to be an even bigger failure on the technical front.