Cloud Chamber

cloud1

I feel like this QuickPlay is going to read more like a public service announcement than a recommendation. Because of this, I will open with a statement, to ensure that we are clear: I recommend Cloud Chamber. Cloud Chamber is a "Massively Multiplayer Story Game". You are one of many players connected to the 'Crowdscape' network, a sort-of virtual Dark Web where you collectively investigate and discuss the potentially shady goings on at a research laboratory in Denmark.

You are presented with an interface where you can view documents and videos that were taken from a documentary that was commissioned by one of the game's leading characters. I feel that spending too much time discussing the narrative here would be doing you a disservice (you can watch the trailer for an idea) but in short, this plays out like a "found footage" thriller.

What should be discussed is how the game plays. I have to confess, the first time I played, I hit a wall, got frustrated and walked away very unsatisfied. I didn't know what I was getting into.

Next to each piece of the narrative, whether it be an image or a video, is a message board unique to that item. Here, players can discuss their theories about how this particular piece fits into the whole story and collectively, unravel the mysteries of the game.

Now, some of the pieces of the overall story are only accessible once you have accumulated enough "Contribution". This means you have to post your thoughts on the article in question and then have other users either "Upvote" or reply to your thread. This initially left a very bitter taste in my mouth, as the game appeared to essentially be a glorified popularity contest. Unable to progress due to nobody replying to my posts, I quit the game feeling quite short-changed, as my ability to progress was at the mercy of complete strangers.

As I'd already made the financial investment, I returned to the game later that day to give it another chance. There were several notifications waiting for me. Upvotes, replies, people praising my observations, others politely steering me back on track if I had perhaps missed something. More videos and articles had been unlocked for me to view, which in turn meant another forum where I can discuss these new puzzle pieces with others.

Cloud Chamber lives and dies by its community. Thankfully, Investigate North have built a system that rewards being a good community member, which works well enough to be an enjoyable game experience. When a player took the time to reply to me, I felt compelled to look at their other comments, Upvote and respond to return the favour. This delightful social media simulation actually becomes very compelling. The anticipation of waiting for replies becomes as exciting as actually viewing the next nugget of information.

This isn't a game for the shy. You really need to put yourself out in front of a sea of strangers and boldly state your thoughts. Communication with your peers is literally the only gameplay there is. I've seen some players struggle with this, but even those eventually get met with friendly advice from a perfect stranger. There are actual scientists in there coming up with theories I couldn't possibly come up with, but even simple observations like "he's wearing a white coat in this video" can be met with applause, as it could be a significant clue towards when that clip took place. I decided to be doubly brave and use an actual photo of myself as my in-game avatar. It seems to get you a little more attention and respect.

cloud2

If this sounds daunting or uninteresting, you should probably grab your coat. If this sounds like a weird, unique gameplay experience that you've never been part of before, put on the free complimentary pair of slippers and come on in.

This isn't a game to be played in marathon sessions, but rather in coffee break chunks. The performances from the actors are strong enough and the drip-fed story intriguing enough, to have me thinking about the game in-between play sessions and looking forward to going back. Sometimes the most fun part about EVE Online is telling the stories when you aren't actually playing the game. I liken this game to that kind of experience, except the people I want to talk to most are actually in the game itself.

I've not played a game like this before and I imagine it will be a long time before I get to play one again. The mystery is still young and people are discovering the game as we speak, so my recommendation is that if you are going to jump in, I recommend you don't wait. Discovering what Cloud Chamber has to offer should be a collaborative experience and the game has plenty of people to engage with at launch. A game like this is incredibly rare, let alone one that is executed so well. Don't let it pass you by.

Cloud Chamber is available now on Steam.

ReviewEarl Baker