One of the most pleasant surprises in video games of 2020 was cloudpunk, a cyberpunk exploration game set in a beautiful voxel metropolis. Imagine Blade Runner, except instead of a cop tracking down runaway slaves, you’re an Uber driver from the future. It’s wonderful: the writing, as we noted in our 80% review, is sometimes spotty, but the city feels sprawling and alive. It’s the kind of place you can just navigate aimlessly, letting the sights and sounds pass you by. It’s also the setting for the upcoming game from developer Ion Lands, a very different kind of cyber city life experience called Nivalis.
So far, we’ve only had a brief glimpse of what’s to come in Nivalis, but in the PC game program today Ion Lands has given us a proper view of what it’s all about.
“Our goal is to create a slice-of-life simulation in a cyberpunk world, of which you are an integral part,” said studio head Marko Dieckmann. “You start with a single noodle stand and expand to restaurants, bars and nightclubs, doing business, growing your ingredients, fishing on the docks and experiencing the stories of everyone you meet.”
In many ways, Nivalis appears to be the direct opposite of Cloudpunk. Whereas the previous Ion Lands game focused on flying around the city exploring its peaks and valleys, Nivalis is about putting down roots, forming relationships and maybe even finding love. Of course, not everything is carefree. The city is a dangerous place: gangs want to harvest your organs, corporations want to bleed you dry, and the city itself is literally crumbling into the ocean. But that’s the big picture, and Nivalis intends to be much more personal.
“Most cyberpunk game worlds are very dark,” Dieckmann said. “We like to explore everyday life in this world. There’s more to it than figuring out the next big conspiracy and shooting and hacking your way to the top. There are millions of ordinary people going about their ordinary lives. For us this is an exciting premise and we will try to give the give you a glimpse of what it can be like to live in a futuristic cyberpunk city.”
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It looks adorable and sounds almost tranquil, but I feel like the last part of the trailer hints at something a little more sinister lurking in the background. “Have you ever looked at the clouds and wondered what’s up there?” asks the narrator. “Well, if you dream big enough, maybe you’ll find out. Maybe we’ll all find out.”
It’s possible that I’m reading too much or seeing something that isn’t there, but in my experience, when someone says “Yes, maybe we all will“, it’s never about something good.
Nivalis doesn’t have a release date yet, but it’s available to wishlist on Steam, and you can keep up with what’s going on on the official Cloudpunk Discord server.