Just from looking at the gameplay for Cloudbuilt, I was very surprised to find out how narrative driven the game turned out to be. Coilworks’ parkour, free-roaming platform shooter is just the sort of game I would have expected to focus more on its action than story. So discover my surprise when we open up not with an exciting rush, jetting across the skies, but in a somber, dilapidated building, trying to figure out the mysteries of my situation.
As it turns out, Cloudbuilt was going to make it a habit of subverting my expectations.
I’d like to begin with the visuals of the game which immediately make it unique upon start-up. The cel-shaded aesthetic makes it look as if the whole world is one colorful etching. The fully-voiced heroine’s equally unique design matches perfectly with the world around her. The images and videos fail to do justice for Cloudbuilt.This is a game that needs to be seen in person for the full effect of its wonderful visuals to grab a hold of you.
Beginning as most games do in a tutorial level, it’s more a lesson in getting you acclimated to the basics of running and jumping. It isn’t until the first level when you’re introduced to your key gameplay elements, the ones that will define the rest of your experience with Cloudbuilt. There, you’ll finally gain access to your shooting abilities which honestly serves simply as a defensive tool rather than an important one. No, the big feature is the jet pack which will help you boost up large walls, while running on walls, and covering large distances. In the world of Cloudbuilt, jetpack is king.
It was easy for me to blame the game for my early failures with picking up the controls, but I knew deep down that I shouldn’t fault the game for simply being challenging. It took some time and some trial-and-error, but after a while something finally clicked. My initial stumbling in the game, awkward movements, continuous deaths, finally gave way to a perfectly fluid parkour experience. This doesn’t stop me from still getting D’s on an incredibly difficult level completion grading scale. Still, it was a rush when I finally got a handle on the flow of the game. Suddenly, the world of Cloudbuilt opened up for me like never before. And it was already plenty big to begin with.
My favorite aspect of the game is the way that each level is open-ended. What first appears to be messy level-design — what with platforms seemingly everywhere and multiple walls shooting up from the horizons — soon begins to make sense as multiple paths branch out before you. There is no one way to finish a level in Cloudbuilt. For every obstacle in your path, there is always an alternative. This allows for mistakes to become simply a matter of directional change. It’s a great way to keep the rush of the game going smooth the entire level through. The fact that it’s a fully 3D world helps in creating this sense of immersion, and the scale of each level really makes the whole world your obstacle course.
I did have some complaints of course. The game is still in beta so here’s hoping some of these get fixed before the final release in March, but the lack of controller support I feel hurts the game for those of us unaccustomed to keyboard controls. Even then, it took some time fiddling with the control’s sensitivity to find a perfect balance in a way that didn’t make me feel like I was twitching and spinning out of control.
My initial expectations of Cloudbuilt were all blown away the moment I started up the game. With deep gameplay, beautiful visuals, and a surprisingly subdued story, Cloudbuilt is a title to watch come release.
Cloudbuilt comes out March 20th for Steam