Cloud Chamber

You almost have to be a very specific kind of gamer to enjoy Cloud Chamber. You have to like science fiction, be patient and more than anything, collaborate with other players. If you don't possess any of the above, than Cloud Chamber might not be the game for you. That's it, review over. Wait, I'm not allowed do that? Well, I guess I can elaborate further about Cloud Chamber....

Cloud Chamber is an MMO with a twist. A very big twist, in fact. You aren't thrown into the large wilderness of Azeroth, or the dangerous plains of Auraxis. Instead, you'll spend most of your time in message boards, discussing possible theories in a scramble to reveal the truth behind the many mysteries the game throws at you. This is the core of Cloud Chamber's gameplay experience, and my, oh my, does it work well. You might be crying inside right now, trying to comprehend how the internet's ugliest might have ruined the game entirely. This, to my surprise, is exactly what didn't happen. Instead of having to deal with trolls and haters, I got to discuss theories with friendly, mature people who were as involved in the games storyline as I was. Whether it's because they get banned or simply don't exist, I never came across a spoil sport trying to ruin the fun for everyone; not once. Similarly, spoilers are nowhere to be found.

These message boards are your tool to spread theories to other players. After analysing a video or document, you can start a new discussion, comment on another discussion, and upvote or downvote comments or discussions (It's a testament to the great community that downvotes are extremely rare to find). This all works quite well and doing any of the above is hindrance free. When I heard about these gameplay mechanics at first I figured the boards would be an empty, arid desert of loneliness. Again, the game proved me wrong, and I found people were regularly upvoting my discussions and comments, and communicating their own ideas. You can't just skip through discussions either, as progression depends on communication. While you could finish the game without making a squeak, it would be a very linear experience, as unlocking other 'nodes' is the key to uncovering the truth. It's genuinely surprising how fluid everything is.

The videos themselves are well acted for the most part, but can be inconsistent or even cringe inducing at times. Gethin Anthony (of Game of Thrones fame), Sara Hjort Ditlevsen, Gwilym Lee and Jesper Christensen play the key roles. These clips are not unlocked in chronological order (or any order for that matter), so piecing together what happens, when it happens is another job to add to your to-do list. Mixed in with the clips are a series of documents ranging from pictures, notes and biographies. These are equally as obscure as the video clips, giving you more reason to discuss their meaning. The story itself is very sci-fi, and those who don't like this genre of storytelling will find little to enjoy. Personally, I really enjoy the genre, and so found Cloud Chamber's story very compelling, particularly towards the end. Everything is a clue: from the names of each node, the the lyrics of the soundtrack, to the videos and documents themselves. The game really doesn't give you much to go on, even in the latter stages, and there is a constant shroud of mystery throughout the game. This, frustratingly, stays true for the ending, but does leave the possibility of a sequel open.

The aesthetics try to capture the feeling of a hacked computer program, and largely succeed. The 3D environments are very nice and reflect the contents of the chapter itself. They work fairly well with the electric soundtrack, which I found to be very well suited and enjoyable . The sound effects, on the other hand, are overdone and can get very irritating, especially when trying to study documents. An option to turn off audio is readily available, but I used it out of sheer annoyance far more than I should have.

It's fair to say Cloud Chamber is a very specific type of game for a very specific type of gamer. It's also fair to say that Cloud Chamber is one of the most original experiences I've had in a very long time, and joins games like Gone Home as it borders the line between game and interactive story. You'll spend most of your time watching videos, reading documents and talking with other players, but if that doesn't appeal to you then this isn't the game for you. Otherwise, you really need to give Cloud Chamber a try.