Cloud Chamber
Gameplay 7
Graphics 8
Sound 9

Cloud Chamber is more of an experience than a game in the traditional sense, but this doesn’t make it any less compelling. The story might be fictional, but includes plenty of references to real science which makes for fascinating viewing depending on how keen you are on the subject. Due to the massively multiplayer aspect of the game your experience will depend on the other players, but even if you opt not to take part in the discussions you can still enjoy the story on your own.

Gameplay: No gameplay in the traditional sense, but still plenty to see and discuss with other players.

Graphics: The videos are believable and the 3D landscapes quite impressive.

Sound: Good acting and a brilliant soundtrack help immerse you in the experience

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Cloud Chamber

Developer: Investigate North | Publisher: Investigate North | Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Adventure / Indie / Massively Multiplayer | Website: Official Website | Format: Digital Download

An unlikely group of people find themselves at the heart of a mystery that involves an unexplained signal that is seemingly broadcasting from outer space. The motley crew which consists of Max, a DJ, Kathleen, a brilliant scientist and Tom, a film maker attempts to make a documentary about the scientific institute that is run by Kathleen’s father. In the process they discover a trail of secrets and mysteries, all centered around the signal that stretches back many years.

It is always hard to review a game where the main focus is the story as you cannot really go into any details without potentially spoiling the experience for players. In the case of Cloud Chamber it is even trickier. Unlike traditional games, which feature puzzles and other forms of interaction with the gameworld, players are restricted to watching the story unfold and then discussing the events with other players. Initially this is very confusing. Instead of being the hero of the game, you are simply an outsider observing what is happening to the protagonists and then trying to make sense of it all.

Upon first starting Cloud Chamber, you are required to create an account which allows you to receive emails with updates from within the game. While you are never forced to participate in any of the discussions, you will find that doing so will enhance your experience immeasurably. It will also elevate the game from simply watching events to feeling like you are a part of the community. Even if you never leave a comment, you can still upvote or downvote the comments of others based on whether you agree with them or whether they added any value to the conversation. I don’t think that anyone would be able to play this game and not weigh in with their opinions. The mixture of a fictional story intertwined with real science is just too interesting and open to interpretation to not toss out a theory or two. Participation also has the benefit of elevating your status to that of a contributor. If enough people like what you say, you earn the privilege of unlocking more information. The locked content only amounts to about 20% of the game and doesn’t contain anything absolutely vital to understanding what is going on but, if you are a completionist, you will probably want to check it out.

Cloud Chamber is split up into ten levels which contain about 150 story nodes in total. These nodes can be found footage videos, photos, scanned documents, emails, maps or clips by the European Space Agency. The information in the nodes is not presented chronologically and jump back and forth between different points in the timeline. The data also suffers from corruption and interference which require closer scrutiny from players to figure out what exactly is going on. You can enlarge the videos and forward, rewind or pause at any time in order to locate frames that might reveal something. Documents can be zoomed in for a closer look and often contain references to events, locations or projects in real-life which can be researched for deeper insights.

While viewing the nodes is simply a matter of pointing and clicking, the interface is quite slick. Each level is themed around a different type of visualization. Examples include tropical islands, ocean worlds, planetary orbits, asteroid belts and more with the height of individual nodes indicating their importance. As you jump between the nodes, the camera swoops and soars around the 3D landscapes like a roller coaster which is quite an impressive effect. If you find the 3D interface too confusing, you can opt for a top down view which allows for easier navigation.

Next to the images or video in the node you will find the chat window, which can be set to show the most recent comments, or the best ones, as determined by upvotes. I must admit that I was quite impressed by some of the comments from other players and while there were a few trolls as I had feared, they were soon downvoted into oblivion. Due to the non-linear nature of the story and videos it is also harder for other players to spoil anything by returning to earlier levels and leaving comments. The only things that I can fault is that you have to alt-tab out of the game and use your browser to research if you want more information instead of being able to do so from within the interface. The contributor requirement to unlock certain nodes also causes a lot of players to make obvious comments or ones begging for upvotes, but once again these were quick to disappear. As posts are made, the old ones drop out of sight which means that even players who play the game at a later stage will find it to be a fresh experience as long as they focus on the most recent comments instead of checking out the “best” ones.

As the story takes center stage in Cloud Chamber, it is a good thing that the acting is up to scratch. The cast isn’t very big, but does include notable names such as Gethin Anthony of Game of Thrones fame and Jesper Christensen who played in Casino Royale. Overall, the acting was good enough to draw me into the experience and it never felt like I was watching some cheap B-movie.

Audio also plays a big role in the game and each level features its own musical track that matches the visualization theme. Most of the tracks are licensed, so you’ll hear the likes of Lulu Rouge, Mike Sheridan, Burial, Primal Scream, Darkside and many more. While I was unfamiliar with most of these artists, the music complements the feel of the game nicely and definitely fits in with the world created by the developers. Some of the tunes were stuck in my head long after I played the game, which is always a sign of a good soundtrack.

Like any massive multiplayer game, the experience you have with Cloud Chamber is going to come down to the community that you are playing with. My experience was very positive as the players were really coming up with some interesting theories and immersing themselves in the experience. I found myself jumping back into the game each time I got an email that someone commented on one of my posts just to check if there were any new developments. I even revisited some of the previous nodes to see what newer players were making of the story. Another factor that will influence your enjoyment is how much you like science and learning about new things, as this game is filled with all kinds of real scientific information. Once again I was fascinated by a lot of the content, but others might find it boring.

Only time will tell if players will embrace the unique experience offered by Cloud Chamber, but personally I would love to see further seasons that expand upon the world and characters created by Investigate North. This isn’t the type of game where you can expect to find clear cut answers and everything neatly spelled out for you, but drawing your own conclusions and then discussing it with like minded players is arguably more satisfying. If you are the type of person that immediately heads to a forum upon completing a game or watching a movie in order to discuss what happened you will really enjoy Cloud Chamber. If you are expecting a traditional “game” though, you might end up more than a little confused about what you stumbled into.

System Requirements

  • OS: Microsoft Window 7
  • Processor: 1.8Gz Dual Core Processor
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: DirectX 9 compliant video card with Shader model 3.0 support. Radeon R7 240 2GB or NVIDIA GT 630 2GB
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Hard Drive: 5500 MB available space
  • Sound Card: Integrated
  • Additional Notes: Cloud Chamber uses QT Lite, which should auto install with the game.
  • OS: Microsoft Windows 7
  • Processor: 2.4 Gz Quad Core Processor
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: DirectX 9 compliant video card with Shader model 3.0 support. Radeon HD6850 or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Hard Drive: 5500 MB available space
  • Sound Card: Integrated
  • Additional Notes: Cloud Chamber uses QT Lite, which should auto install with the game.

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