One of the most pleasant videogame surprises of 2020 was Cloudpunk, a cyberpunk exploration game set in a gorgeous voxel metropolis. Imagine Blade Runner, except instead of a cop tracking down runaway slaves, you’re an Uber driver of the future. It’s wonderful: The writing, as we noted in our 80% review, is uneven at times, but the city feels sprawling and alive. It’s the kind of place you can just cruise aimlessly, letting the sights and sounds wash over you. It’s also the setting for developer Ion Lands’ next game, a very different kind of life-in-the-cyber-city experience called Nivalis.
Until now we’ve only had a brief glimpse at what’s coming in Nivalis, but at the PC Gaming Show today Ion Lands gave us a proper look at what it’s all about.
“We are aiming to create a slice-of-life simulation in a cyberpunk world, which you are an integral part of,” studio head Marko Dieckmann said. “You start with a single noodle stand and expand to restaurants, bars and nightclubs, making deals, farming your ingredients, fishing down by the docks and experiencing the stories of all the people you meet.”
In many ways, Nivalis looks to be the direct opposite of Cloudpunk. Where Ion Lands’ previous game focused on flying around the city exploring its peaks and valleys, Nivalis is all about putting down roots, forming relationships, and maybe even finding love. Of course, it’s not all happy-go-lucky. The city is a dangerous place: Gangs want to harvest your organs, corporations want to bleed you dry, and the city itself is crumbling, literally, into the ocean. But that’s the big picture, and Nivalis is intended to be much more personal.
“Most cyberpunk game worlds are very grim,” Dieckmann said. “We like to explore the day-to-day life in this world. There is more to it than uncovering the next big conspiracy and shooting and hacking your way to the top. There are millions of ordinary people following their ordinary lives. For us that’s an exciting premise and we’ll try to give you a glimpse of what it might be like to live in a futuristic cyberpunk city.”
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It looks lovely and sounds almost tranquil, but I feel like the last bit of the trailer hints at something slightly more ominous lurking in the background. “You ever look up at the clouds and wonder what’s up there?” the narrator asks. “Well if you dream big enough, maybe you’ll find out. Maybe we all will.”
It’s possible that I’m reading too much into it or seeing something that isn’t there, but in my experience when someone says “Yeah, maybe we all will,” it’s never about something good.
Nivalis doesn’t have a release date yet but is available for wishlisting on Steam, and you can keep up with what’s cooking on the official Cloudpunk Discord server.